Saturday, August 16, 2008


(Photo finish between Michael Phelps, left and Milorad Cavic, right, in men's 100m freestyle -- photo by Patrick B. Kraemer/EPA)

Here's your daily subjective report on the Olympics and a chance to converse about it in comments.

SPOILER NOTE: Some results will be reported below for the competition of yesterday, so be forewarned.

We've got a jam-packed weekend, and yesterday's events required more viewing on my part than usual, so I'm just going to get started.

NBC's Olympics has daily highlights, what they consider the best from Day 7 (August 14): Phelps' 7th Gold and the briefly contested race against Cavic; men's tennis controversy of Blake vs. Gonzales; women's volleyball of U.S. vs. China; women's basketball, U.S. vs. Spain; women's water polo, U.S. vs. Russia; women's soccer, U.S. vs. Canada and Japan vs. China. Yeah, it's all about the U.S. in this recap, and there's an obnoxious commercial at the beginning. Sifting through the NBC site, you can find more balanced (and interesting) coverage on your own.

As you undoubtedly all know by now, Michael Phelps accomplished his goal of matching Mark Spitz's seven gold medal in a single Olympics (though not world records in each of those races). The highlights video below will cover part of the race that gave him his seventh gold by 1/100 of a second. The race is worth watching in full, however, and can be found here. Milorad Cavic of Serbia outswam Phelps until that last 1/100 second. At the very end, Cavic glided in on a final stroke while Phelps took another half-stroke, and even though Cavic's fingers appeared to be touching the wall, Phelps swung his hand in and actually made contact first.

In the days of Mark Spitz, that row of portly men in matching bright blazers who stand at the end of each lane and stare down into the water would have been the judge (along with camera verification) of who touched the wall first, and from the footage that was replayed endlessly, I can easily imagine the decision having gone in Cavic's favor. His coach immediately filed a protest with FINA, but the electronic touchpad system now in use appears to be inviolate and Phelps' win was swiftly upheld. It ain't over till the fat circuit sings.

NBC later had an extended split-screen exchange between Mark Spitz and Michael Phelps which, I have to admit, I did not watch. I appreciate the past champions coming to cheer on those who are breaking their records (as have Mary Lou Retton and Janet Evans at these games). I appreciate it especially when they make a generous comment, as Janet Evans did before the women 800m freestyle where her record, the oldest record in swimming, would be bested by three seconds in a fabulously strong run from Rebecca Adlington of Great Britain, who was six months old when Janet swam her best in 1989. Janet's cheerful comment to her mother was "It's going to go." From the few snatches I heard later, Mark Spitz was equally happy and congratulatory. But there's no need to drag out the changeover.

For all you guys and gals out there who want more of an opportunity to study the body of Michael Phelps, NBC has created a video, Aqua Man: A Study of Phelps' Perfect Physique (narrated by Costas, whose every heartbeat throbs for Michael).

Speaking of Mary Lou Retton: I was never caught up in the idolatry about her, either, partly because she was a born-again Baptist who couldn't shut up about how great she thought Reagan was, and also because her ability to win gold at the 1984 Olympics was heavily advantaged because of the boycott by all the Eastern European nation athletes who held the world records in those sports. Existing in a subculture often divorced from popular culture during those years, I didn't realize what a iconic figure she was until the episode of Friends where Ross gets permission from Rachel to name five fantasy "free dates", i.e., women he could sleep with and not be considered to have broken their monogamy agreement. Ross listed Mary Lou Retton as one of his five, which astounded the female contingent of his friends but not the males -- they all nodded in understanding.

All right, back to these games. There's much else worthy of notice as well. I was riveted as Cesar Cielo Filho blazed from one end of the pool to the other on a single breath, winning Brazil's first-ever gold medal in swimming and setting a new world record at 21.30 seconds. (Okay, that's today's news, but I can't help jumping ahead -- watch the video here here.) I was even more moved when, after beginning the apparently mandatory-for-males angry fist-pumping and pounding the water savagely, he allowed himself to burst into tears and continued crying on the medal stand. I think crying on the medal stand is absolutely normal, and the ultimate display of human connection to the moment. I loved how Nastia Lukin's face showed her overwhelm on the medal stand, and her mother's weeping for her. I also prefer winners who know their country's national anthem and sing along, which used to be widespread among U.S. athletes but not so much any more. The Chinese, though, sing along joyfully -- haven't seen one yet who didn't.

And, speaking of the anthem -- the U.S. version being used in these games is very different from what we usually hear at sporting events here. During the middle part, what usually comes across as very martial with lots of horns and blasts of tympani is instead rendered sweet, almost haunting by a preponderance of strings. Even when it transitions to the final section and some drums return, it isn't the fake cannon-blast I'm used to. It's musical, and an homage, rather than a belligerent thump on the chest kind of music. Striking, what a difference it makes.

Another highlight from yesterday was Dara Torres swimming her heat for the women's 50m freestyle -- not the swim itself, but what she did immediately prior. Instead of her usual intense focus, she was antsy and walked over to an official at the side of the pool, talking animatedly. Nobody knew what was going on. She went back to her block, yet did not get on it or put on her goggles; instead, she was talking in a reassuring way to the other swimmers nearby. Turns out, the Swedish swimmer in lane 2, Anna-Karin Kammerling, had a torn Speedo. Dara had tried to help her fix it, but it was unsalvageable and Kammerling had rushed to the bathroom to change. There is no rule which says a race has to be held for a suit malfunction. So Dara, in an incredible display of sportwomanship, went to the official to insist they delay the race until her competitor returned, then backed that up with persuading the other racers to likewise not get on the blocks, either.

When Kammerling returned, the heat went on and Torres came in with an easy second. She was beaten by 16-year-old Cate Campbell of Australia in the lane next to her, and after checking her time with a grin, Torres swam to Cate and patted her on the back, saying "Great job!" with exuberance. As the story about the torn suit emerged, everyone couldn't take their eyes off Torres. When she was interviewed about it, she brushed it off with "In the pool, they're my competitors; out of the pool, they're my friends." This is what maturity and greatness looks like, folks, whether it's in sports or another arena.

(Dara Torres after 50m heat; photo by Timothy Clary AFP)
There's a good article about Dara Torres' father and past in the Los Angeles Time, Dara Torres is propelled by her father's memory. One item I found interesting is that she attended "Westlake School for Girls, an academy established in 1904 with the school credo Possunt Quia Posse Videntur. ('They can because they think they can.') A lot of accomplished individuals have come out of the now co-educational school, renamed Harvard-Westlake, among them astronaut Sally Ride and actors Shirley Temple, Candice Bergen and Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal."

On the other side of the sporting-attitude scale, in men's tennis James Blake of the U.S. lost to Fernando Gonzalez of Spain in part because the referee missed a call. The ball hit by Blake struck and glanced off the racket of Gonzalez, which means a point for Blake. The referee did not see it, however, and refused to change his decision despite Blake politely bringing it to his attention. The bigger issue, though, is that Gonzalez had to know the ball struck his racket from the impact, clearly visible on replay. In a later news conference, Blake was poised and eloquently honest when he said "I'm 100% sure [it hit his racquet]. Fernando looked me square in the eye and didn't call it. If the roles were reversed, my father would have pulled me off the court if that happened to me." Beautifully said.

So far during these games there have been three captured incidents of doping, one of them the use of propranolol by a male shooter, which helps reduce trembling. A female gymnast (who did not medal, in any case) was also disqualified because diuretics were found in her testing. I'm curious: Why would diuretics be helpful to a gymnast? Anybody out there know?

(Elena Kaliska of Slovakia in the whitewater women's K1 semifinals at Shunyi Olympic Rowing-Canoeing Park, August 15, 2008; photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images AsiaPac)
I watched the finals in women's single kayak slalom, where Elena Kaliská of Slovakia did a perfectly clean run past 21 gates to win gold by an unprecedented almost 15 seconds, her second straight gold. I have to say, I love watching white-water anything. I appreciate that, in order to do it well, those in a craft must read invisible terrain (that under water) by how it is revealed from water flowing sometimes several feet above it. This is an ancient human skill calling on multiple portions of our specialized brain anatomy. I also love the language used by rafters and kayakers, which is succinct and descriptive (as jargon must be) but still frequently poetic and beautiful: To describe a rapid, you might use terms like pile, boil, curl, riffle, greenwater, pushy, shelf, slot, gnar, chute, sticky, horizon line, manky, eddy line, or eddy wall.

I haven't kayaked myself, but I did go white-water rafting with a group of women for an entire day on the American River in California during 1986, a class IV run. My roommate had a good friend who ran tours and taught boating, and she put together a special outing for us one summer. I took my 16-year-old daughter with me. During the preliminary instruction, we were told to avoid falling out of the boat if at all possible, despite wearing life vests, because the boulders in some sections were deadly: If we had to fall, aim for inside the boat, she said.

Sure enough, at one stompin' backroller, our huge raft doubled up on itself, then flipped backwards as it righted, giving those of us on the sides a bronco ride that tore my hand from the rope. I held onto my paddle but was flung into the center of the raft as it hurtled onward, our leader yelling instructions to keep us from broaching. The bounce and boil of the water below my back was hilarious to me, and I rode that cataract in hysterics. Finally we reached enough calm for me to resume my place. All the other neophytes highly enjoyed my laughter; the teacher did not, glaring at me suspiciously.

Late in the day, we came to a stretch called the Devil's something (certain terms are used over and over in naming geographic features), which was a run of easy washboard ripples, free of dangerous rocks. We paused while the teacher offered half of us the chance to jump in and ride the riffle to the deep pool beyond, between high cliffs. My daughter immediately looked at me with beseeching eyes, and I said "Sure. Just wait for us at the end." I had a little flip of my stomach as she went over the side, but she's a consummate swimmer (I'm no slouch myself) and I could hear her screeches of delight as she bobbled down the river and out of sight around the bend.

Those of us left in the raft followed more slowly. When we reached the pool around the curve, I began looking for my kid -- there were quite a few beached rafts here, with folks swimming. I couldn't find her for several long seconds. Then I heard her voice calling my name jubilantly, from a baffling direction -- overhead. I stretched my head back along the steep cliff next to the deepest part of the river and there, 50 feet above us, were a few folks in lifevests, standing in diving poses. I screamed her name but she was already in motion. I watched her fall to the surface, dying inside as she hit (with nicely pointed toes, I have to admit) and disappeared beneath the dark green water. She was up in a few more seconds, joyous and swimming toward the raft.

My hair went entirely grey the next few years.

After some of the discussion here and at my blog, I realized the tension I experience when watching certain events (especially gymnastics and ice skating) arises from not only the subjective nature of scoring, but also because a single error is (a) much more obvious than in a lot of other sports and (b) can have such terrible consequences. The pressure on these young people to be perfect really gets to me. I agree with Anne Lamott when she says "Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor.”

So I gave myself permission to tape these anxiety-inducing routines and watch them later, fast-forwarding through the ghastly bits where someone falls. It helped. Offering the same to you, at this link is a compilation of individual all-round gold-medal winner Nastia Lukin's routines, according to NBC. This collection is fairly straightforward and illuminating of Lukin's extraordinary ability.

I also watched a small "see the athlete at home" clip about Shawn Johnson of the U.S., who won women's all-round gymnastics silver. She and her mother were at the local grocery store in their Iowa town when Shawn noticed her image was on a box of ice cream sandwiches. Most top athletes earn the money to go professional by endorsements -- Michael Phelps is a multimillionaire from it, and his seventh gold medal yesterday resulted in a flat $1 million bonus from Speedo alone. But Shawn Johnson reacted by turning to her mother and saying "I didn't know I was promoting those." Her mother breezed past it, and I wondered, who's making the decisions about Johnson's endorsements? She's a teenager in high school, yes, but my own daughter at that age would have absolutely demanded to know where her photograph would be appearing. She would not have agreed to someone else signing off on it without her notification and consent.

Under way Friday in Track & Field are heats and semifinals for women's heptathlon (which includes 100m hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200m, long jump, javelin throw, and 800m, but only the first four of these were completed on Friday); men's 100m; women's 800m; men's hammer; men's 1500m; women's 3000m steeplechase; women's discus; women's triple jump; and men's 400m hurdles.

Completed Friday in Track & Field are:
Men's Shot Put: Gold -- Tomasz Majewski of Poland; Silver -- Christian Cantwell of U.S.; Bronze -- Andrei Mikhnevich of Belarus
Women's 10,000m: Gold -- Tirunesh Dibaba (of the formidable Dibaba sisters who keep coming back to thrill us all) of Ethiopia; Silver -- Elvan Abeylegesse of Turkey; Bronze -- Shalane Flanagan of U.S.

(Hyleas Fountain celebrates a jump in the Women's Heptathlon High Jump Final at the National Stadium, August 15, 2008; photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts)
As of Saturday morning, Hyleas Fountain of the U.S. had won three of the four women's heptathlon events. I have to say, if I were going to award the title of "greatest Olympic athlete ever", it would not be someone who medaled in one sport, no matter how many medals they accumulated. It would be a heptathlete or pentathlete -- or Jesse Owens, of course.

NBC did a brief feature/interview with Fountain's coach, Lynn Smith. Returning to an Olympics took particular courage on Smith's part: He was one of 111 severely injured at the terrorist bombing of the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, and he survived only by a miracle. When trying to talk about his recovery, he welled up and covered part of his face.

Two people were killing during that bombing, Alice Hawthorne directly and Melih Uzunyol from a heart attack in the aftermath. The terrorist who set off the bombs, Eric Rudolph, is serving a life sentence without parole. He went on to bomb two abortion clinics and a lesbian nightclub, killing another. His justification for the Olympics bombing was that the games promote "global socialism". Clearly, however, woman-hating was also part of his agenda in the later bombings. Like the majority of domestic terrorism cases in the U.S., this one was solved without the use of goverment-sanctioned torture or stripping citizens of their constitutional rights.

The track at these Olympics was declared by sprint analyst and commenter Ato Boldon to be "the fastest track surface ever". If his expert opinion is correct, we should see a lot of new world records set here in running events. Boldon also explained the purpose of the spandex-looking sleeves being worn by some runner, such as Walter Dix: They compact the lower arm muscles and that compaction has a positive effect on drag. The commentators called these "gauntlets", but gauntlets are technically gloves. Since these items of apparel extend from wrist to forearm, they are more accurately known as vambraces.

There was also much speculation about whether Tyson Gay's hamstring injury is recovered enough for him to compete here. I was watching earlier this year when he fell during the trials in Eugene. Boldon pointed out during the heats yesterday, Gay was wearing a hamstring brace not-quite-concealed under his running shorts. We'll see how he does. I hope he doesn't suffer further injury. And, I'd love to hear the story of whether his first name, Tyson, was deliberately chosen by his parents to offset the inevitable teasing he was going to receive for his last name.

Cheers to the font and text choices used on television to list the names of athletes: For the first time that I can recall, names which in that particular culture would be listed surname first are rendered intact but with a larger font on the surname so you can instantly tell which is their last name, which is their first. This way, everybody's preferences are respected without confusion. I hope this practice is kept. (And if it was China who instituted it, kudos to them.)

Jeers to the mysterious stomach virus which is hitting so many of the athletics in the Olympic Village, a few of them with lasting consequences. Nicole Teter of the U.S. did not finish her heat in the women's 800 meter race, stopping after 150 meters because of weakness from not having been able to eat anything the day before after contracting the GI bug, plus some residue from a recent Achilles tendon injury. She wandered off the track sobbing, looking pale and impossibly skinny. Others who have been sick but recovered (among the U.S. athletes) include Dara Torres, Ryan Lochte, Hazel Clark, Shalane Flanagan, Dee Dee Trotter, Torri Edwards, and Angela Williams.

Cheers to swimmer Cesar Cielo Filho of Brazil, not only for winning Bronze in the Men's 100m Freestyle (tying with Jason Lezak of the U.S.), and for setting new Olympic records in the heats and semifinals for the men's 50m freestyle, but also for having the most intriguing name so far. His last name, Cielo Filho, means "Son of the Sky" in Portugese. (Anyone else out there skilled in translation who can tell us the meaning of other interesting surnames among the athletes?)

Zige Liu of China in Women's 200m Butterfly: 2:04.18 WR (won Gold)
Ryan Lochte of U.S. in Men's 200m Backstroke: 1:53.94 WR (won Gold)
Michael Phelps of U.S. in Men's 200m Individual Medley: 1:54.23 WR (won Gold)
Rebecca Soni of U.S. in Women's 200m Breaststroke: 2:20.22 WR (won Gold)
Bronte Barratt, Linda MacKenzie, Kylie Palmer, and Stephanie Rice of Australia in Womens 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay: 7:44.31 WR (won Gold)

Rebecca Adlington of Great Britain in Women's 800m Freestyle: 8:18.06 OR
Milorad Cavic of Serbia Men's 100m Butterfly: 50.76 OR (heats)
Cesar Cielo Filho of Brazil in Men's 50m Freestyle: 21.47 OR (heats, broken in the next heat by Amaury Leveaux of France)
Cesar Cielo Filho of Brazil in Men's 50m Freestyle: 21.34 OR (semifinals)
Ryan Cochrane of Canada in Men's 1500m Freestyle: 14:40.84 OR (heats, broken by Grant Hackett of Australia two heats later)
Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe in Women's 200m Backstroke: 2:06.76 OR (heats)
Jason Dunford of Kenya in Men's 100m Butterfly: 51.14 OR (heats, broken two heats later by Milorad Cavic of Serbia)
Grant Hackett of Australia in Men's 1500m Freestyle: 14:38.92 OR (heats)
Kosuke Kitajima of Japan in Men's 200m Breaststroke: 2:07.64 OR (won Gold)
Amaury Leveaux of France in Men's 50m Freestyle: 21.46 OR (heats)
Britta Steffen of Germany in Women's 100m Freestyle: 53.12 OR (won Gold)

OLYMPIC RECORDS SET IN TRACK & FIELD FOR AUGUST 15: (No World Records set on this date)
Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia in Women's 10,000 m: 29:54.66 OR (won Gold)


If you'd like to know more about an individual athlete or to search among athletes for those representing a given country, sport, hometown, birthdate/birthplace, college, etc., go to the search page at NBC.

[Cross-posted at Group News Blog.]


Friday, August 15, 2008


Kate McBeth, missionary, and Nimipuu theological students on Lapwai Reservation, circa 1893: (back row l. to r.) Paul Connor, Ed Connor, Mark Arthur, James McFarland; (front row l. to r.) Charles McConnville, James Kash Kash. Photo from Idaho State Historical Society.

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.

January 2013

Myra plunged into writing, surfacing only for meals or to talk over ideas with Nika. Ginny joined their friends briefly for lunch on Sunday. Chris and Sima left soon after to drive to Colville for the night, planning to return the following evening. Allie and Edwina hung out in the hot tub while Myra returned to her book.

Ginny came to bed around 4 a.m. on Monday morning, smelling of turpentine and peanut butter. Myra woke up enough to recognize this meant the painting was finished, brushes cleaned, and a small feeding frenzy had occurred. They curled together and slept.

The ringing phone dragged Myra from sleep again. She looked at the clock as she fumbled for the phone, full daylight leaking into their bedroom around the edges of the window shade: Nearly 9:00.

"H'lo?" she said thickly. Ginny turned away from the sound and motion.

"Myra..." It was Chris. "Myra, she's dead. My sister, Garnet...they came out and told me, us...she died during the procedure."

"What?" The skin all over Myra's body contracted. "How could she have died?"

"They said it was a cardiac arrest, that it happens...I just talked to her, I was standing with her before they took her in. Less than an hour ago. I..." Myra could hear crying and some muffled yelling from the room where Chris was calling.

"We'll be there as fast as we can, Chris. Is Sima there?"

"Yes. She's...Here, talk to her."

Sima's voice came on the line. "Myra, it's bad here."

"We're on our way. But it'll take hours, Sima. How did this happen?"

"They're acting like it's not that unusual. I don't know...Will you call Allie and Edwina? And -- the kids?"

"Of course. We'll be there for you. You take care of Chris, the way you always do, and we'll get there and then we'll all take care of you both. Where will you be?"

"I don't know. Call Chris's cell when you get close, I guess. Oh god, Myra. This is too much."

"We'll all face it together. I got your back, sweetheart. Let me talk to Chris again and then we'll get on the road. Call my or Ginny's cell any time until we get there. Wait, what hospital are you at right now?"

"Memorial. Myra, there's dea -- there's places between here and there where the cell service doesn't work."

"Okay, if you can't get through leave a message, I'll keep checking when we get back in range."

Ginny was stirring unwillingly as Chris's voice came back on the line. "I don't know what to do, Myra."

"You don't have to. We'll take care of things. If the hospital needs information, you can have them call me. Or refer them to the same funeral home you used for your mother. Tell them more family is on the way and you need to wait until we get there for final decisions, okay? Chris, it's going to be all right. I mean, of course it isn't, but I'll be there for you to lean on as much as you need, I won't let you get lost."


"I'm calling Allie, but you can keep calling her and me any time as you need to talk, you understand? There's no limit here."


"I love you. I'll be there as soon as I can." She pushed down the receiver and lifted it again, then pushed the speed dial for Allie. Ginny's voice mumbled "Is that Chris?"

Myra didn't answer because Allie was saying "Hello?"

"Al? I got real bad news. Chris just called me, her sister died right after beginning the cardiac cath. They need us to get there as fast as we can."

Now Ginny was awake, her eyes bloodshot and her movements torpid, but she was registering. After a brief talk with Allie, Myra got off the line so Allie could call Edwina at work. Ginny was in the bathroom, switching to the bidet as Myra came in carrying the cordless phone.

"They're in Colville?" asked Ginny.

"Yeah. Here's what we need to do, Gin. Allie will call back to figure out if we're taking one car or two. You and I need to pack for three or four days. Oh, god, that includes funeral clothes. We can call the kids once we're on the road, we need to just get on the road. Charge cells and keep them on line in the car. Uh...I should call Nika and see if she can look after the house for us. Hang on" said Myra as the phone rang again.

Allie said "Edwina's on her way home, we'll meet you at your place, it's on the way -- can we take your car?"

"Yes. Just get here and we'll be ready."

As soon as Myra pushed the button, the phone was ringing again. It was Sima. "Myra, we don't have anything to wear to the funeral. Plus we didn't bring more than for a day. Can you run by our house and -- oh, hell, I know for a fact my black outfit needs cleaning. I'm not sure what to tell you..." Sima sounded overwhelmed.

"Listen, honey, is there a department store in Colville where you two can find clothes right for you?" She heard Sima talk quietly with Chris for a moment.

"Chris says yes, at the mall."

"Go there and buy what you need for the funeral plus a few extra outfits. And anything else you need. Put it on the credit card, save your cash for now. Will that be something you can handle?"

Sima said softly "It would be good to get out of here, Ricky tried to put his fist through a wall. His girlfriend is calming him down. We'll stop by the funeral home, then go get clothes."

"Rent three rooms in a nice hotel, motel, wherever you'll feel best staying. It's okay to go there afterward and chill out until we get there, you know" said Myra.

"Okay. Did you get Allie?"

"Yes, she and Edwina are meeting us here and we're driving together."

"Thank god. Thank god. Okay, I -- drive safe, Myra."

"We will."

Ginny was in the shower. Myra joined her and helped scrub the paint from her shoulders and back -- she never understood how Ginny got paint in places her hands didn't usually reach. After she dried off, she put on a meet-the-family outfit and began laying out more clothes on the bed.

Ginny said "I'll pack your bag, Myra, I know what you like. And the toiletries. Go call Nika and the security people, turn off the pool and -- hell, I need crickets for the geckos."

"I got some yesterday, they're in the feeder box. I'll put some in their habitat and change the water."

As Myra walked by the breakfast bar, she checked to see if both their cells were plugged in. Yes, and fully charged. She dropped eight eggs into a pot of water to boil and headed on back.

Half an hour later, Myra was putting the eggs plus rolls, fruit, cheese, two quarts of juice, paper plates and flatware into a canvas bag, when Allie and Edwina came in the front door. She added two Cokes and said to Allie "Ya'll got coffee?"

"I thought we could grab some on the road."

Myra pulled a travel thermos from the cabinet. "Make it here, the way you like it. We need five more minutes." She added a jar of Cremora to the bag, saying "I got us a portable breakfast here."

In the bedroom, Ginny had a large duffel and a toiletries bag ready on the floor. She was dressed and sitting in the armchair with her eyes closed.

"Gin? Allie and Edwina are here. Did you brush your teeth yet?"

Ginny stood wearily. "No. I packed your inhalers, but I couldn't find the allergy spray."

Myra opened the drawer beside her bed and took out a few more items, including the book she'd been reading. She added these to the bag and put their pillows under one arm, carrying the two bags in the other to the front door. Edwina was walking around the house, turning off lights and checking locks.

From the kitchen, Allie called "Have you called Margie or Gillam yet?"

"We figured we'd do that from the car." Myra added a blanket from the closet to their pile.

Myra took the first shift of driving. Ginny plugged her cell into the car adapter and called Gillam first, because Frances might still be asleep. He was on his way to class with Jane, but stopped and talked for 15 minutes, utterly distraught.

"We have a test tomorrow, already, but I'll go talk to the professor...Ah shit, I have a practicum tomorrow too, I'm not sure -- "

"Honey, it's at least a five hour drive from where you are to Colville. I think it's okay if you stay at school, since the semester has just begun. Chris will have us, she'll be focused on Garnet's kids, she'll understand that you can't make it" said Ginny.

"But I want to see her, Mama, this is so awful. I liked Garnet, she was always nice to me."

"So send flowers, write a card saying what she meant to you. And come home as soon as you can to spend time with Chris. She'll need you more in the coming weeks and months. You know how grief works." Myra gave Ginny a thumb's up as she heard this.

After a long silence, Gillam said "All right. I'm going to call Aunt Chris now, though, is that okay?"

"That would be great. Should I call Carly or -- "

"I'm seeing him at lunch, I'll tell him. Call me tonight, okay?"

"I will, honeyboy."

"You're all together, in the car? Don't..."

"We're fine, Gillam. We're indestructible, haven't you noticed? Love you."

When she hung up, Myra said "Margie's even further away, but she was closer to Garnet. Before you call her, check online and see if you can get her a plane from Portland to Colville."

Ginny's hands were slow from exhaustion. After a few minutes, she said "The nearest airport is Spokane. She could fly there in about an hour, rent a car and drive another hour to Colville."

"Well, if we offer her that option, I suppose we should do the same for Gillam -- "

"No, he had conflicting course commitments, Myra. I don't know about Carly, though."

"Let's start with Margie, I guess. You still up for calling?"

"Yes." As Ginny talked with Margie, Allie passed up peeled eggs and portions of banana to them. Myra already had her Coke in the cup-holder. It turned out that Margie, too, had a major seminar which would be hard to make up. She eventually decided she had to stay home, but she wanted to talk to everyone in the car, in turn. When Myra took the phone, breaking her own rules about using the cell while driving, Margie said "Mom sounds awful, are you two fighting more?"

"No, she finished a painting a few hours before we got the call. She's tapped out."

"Are you okay? Are you freaking out about how Aunt Chris is going to bear this?"

"Not yet, Margie. I want to get where I can see her face and then I'll know what to do."

"I've never sent flowers on my own, how do I do that?"

"Call a local florist and ask their advice. Tell them about Garnet being Catholic and Nez Perce, a mother and grandmother; they'll have good suggestions. Have the card addressed to all three of her kids as well as Chris and Sima."

"Okay. I can hardly stand to not be with you all."

"Well, Margie, you are, in more ways than we usually acknowledge. We'll call you tonight, I promise."

After hanging up, Myra said to Ginny "Grab a pillow and a blanket, and my sweater if you want to make a shade on the window, take a nap."

Ginny turned to Allie and said "What else is left in that bag?"

"More cheese, an apple, and half a quart of cranberry juice. Plus -- two more rolls."

"Will you hand me those, and that pillow in the window behind you?"

Myra angled north before Moses Lake and hooked up with Route 2 in Coulee City. Allie tried Chris's phone and got through. After talking, she leaned forward and whispered to Myra around slumbering Ginny "She sounds better than you reported. She's talked with Gillam, Carly and Margie, I bet that helped. They've got us rooms at Benny's on Main Street. They haven't eaten yet, but they do have some clothes and were headed to meet with a funeral director. She said to meet us at the hotel and we could get lunch together."

Myra looked at Allie briefly and replied "She does sound like she's tracking a little more."

"Thank god Sima went with her." Myra looked at Allie once more to nod in fervent agreement.

Chris was sitting in the lobby of the hotel, next to a fireplace and in front of a wall covered with mounted game fish. She stood when Myra crossed straight to her, and once she was in Myra's arms, she began shaking hard. Allie wrapped around her from the other side.

"Where's Sima?" asked Ginny.

"Bathroom" Chris mumbled into Myra's shoulder. When Sima rejoined them, they went to a room for privacy, huddled in two clusters around Chris and Sima.

Sima said "We picked out a...casket, and the basics of a service, but we have to get the kids' okay. They're -- they went to Tina's house. We said we'd go there after lunch, to finalize the service." Tina was Garnet's oldest child, a young woman with a 2-year-old boy of her own.

Chris said "Her ex-husband is driving in from Couer d'Alene. If he tries to take over, Ricky'll throw a punch at him."

"I'll handle the ex" said Allie.

Myra was studying Chris's face. She was sallow, her eyes dull. "Have you had anything to eat at all today?"

"Coffee. I don't feel like I can eat, Myra."

"I know, but our bodies count on us to override our hearts and minds sometimes. Is there a coffee shop nearby?"

"It'll be full of people who are gossiping about it already" said Chris.

"We'll get a back booth and form a barrier" said Myra. She slid her arm through Chris's and said "One step at a time." Chris laughed in shock, saying "Don't forget 'Easy does it'."

After ordering, Chris told the story. They'd all gotten to the hospital by 6 a.m. and sat around "For no goddamned reason" until 7:15, when Garnet was changed into hospital garb and given some premedications. She was so agitated, they insisted she take a pill to "calm her down, who knows what the fuck it did". Tina's child was having temper tantrums, so she left the waiting area with him. Ricky and the younger son, Wayne, paced relentlessly, going outside to smoke and, according to Chris, coming back smelling of liquor. Chris and Sima sat with Garnet, trying to reassure her.

"I told her it was something they did all the time, a piece of cake, and she'd come out feeling better than she had in a long time" said Chris in a low voice. Myra thought she was nowhere near crying, even if they hadn't been in a public place. She speared a french fry with her fork and said to Chris "You didn't lie. Eat another bite, kiddo."

Back at the hotel, after more talking, Sima and Chris argued it would be better if they went to Tina's house alone. Allie argued back, saying "Just take me, then. They all know me, I'm not white, and I can model calm better than most people on the planet. Three is way better than two." Finally, Chris said "Okay" with an apologetic look at Myra, who said "I think that's the best plan. We'll be right here. Their community is going to gather around, Chris, with food and a routine. You're the elder but you're not carrying this burden on your shoulders, not alone."

After they left, Myra said to Ginny "You need more sleep?"

"If that's all right you."

"Of course it is. We'll go to Edwina's room. I'll take my cell, turn yours off."

Myra sat heavily on the settee in Allie and Edwina's room, underneath more stiff dead fish, and put her face in her hands. Edwina said "Why are Chris's family so hard on her? I mean, it's been 30 years since she took drugs or...whatever."

"Fucked up families who are in denial about what really happened tend to pile blame on the ones who escape or tell the truth" said Myra. "Garnet was four years younger than Chris and when their dad started in on Chris, Garnet was still too little for him to also target. Except for yelling and the usual verbal shit. Their mother decided to believe Chris somehow asked for it, and Garnet absorbed that. Chris kept him off Garnet's trail until she left home, and by that time, enough of the church people knew what was going on, their dad left the family and went to Idaho. They could pretend to be kind of 'regular' family, or what passes for it in poor communities, except for Chris, the big dyke who was vocal about her abuse and her recovery. It sucks."

"Those kids ought to know better" said Edwina angrily.

"They did when they were younger. But they're damaged now, too -- Garnet managed to find a mean drunk to marry, big surprise. Tina's done some stripping, which as a single mom is one of the best paying options around here. Ricky keeps getting fired, I think for drugs and alcohol-related shit, and Wayne is totally shut down" said Myra. "I mean, if I was in touch with my family it'd be similar, except without the added indescribable crush of Native oppression. Which can be offset by community, I'm not sure if that's working for the kids here." She looked at Edwina and said "My kids are lucky in ways I hope they know but I also hope they never know. It's luck, not character or good parenting."

"Takes all three" said Edwina.

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Daily Beijing Olympics Thread for 13 August 2008

(Natalie Coughlin models the Speedo Fastskin LZR Racer Suit)

Here's your daily subjective report on the Olympics and a chance to converse about it in comments.

SPOILER NOTE: Some results will be reported below for the competition of yesterday, so be forewarned.

FEEDBACK TO COMMENTS POSTED AT GROUP NEWS BLOG: It's so predictable. I self-identify as disabled and at least one person thinks that means it's okay to call me retarded. This is classic able-bodied oppression. I do not have a mental or cognitive disability (although I did for part of one year, after anoxia during a surgery). If I did, I'd say so without shame. It's not funny and it's not "less than", it's simply a difference. Retard, on the other hand, is a hate term and is not welcome here. I'm leaving the comment up to make my point, but future hate speech directed against physical difference will disappear, poof.

I think commenting on the rigid feminization of certain sports is entirely appropriate, just as commenting on race and class as it limits those who can be at the Olympics is what a political blog should be doing. I used humor to change the pace, but I think it must have gone over at least one person's head: Pointing out sexism and classism is NOT part of the problem, despite the American myth that silence is the only (middle-class) way to be "nice". White, male, and upper class are default normal in this country. If you point out something contrary to the default, if you ask for attention to be directed toward the areas where people are still fucking dying daily because they are targeted in these areas, it is not identity politics or causing trouble, it is clarity and conscience which offers hope to every person who isn't comfortably included in (or allied with) the "default" categories.

Using "political correctness" as an attempted insult immediately marks you as having been stunted by the thinking of the Right, as begun by Reagan. Liberal, politically correct, compassion, and global are not terms of disparagement to me and other radicals. Political correctness is, at its baseline, a sincere attempt to avoid language, thinking and behavior which contributes to the oppression of others. If it seems hilarious or too much work to you, well, as Dr. Phil says, you might wanna take a look at that.

I also have a little trouble with the term "heatherish", which has the feel of pretending that the internalized oppression aimed by members of a target group at one another is what keeps those of in the target group oppressed and "in line". My self-reminder in any analysis is: Check the power flow, dummy. Me noticing how terrified these young women are of looking "not right" is NOT the oppression (which is a blend of class and gender).

One commenter made a great point, about objective scoring vs. subjective. Another commenter (at my own blog) made a related point when she voiced appreciation for the commentators who are taking the time to explain the sport to us as the action goes along. Understanding why deductions occur helps make it a much more enjoyable, shared experience -- and, incidentally, reveals where subjectivity has too much leeway. I'm still outraged that Torvill & Dean didn't win their ice-dancing competition years ago, and whether it was judge corruption or simple disagreement about technique, the presence of subjective scoring there allowed a decision that almost no one found fair.

Thanks to the white-water fans who explained more about why Benjamin Boukpeti's win was so exciting, and about how the current course is equalizing gender in this particular sport. And, again, thanks to earlier commenters who gave me a smidgen of education about fencing: When I watched the women's team saber finals today, I understood a great deal more and got very caught up in the action.

Back to the question of attire: Much was made of Michael Phelps having to swim last night with goggles full of water, which effectively blinded him for 100 meters. To his credit, he still turned in a world record time. Since he is poised to break Mark Spitz's record, the Today show featured an interview with Mark Spitz, who was extremely gracious and supportive. I remembered him (all the swimmers then) racing without goggles, so I went to Youtube and found a video of the 1972 games, below. It's blurry but does show all the men wore no goggles or hats, had often shaggy hair (including Spitz's mustache, which I don't think we'd ever see today), and not all of them had the skimpy Speedo that Spitz wore. There was a lot of talk about how revealing his suit was, as I remember, but he said it played a role in his superior swim times and, of course, he was right about that.

In December 1974, my partner and I with our four-year-old daughter were traveling through South Texas and we stopped at the Magic Time Machine restaurant in San Antonio (which is still there). This is a TGI Friday's kinda place whose gimmick is that all the staff dresses up like characters from history or current pop culture. We were shown to a table by a guy dressed as Benjamin Franklin and invited to go to the "salad car" right away. Folks dressed in wildly different costumes flowed back and forth, and our daughter was a little frightened by it all -- she didn't recognize most of who the actors were supposed to be portraying.

Back at our table, however, as our waiter approached she cried out with delight "Look! It's Mark Spitz!" Wearing a skimpy Speedo, with that brushy mustache and mop of hair, and seven gold medals bouncing back and forth on his chest, indeed, Mark Spitz's double took our order. My daughter shyly asked if she could touch one of his medals, and he consented graciously. I noticed, however, his skin was slightly blue and there were goosebumps on his arms. He must have been freezing, poor guy.

My daughter talked about meeting Mark Spitz for years, a thrill of her young life. We didn't let on until she was old enough to figure it out for herself.

This Olympics we're seeing an astonishing number of swimming world records broken, not just by Michael Phelps but across the board, even in qualifying heats. One possible cause is the widespread use of Speedo's Fastskin LZR Racer suit, which I think first appeared at the Athens Olympics but appears perfected at this point. Also, the newer Olympic pools manipulate water away from the swimmer, as if they are "swimming downhill". And I've heard that new chemicals to more quickly remove lactic acid from overused muscles gives a strong advantage to current athletes who must perform repetitively in a single day or over a few days.

I mention all this with no intention to draw away credit from the astonishing performances we are seeing. It's a swimming Olympics to remember, for sure. And -- as Mark Spitz's record is bested, let's remember the guy who did what he did without these advantages, without hype or much expected of him at all: Seven gold medals in seven races, with a new world record time in each race. We can't compare him to Phelps or anyone else, really, because that was then and this is now; his race times would not hold up now. We can honor both equally, for what they have done.

As if the commentators were listening to my earlier criticism (which of course they were not), they've done better about explaining instead of gushing and sharing the praise in more directions. I finally found out what Natalie Coughlin is so good on turns (she rotates her body sideways for a stroke, which creates less drag), why a big swimmer with Alain Bernard can negatively affect a smaller swimmer (backwash at the turn), and why Phelp's unusual body is so ideal for swimming (his arm span is 6'7", three inches longer than his height; his feet are size 14 and bend an extra 15 degrees at the ankle, allowing him to use them much more as flippers).

Interestingly, after Jason Lezak won Bronze in the only event where he swam individually at this Olympics, the men's 100m freestyle, he was interviewed by Rowdy Gaines. During the course of the interview, Gaines quite appropriately brought up the most exciting swim of this games so far, Lezak's anchor leg of the 4x100 free relay with a split of 46.06. However, Gaines veered off into Phelpsomania, stating "You got Michael his gold in that event." With a slight smile and a steady voice, Lezak replied "I did not swim that race to win a gold for Michael." Hear, hear! When this was replayed with Bob Costas present, Costas appeared unable to take it in, although Gaines did and seemed to appreciate Lezak drawing a lane in the pool, as it were: He is not Phelps' minion.

And, from what I can see, Phelps is very aware of that. He seems to be close to his male cohorts. It's the press who have attempted to make him into the Only Swimmer that Matters -- and for too many of them, it's for a commercial bottom line, not even from pure love of sport.

Speaking of commercialism: I don't remember previous Olympics' coverage showing every single heat and semifinal as this one has (51 in total). I personally love swimming, but it occurred to me that because of watching all these non-decisive races, I'm missing all the other events that could be covered. Track & Field begin tomorrow, which has a similar multitude of events and voluminous numbers of competitors to be winnowed down to final races. I'll be watching to see if all those heats are aired as well. If not, I'll raise the question of whether this is pure commercialism -- i.e., give viewers only what is most popular -- or, dare I say it, because most of the athletes in swimming are white and most of the athletes in track & field are NOT white? A discussion to be continued, after more observation.

Locally (I live in Austin, Texas) there's a great deal of credit being given to Longhorn Aquatics at the University of Texas, where a huge number of these swimmers train -- some of them not even pros yet, still students at UT. Since I should plug my home town at least once, the following swimmers are from the Longhorn program: Ricky Berens, Hee-Jin Chang (swimming for China), Ian Crocker, Susana Escobar (swimming for Mexico), Brendan Hansen, Kathleen Hersey, Aaron Peirsol, Scott Spann, Garrett Weber-Gale, and Dave Walters.

While I'm plugging, I discovered a blog I read regularly is running GREAT posts about the Olympics with cultural and sociological commentary, covering territory I'm not: Sue Katz Consenting Adult. I especially liked her report on the older athletes who find a niche in some sports, Boomer Olympians.

Also, the Guardian UK wrote a pre-Olympics article which is highly educational and entertaining, Game For Anything, in which they sent eight of their reporters out in crash courses for competitions. These intrepid writers report back on the finer points of steeple chase, front crawl, shot put, fencing, gymnastics, rowing, high jump, and BMX. It's a great read.

Returning to attire: The aforementioned LZR swimsuits show the men swimmers constantly adjusting their shoulder straps and arm holes as compulsively as the women. I was happy to see it's not just us: When you wear a tight garment that lets flesh bulge out, you simply are not as comfortable in it. (Plus the nervousness factor, I'm sure.) In my freshman year of high school, our basketball uniforms were the old-fashioned style with shorts that were more like panties and arm sleeves in a baby-doll style. I remember our coach screaming at us during one time-out because somebody had been pushing her ass-cheek back into her suit instead of catching the ball on a pass.

The next year, new suits were bought for both the boys and girls' basketball teams, and after heated lobbying on our part, we got the same style as the boys -- roomy sleeves, breathable fabric, long-legged and baggy shorts with wide waistbands. I still remember the glorious freedom I felt when I first put mine on, not only the ease of movement but, even more, the relief from having to worry about exposure. When I watch women doing strenuous movements in leotards and see them constantly reaching to their bottoms to make sure the fabric hasn't ridden up too far, I feel for them. I suspect, as one commenter said, it's about the look rather than the function -- otherwise, men would be wanting to compete in leotards as well.

And, finally, regarding commentary, race, and class inequality at the games: I was watching in 2000 when Eric Moussambani swam his heat for the men's 100 meter freestyle. I was leaned forward cheering for him every agonizing stroke of the final 50 meters, and also laughing wildly: How on earth had this guy gotten to the Olympics? The last few meters, it looked like someone might need to jump in and pull him out. He was immediately dubbed "Eric the Eel".

Turns out, according to Wikipedia, he "gained entry to the Olympics without meeting the minimum qualification requirements via a wildcard draw designed to encourage developing countries without expensive training facilities to participate." In other words, poor countries are given a ticket to compete but no funding to support their athletes. What I remember from interviews at the time, he had no access to an Olympic-sized pool and therefore trained in a hotel pool that was 20 meters long, so 50 meters was 2.5 times what he usually swam. He had only been training for eight months, and he did it for the honor of his country.

It stopped being funny at that point. Below is a Youtube video of Eric Moussambani's swim, the most respectful one I could find (and it's not entirely free of crap).

When I checked the NBC site to see who is competing from his country this year, I found under the entry for Equatorial Guinea a brief reference to Moussambani which stated "he had only learned to swim eight months before, and in crocodile-infested waters." This is directly contradicted by my memory of his history and also by that of Wikipedia, and it smacks of appalling racial stereotyping.

To make matters worse, last night the NBC anchor ran another video of a swimmer from who was the sole competitor for a poor African country (I didn't catch the name and I cannot find it by searching the NBC site). He was swimming in a heat and came in dead last. The commentator prefaced it by going from an image of (guess who) Michael Phelps to the heat, stating "And now, from the sublime to, well, also the sublime but in an entirely different way". He laughed throughout the video. His tone was utterly condescending. If you can supply the name of this swimmer and country, I'd appreciate it.

Professionalism in sports is not the problem: Paying athletes is on a par with paying artists and other non-profit endeavors, in my opinion. It's who is controlling the endeavor (i.e., community vs. corporate or government), and how fair is the access that matters most. Paying lip-service to access while providing no money for athletes to train is disingenuous at best. I admit it's a stretch to ask wealthy superpowers to set aside some of our largesse to create sports program for boys and girls in the countries we tend to exploit, especially since those kids will likely grow up to be crackerjack competitors -- but can you imagine the Olympics which would result from a truly leveled playing field? (Pun intended.)

(Stephanie Rice wins 200m individual relay, photo from China Daily)

Alain Bernard of France in Men's 100m Freestyle: 47.20 WR (in the semifinal)
Federica Pellegrini of Italy in Women's 200m Freestyle: 1:54.82 WR (won Gold)
Michael Phelps of U.S. in Men's 200m Butterfly: 1:52.03 WR (won Gold)
Michael Phelps of U.S. in Men's 200m Freestyle: 1:42.96 WR (won Gold)
Aaron Peirsol of U.S. in Men's 100m Backstroke: 52.54 WR (won Gold)
Stephanie Rice of Australia in Women's 200m Individual Medley: 2:08.45 WR (won Gold)
Ricky Berens, Ryan Lochte, Michael Phelps, and Peter Vanderkaay of US in Men's 4x200 Freestyle Relay: 6:58.56 WR (won Gold)

Paolo Bossini of Italy in Men's 200m Breaststroke: 2:08.98 OR (in the heats)
Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe in Women's 200m Individual Medley: 2:09.53 OR (in the semifinal)
Daniel Gyurta of Hungary (beating record set by Paolo Bossini in previous heat same day) in Men's 200m Breaststroke: 2:08.68 OR (in the heats)
Leisel Jones of Australia in Women's 100m Breaststroke: 1:05.17 OR (won Gold)
Kosuke Kitajima of Japan in Men's 200m Breaststroke: 2:08.61 OR (in the semifinal)
Rebecca Soni of U.S. in Women's 200m Breaststroke: 2:22.17 OR (in the heats)
Coralie Balmy, Celine Couderc, Camille Muffat, and Alena Popchanka of France in Women's 4x200m Freestyle Relay: 7:50.37 OR (in the heats)
Ricky Berens, Klete Keller, Erik Vendt, and David Walters in Men's 4x200 Freestyle Relay: 7:04.66 OR (in the heats)


P.S. NBC, PLEASE stop doing segments on reporters trying to eat fried scorpions. It's junior high "let's make fun of what other people eat" behavior. Get over it.

[Cross-posted at Group News Blog.]



Julia Child was a spy. I knew it.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008


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.

January 2013

Myra worked out for an hour, cajoled on by Carly. Finally she begged off and went to her bedroom to change into a swimsuit. Ginny, Margie and Frances were at the dining table, cleaning shrimp and picked chicken meat from the already-roasted hens they'd bought. These would be seasoned and used as stuffing for the tamales. Myra stopped briefly in the kitchen to put a huge pot of pinto beans on to boil, asking Ginny to check on it periodically, before heading to the hot tub.

Gillam and Jane had finished laps and were horsing around in the shallow end. Gillam leaped into Jane's arms and she carried him around in the water while he laughed hysterically. They were both still breathing hard -- they must have swum for nearly an hour. When Myra slipped into the hot tub, Jane looked at her and said "If I had this in my back yard, I'd live out here."

"Did Gillam tell you how he learned to swim when he was just a few days old?" asked Myra. Jane paddled over to hear it, Gillam leaning on the rim beside her. When Myra was done, Gillam said "I don't have a memory of that, of course, but I don't remember ever being afraid of water."

Jane stood up and said "I need to change. I think I'll start making cookies for tonight."

"What kind?" asked Myra as Jane climbed the steps.

"Tollhouse, coconut clusters, and some kind of mango/pineapple bars without sugar, for Allie" said Jane. Gillam said "I'll be in later." He slid over the lip to the hot tub, letting his legs dangle, but he was still too warm to get in the tub itself. Once Jane was inside, Gillam said "You feel like talking?"

Myra grinned. "I feel like listening. I want to know how your Christmas trip was, meeting Jane's folks."

Gillam grinned in return. "Well, it was...different. Her folks, per se, are great so far. Her dad Anton is small and quiet; I think he'd be short even if he wasn't in a chair, though he's got phenomenal arm muscles. Jemima is where Jane gets her build, and she's fairly traditional in that she runs the household. But Anton is really hands-on with his kids. And they haven't lost their radical edge. I think you're gonna like 'em. Her siblings, though...Ranged from dull to pain in the ass."

"Really?" said Myra. "She talked so positively about her sister closest to her, and her gay brother."

"Yeah, but Thad and Lucy didn't go home for Christmas" said Gillam. "Which in the future I'll pay attention to. Lucy's in Tacoma with her newish husband, and Thad went there to be with them. The oldest girl, Bets, didn't come in from Georgia. So there was just one older sister, Sophie, plus three older brothers. Willie, who's between Lucy and Thad, was the pain in the ass. More accurately, he's a bully. I can't imagine why his wife stays with him. Jane plain avoided him. The day we went out to Anton's family farm, now run by his brother, that was fun because we could get outside. Otherwise, there was a lot of TV and sex segregation. Willie eventually made a crack about me hanging out in the kitchen with the quote girls, but before I could even laugh, Jane came out with 'Guys with a full set of balls aren't afraid to help feed the people they care about.' Everybody fell out, except Willie who actually stood up, but so did I -- I'm about eight inches taller than him, he takes after Anton -- so he went to the bathroom instead of coming in Jane's direction."

"Holy shit -- is Willie, well, how do I put it -- "

"Yeah, later Jane told me one of his testicles never descended. I thought it was a low blow, but she said it's the only thing that works with him." Gillam looked a little troubled, even as he grinned.

"And Anton never interrupted him?"

"He did, he'd turn it around into a joke or whatever, but Willie never stopped. Jane said the family dynamic was completely different if Willie isn't around."

"Still..." said Myra.

"I know, Mom. How did he get to be that way? I dunno. Anyhow, I was a big hit with everyone else, even the brothers I never talked to, apparently. And Jane said she's off the going-home hook for another year. She prefers if her parents come to visit her."

Myra was memorizing every word to pass on to Ginny and the others: Hope, hope.

"Anyhow..." Gillam cleared his throat. "I've got something I need to tell you, and Mom, but I'll start with you. I hope you won't be upset."

"I hope so, too." Myra smiled to ease her reply.

"Jane and I want to move in together. I mean officially, not just how we've been doing it, which is pretty much the same thing. I need to tell Carly, and I'll still see him as much as I have been the past couple of months, but -- that's not been nearly as much as it was before Jane and, well, this is a permanent change. As far as I can see." Gillam splashed a little hot tub water on his chest and abdomen.

Myra said "I think it's going to break his heart. He waited all through high school for you two to be reunited, and he's only had three years with you. But -- I support your choice, Gillam. If it's what you want, it's the right thing to do."

Gillam breathed out in relief. "What will Mom say? And Allie, and the rest?"

"The same thing, I'm pretty sure. We'll all pitch in and help Carly weather the transition. What are you doing about your apartment?"

"I don't want him saddled with rent suddenly, not this semester when he's going to be working his ass off to get his PT accreditation. I'm going to keep paying my share, plus half of Jane's -- her roommate is moving out suddenly, that's why we decided to go ahead" said Gillam.

"Can you afford that? How's your trust fund doing?" asked Myra.

"I've been responsible the last couple of years" said Gillam, making her wonder what kind of excesses he had indulged in his freshman year. "I can swing it, plus graduate school if I get a job that lets me work while I get my Master's. You pretty much have to have a Master's or be working on one to get a decent teaching job anywhere" said Gillam.

Myra was thinking. "He may have a hard time taking what feels like charity from you. Or -- you paying him to get out of an obligation. I know, I know, that's not what you mean. Still, I think it would be better if you tell him that we're picking up all of his rent for the semester, to keep his decks cleared for schoolwork. If he runs across a good roommate and wants to move someone in, that's up to him. Otherwise, as our kid, too, we want to meet his rent. That's all you need to say, me and Ginny will do the rest of talking with him."

Gillam slid into the tub. "Cools off fast out here. Thanks, Mom. I mean, a million. For not being weird about -- I know we're going fast, but I swear we're ready, me and Jane."

"I trust you, Gillam. That means if it does turn out you need to do something different, I trust you to be brave enough to make the change."

"Like you are now, with Mama?" he said smoothly.

Myra laughed. "I'm still going to keep the focus on you for a bit, I never get you alone any more. Tell me what all I'm missing."

They talked for another half hour, until Ginny came to the door and said "I don't mean to interrupt, but neither Carly nor I trust the masa recipe that's on the side of the bag, do you have one that's different?"

"I'm getting sleepy, time to come in anyhow" said Myra. She and Gillam took the towels Ginny handed them and dried off roughly before going in.

A couple of hours later, after the aunties had arrived and the second batch of tamales were being wrapped, Margie said "I've drawn the short straw, so it's up to me to tell you white-hairs that we're all going out tonight at around 11:00 -- parties and dancing at more lively New Year's parties."

"My hair is grey, not white" argued Edwina.

Chris winked at Allie and said "With them gone, we can revert to the orgies and sacrifices we used to have before they were born."

Myra said "All I ask is that you consider the streets out there to be some version of Grand Theft Auto, and drive defensively as hell."

"Speaking of which" said Carly, looking at the clock, "I told Nika I'd pick her up at the airport. I probably need to allow for traffic and leave now."

"Invite her back here" said Myra. "She can eat with us, too."

Carly nodded, saying to Gillam "The pork'll be done in an hour, will you turn off the burner then?"

"I will" said Frances, who was loading the new tamales into a second steamer.

Margie stood up and said "You know what, I'll ride to the airport with you. That way, you can pull up out front without parking, I'll run in and get her."

Allie swallowed a laugh as Ginny turned to look at Frances' face. "Okay" said Carly, "come on."

Myra grabbed Narnia's collar and told her "Not leaving you, she'll be back." Allie tried not to laugh a second time. Once Margie and Carly were gone, Allie turned around to Frances and said "Is there a reason she keeps trying to jerk you chain about Nika? You two fighting about it, or not talking about it when you should, or they something funky going on with you and Imani?"

A deep silence fell over the room. Frances faced Allie squarely and said "Not that I know of. Just typical Margie, hammering away at a nail that's already in the wood."

"Well, if you want a suggestion from me, don't let her take Nika with ya'll out dancing tonight. Make sure you alone with her at midnight, even if you have to be direct about it. Until then, if you begin flirting with Nika, it won't get Nika's goat, she'll know it a joke, but Margie will stop her shit. And you can tell her I say so." Everyone laughed, and Edwina gave Allie a masa harina-ish high-five. Frances blew Allie a kiss, her shoulders relaxing completely.

The six "white-hairs" were still up at midnight when the hated cuckoo clock went off. Ginny leaped to her feet and made for Myra, then stopped herself. "Come on" said Myra, "lay those lips on me." Each of the friends kissed each other as well, and opened the bottle of sparkling apple cider Myra kept stashed in the back of the fridge for special occasions. But after everyone left, Myra went to sleep on her daybed again, and continued to do so.

The following day, breakfast and lunch were comprised of leftovers. Allie and Edwina came over at 2:00 to sit in the hot tub. Chris and Allie came back for dinner, which was mostly a perfect risotto made by Frances, with Ginny standing at her elbow trying to learn. During the afternoon, home movies were played for the benefit of Frances and Jane. After dinner, poker began in earnest. Ginny took a long break at one point when her cell rang. When she came back to the table, she said "Michael's gone back in the hospital. The doctor says it may be congestive heart failure, not pneumonia, after all."

Myra put down her cards. "Do we need to go there?"

"Not right away. He's already doing a little better. But yes, I think we should. Cathy sounded -- scared. Like I haven't heard her" said Ginny. "Nate's there, though."

Myra asked to switch places with Frances so she could sit next to Ginny. She held her hand for a while as the game resumed.

Margie and Frances left early the next morning. Nika indicated she was ready to return to work, so Myra went into her study each afternoon and let the boys handle making dinner. On the 2nd, Gillam and Carly went out after dinner alone so Gillam could break the news about moving out. Myra sat up with Carly that night until 2:00, ostensibly watching a scary movie but mostly talking.

On Gillam's birthday, he opened his present of a hand-tailored suit at breakfast and went that morning to get his first fitting. Ginny was disappointed when he didn't ask her to go along, taking Jane instead. When he got back, he refused to tell them what style of suit or fabric he had chosen, grinning "You'll have to wait and see it on me." Myra made his dinner that night except for the steaks, which Gillam insisted he grill outside according to his specifications.

The next day after lunch, the three from Olympia left for home. Myra had offered to keep Beebo for the semester, but Gillam looked at her in shock and said "I'd miss him way too much." Myra was relieved when Nika arrived, breaking what felt like uncomfortable solitude. Ginny was doing laundry, and came to ask if she could use Myra's computer to order more seeds.

"Sure. You want to confer, or make the choices yourself?" asked Myra, giving Ginny her chair.

"Confer. I'm selecting potatoes and onions to start in March, and tomatoes after that -- I want to be really adventurous."

Myra leaned on the back of Ginny's chair, starting to feel very hungry for the nearness of Ginny's body. After a few minutes, she said "You feel hot to me. I mean, temperature-wise. But of course the other way too, I didn't..."

Ginny laughed tensely. "I've been needing to paint since the night before Gillam's birthday. I didn't want to start a canvas while they were all here."

"They're gone now" pointed out Myra.

Ginny rotated to chair to look at her. "I'm not sure it's absolutely okay with you."

Myra sighed. "It is. And I'll be there for you. I'm not asking to change that, Ginny Bates."

"Okay." Ginny finished her order, said to Myra "Anything you want to add, do, let's go wild" before heading into her studio. Myra heard the thump of her canvas roll begin, and felt an inexplicable relief. She added Amana Orange and Moskvich to the tomatoes, Evergreen hardy bunching scallions, and paid for the order. She pulled up her research schedule next, and after a minute went to Ginny's studio.

"I'm going to see if I can get us airline tickets to Denver -- should I make them for five days from now, to be safe?"

Ginny looked at the calendar on her desk. "Make it for the Thursday after next. We can be there for shabbos, Cathy would love that, and stay the weekend." Then "Thank you, Myra."

"I love you, painter-girl."

Myra started a calendar for the new year, adding in birthdays and anniversaries. The following Monday, Chris's sister Garnet had finally agreed to have a cardiac catheterization to follow up on the abnormalities found in her EKG. She'd been insisting it was too much of a risk, but Chris had worn her down as Garnet continued to have intermittent angina. Chris had not been able to convince Garnet to come to Seattle for the procedure.

"Those doctors there are all hacks" said Chris, "but she says they're familiar and that's more important. Familiar hacks."

"Tell her Seattle Grace has an amazing cardiac surgeon, Dr. Yang" said Myra, getting a grin from Chris.

"I'm going to drive over Sunday and be with her before she goes in" said Chris.

"You want me to go with you?"

Chris hesitated. "Let me see what Sima's doing. She's saying she shouldn't take off more work, but she likes Garnet, she hasn't made up her mind yet."

"Offer stands, then."

Ginny's new canvas was the largest yet. Myra found she couldn't sleep well with the light on in Ginny's studio and the sound of her breathing out loudly every so often. The second night, she went to their bedroom for the night. When Ginny got into bed near dawn, Myra woke up and rolled over.

"I won't bother you" said Ginny.

"Come here" said Myra, pulling Ginny into a spoon in front of her. Ginny wrapped both hands around Myra's forearms and they dropped off happily. The next morning, Saturday, before leaving for Pike Myra made an appointment with Nancy to see them both the following Tuesday.

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.



Here's your daily subjective report on the Olympics and a chance to converse about it in comments.

SPOILER NOTE: Some results will be reported below for the competition of yesterday, so be forewarned.

I was born with severe asthma and spent most of my childhood as an intermittent invalid, excused from P.E. I was anorexic as well. Because my family was poor, and because I was a girl, my congenital orthopedic problems went unnoticed (despite my complaints of pain and difficulty) and undiagnosed until I was 45, by which time irrecovable damage had been done. My life-threatened hormonal imbalance also went undiagnosed until I was 40.

In high school, I went out for the girls' basketball team and, partly because it was a tiny school, partly because I had a ferocious will, I made it. I played for four years and was captain my senior year. I also played volleyball, softball, and threw the discus (all of them very, very badly). My sophomore year, I tried on the life of being a jock but found it stultifyingly boring after one set of goal had been reached and gave it up for more creative pursuits.

I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for most of my 20s and 30s, where I was very physically active -- using public transportation or walking to get around, living up two and three flights of stairs, marching, hiking, and often doing manual labor for a living (baking, delivery, construction salvage). I was a hands-on parent and lived in collective households where the chores were shared but absolute. I pushed through the asthma, and also through the constant orthopedic pain. My latter choice was a grave mistake, according to the doctors and PT's I've seen since age 45.

Working class toughs: My mother's mantra was "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without." That included bodies, of course.

I always identified with the disabled community because of my asthma, and because in the Bay Area they are the coolest folks around. Since becoming increasingly mobility impaired, I've joined the ranks of the visibly crippled. For four years I was a core writer and performer in Actual Lives, a theater troupe for disabled adults directed by Terry Galloway where all of our material was written by us, page to stage. I wrote some gorgeous stuff, I helped shape disability theory, and, even better, I got to live up close and personal with folks who have a multitude of diverse disabilities: Often, the kinds of disability that nobody wants to see on TV.

I watch NO organized sports on television except for the Olympics. I love community and school sports -- my daughter is a jock, thanks to Title IX -- but most of what makes it into "news" coverage is commercial sports, which is more accurately part of the entertainment industry than actual athleticism. I don't find it surprising that as, in my memory, sports have become a vast corporate-run industry (and claimed a share of the evening broadcast time that would have been unthinkable when I was a child), Americans have become less and less active. Watching sports is not about athleticism, it's about star-worship, reinforcing class and gender myths, and keeping us entertained so we don't notice the real issues of the day.

Why on earth, then, do I make an exception for the Olympics? Certainly, all of my objections above hold true for this event as well. I'm giving voice to them as they come up, including the clear political flaws related to how the Olympics are staged. But this is an international event bringing together, in however limited a fashion, representatives from 205+ nations who agree on a few basics, and as such, it's enormously important. Values and messages which can arise from this venue will be shared globally. That matters.

And on a physical, body level, I relate to the Olympics because it exists on the same continuum as disability. That may seem like a contradiction in terms: I know a lot of people see it as worship of physical perfection. I'm not sure how widespread that belief is.

For me and the disabled people I know, it's more revealing as a close examination of physical difference. Olympic-level athletes are as different from the average person as someone in a wheelchair (not that the two are mutually exclusive). Their bodies are abnormal. Different sports bring out different body types and unusual configurations, and for the most part, these differences are accepted without judgment. Many of the top athletes are unhealthy in some significant way, aside from the ever-present eating disorders. Many of them are, well, kinda ugly when compared to traditional standards of beauty. But we get a chance to look at all these through close-ups and long takes, often with smart people helping to explain what we are seeing, often without any of the commercial lens of sexuality and manipulation for profit.

Like being at a gathering of crips, in fact.

In addition, the powers of endurance called forth in Olympic athletes I find to be extremely similar to those found in disabled populations. When I see a muscle in extreme, sustained flexion, I am reminded of the severe contractures I sometimes have in my legs or hands, when my muscle goes into the same extremis, rock-hard and consuming all my attention. I am still able to either stand or move into a position (using another part of my body) which will force the contracture to end. I am in dread of the possible day when I won't have that option, like so many folks I know who live with constant contractures pretzeling one or more limbs, with all the pain and lactic acid release that athletes experiences daily.

One man I know, who was a teenaged athlete and became a quadriplegic from a hang-gliding accident, manages to mostly live alone still but the act of making himself a bag of microwave popcorn as a snack involves 20 minutes of all-out consuming physical effort before the bag is in the microwave and the button pushed. Opening the goddamned bag and eating it will require another massive expenditure of will and muscle once the bell dings. He certainly gets a gold medal from me, and this is part of why I keep complaining about how all the focus is on the top three, when the stories of those who simply manage to get to the Olympics at all are likely far more interesting.

Not to mention the rest of us, with bodies that are outside "the norm".

Having watched these events faithfully for 44 years also sheds light on trends and cycles. When watching the women athletes, I am occasionally nostalgic for the bad old days of the Soviet bloc nations who finessed steroids and produced women who were a dyke wet dream. (Looking like an "East German woman" was not a perjorative in my community.) Diving is increasingly rewarding those with no hips or ass to speak of, as they make less of a splash. Fortunately, water polo has gained in popularity which find those who are well-padded to be at an advantage for long, grueling hours in cold water.

As we begin, here and there, to emerge from a long period of right-wing domination around the globe, with its worship of the constructed myths of masculine/feminine and increasing societal pressure against androgyny, however natural, I noticed last night that every single female gymnast on the medal stand, 18+ from three diverse nations, had exactly the same hairstyle: A Betty-type ponytail held with a frou-frou scrunchie. What happened to the convenience (not to mention the cuteness) of short hair? It looked mandatory, that level of conformity. I had thought it was just the U.S. up to that point. The American female gymnasts all looked so much alike that I honestly could not tell them apart (except one had light brown hair instead of blond.) It wasn't simply a body type, it was make-up which reminded me of circus performers dolling up to go to the mall, and a way of moving, sitting, talking on the sidelines which was extremely wooden and subdued -- moreso than even the men. Shades of a Stepford pommel horse...

On a more humorous note, it occurred to me that if you are a suburban girl whose first name is from a department/jewelry store, a small country in Europe, a kind of liquor, or sounds traditional but is spelled in classic white trash style (Tari instead of Terry, Lenzi instead of Lindsay), combined with a surname which is Germanic or Slavic, you are destined to become a gymnast and should be fast-tracked toward that goal.

Many records which I saw created with a thumping heart are now being demolished. I screamed for Janet Evans, Jenny Thompson, Ian Thorpe, and Carl Lewis. I've learned to enjoy their excellence but, like Charles Barkley reminded us, to not mistake their accomplishments in one area for role models. I prefer athletes who are plugged into community outside their speciality, who pursue art or cooking or working with kids, whom you know are not going to be pathetic once their 15 minutes of gold are over. Some of the old familiar faces I've come to care about -- Aaron Peirsol, Natalie Coughlin -- are likely not going to be competing in 2012, and I hope they really are as happy as they appear to be.

But I'm even more interested in the folks who are dealing with major life issues away from competition: U.S. swimmer Eric Chanteau who leaves these games to have surgery for testicular cancer; Polish swimmer Otylia Jędrzejczak who sold her Athens gold medal for $82000 to fund a children's cancer clinic, then had a car accident driving recklessly which killed her beloved younger brother, served nine months in prison for it, and is back in the pool, dealing with whatever ghosts that must entail; and Israeli swimmer Alon Mandel, whose father died accidentally the day before the Olympics began and who is flying back to Israel tomorrow to bury him.


(Norway's Gro Hammerseng and Katja Nyberg, handball teammates and lovers, in Paris 2007)
Cheers to being able to compete while out (and thanks for doing your best while not out to Derrick Peterson, Greg Louganis, Alyson Annan, Rob McCall, and many others). From the Washington Blade, I've learned there are at least six openly lesbian/gay athletes completing in these Olympics. The list includes: Natasha Kai, a forward on the U.S. Women’s Soccer team; veteran Olympians Judith Arndt, a German cyclist, and Imke Duplitzer, a German fencer; a lesbian couple from Norway, Gro Hammerseng and Katja Nyberg, competing in the team handball competition; and Matthew Mitcham, a diver representing Australia.

Jeers to the men's basketball team from Spain who posed for the Spain Basketball Federation with a racist gesture, pulling at their eyes in a slit-eyed gesture to mime "Chinese". Jeers also the Guardian UK article about this offensive photo which attempts to deny its obvious nature by saying it "could be interpreted so as to lead to accusations of racism". It IS racist, folks. Behavior trumps intention.

(Benjamin Boukpeti winning a bronze medal for Togo in men's single-seat slalom kayak)
Cheers to the international crowd enthusiastically chanting "Togo! Togo!" as Benjamin Boukpeti, ranked a seemingly impossible 56th in the world, paddled a near-perfect run in the men's single-seat slalom kayak to win the bronze medal, the first medal ever for Togo in the Summer Olympics.

Jeers to the official from the Chinese Politburo (name not given) who decided that the adorable girl singer Yang Peiyi was "not suitable" for the opening ceremonies, so she was replaced with Lin Miaoke who mimed Yang's rendition of "Ode to the Motherland". What was Yang's cosmetic flaw? Her typical seven-year-old's uneven teeth. Look at the photos for yourself in the Guardian UK article here.

And cheers to the Four Winds blog in their article "Photos of George W. Bush 'Drunk As A Monkey' At the Olympics" for giving us a plausible explanation for this baffling photograph of President Bush I saw two days ago in general news, tagged then as something about difficulty in finding a seat, but nailed by Four Winds with "How many secret Servicemen does it take to help a President stand up?" Read the article for more photos. The LOLDubya below was created by little gator.

Because this post is going up late, I'm not going to report on all the various results, including Michael Phelps major accomplishment of outperforming all other gold medalists, great swims by some of my favorites, gymnastics, etc. Too much to see and keep notes on while having a life with other demands in it. Feel free to report and editorialize in the comments, as long as you avoid oppressive language or blogwhoring. I'll be back tomorrow.


[Cross-posted at Group News Blog.]


Tuesday, August 12, 2008


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 30 and 31, 2012

After an hour, Myra went upstairs to strip the sheets from the bed used by the housekeeper. She saw Ginny still on the upper deck, but they didn't exchange glances. When Myra opened the door and went into what she now thought of as Carly's room, she cried out "Gaaahh!" Ginny appeared beside her in an instant.

"Smell this! That asshole was up here smoking, no wonder she fucking got sick!" yelled Myra. The room reeked of cigarettes. She strode to the bed and began ripping all the bedding from it, even the pillows, piling them into the comforter: It would all have to be washed. Ginny went into the kitchenette and said "There's dirty dishes left in the sink."

"I guess she really planned on us never having her back" said Myra between clenched teeth.

Ginny said, in an altered voice, "Did you open the door to the private deck here, off the kitchen?"

Myra turned and looked. The sliding door was wide open. "No. I bet she did, thinking it would suck out the smell of cigarettes."

Ginny went to the deck and looked out. "You can see this from the alley. Maybe he knew this door was open, that's why he was coming in at the side this time."

Myra sat down suddenly on the bed. She began wheezing. Ginny, coming back into the room, said "Get out of here, Myra, you're allergic to this kind of residue. I'll put the laundry in the washer, go on."

"What about the mattress, and Carly's new chair?" said Myra, standing.

"There's stuff I can spray on it that will actually break down the chemicals in the odor. I'll take care of it."

Myra went downstairs and waiting five minutes, but had to use her inhaler anyhow. She was coming out of the storage room with an armload of items from the freezer and shelves when Ginny came downstairs with a huge bundle of linens. "I'll wash Gillam's too, I can't remember if we did after the last time he was here" said Ginny.

"How are the baby plants?" asked Myra.

"Good. The dragon carrots are ready to set out, and lots more of the Mammoth Red Rock cabbage. The Romanesca broccoli didn't all come in, but I'm starting more. We have lots of baby lettuce for salad, too."

"Which kind?" asked Myra.

"The Tango. Oh, and I started some of those Carentan leeks." They were talking almost normally.

"Well, I know they'll all be pulling in after dinner but I bet they'll be hungry. I thought fried chicken would keep well, with baked potatoes and some version of a three-bean salad. Is there anything you want to add?"

"How about a quart of my shallots, in a cream sauce?" suggested Ginny.

"Maybe with frozen crab meat?" asked Myra.

"Mmm. What kind of pie is that?"

"Blackberry" said Myra.

"I'll come help with salad and tea once I get Carly's room cleaned and the transplants done" said Ginny.

Myra defrosted the fryer pieces, put them in a bowl of evaporated milk and set it in the refrigerator. She began the pie and potatoes baking simultaneously, then took a sheet of paper and started a list for the major shopping that needed to happen in the morning -- six or seven people per meal plus guests for every meal the next five days, plus the New Year's Eve food and Gillam's birthday. They'd be feeling the loss of the garden especially keenly. She'd have to use the mini-fridge in Carly's room to hold all the veggies they'd have to buy, to eke out the salads and side dishes.

When Ginny went outside to harvest what she could, Myra unpacked her bag from their trip. She put together two days' worth of clean clothes, toiletries, and a nightie, and stashed it in the bathroom off her study. She put her pillow and an extra blanket in the storage box under her daybed. She was back in the kitchen when Ginny returned.

"How about if I turn over the bean salad to you as well?" said Myra. "The pearl onion dish can be last minute, once they're thawed. I should make bread for the masses."

"Sounds good" said Ginny. Myra made three sponges, each enough for three loaves of different varieties plus two dozen rolls. After the first rise, she removed the pies and potatoes from the oven and let them cool on the sideboard. After the second rise, Ginny was done in the kitchen and started vacuuming the house as Myra coated the chicken and began frying.

Ginny mopped the wood floors as well, but said she'd leave the upstairs for one of the kids. She poured herself a glass of iced tea; her cheeks were dark red and her brow a little sweaty as she sat down at the breakfast bar to drink.

"This the grocery list? Yowzah. Why don't we just buy six little fishes and a loaf, and hope for a miracle?" she said.

"I keep thinking of more to add" said Myra, saying "Dammit" as a drop of flying grease hit her wrist.

"Eggs" said Ginny after a minute. "And olive oil, we're low. What are we going to give them in the morning, before we go shopping?"

"Oatmeal and dried fruit" said Myra.

"What kind of cake are you going to make for Gillam?"

"I'll ask Carly. And Jane" added Myra.

"He's going to love being fitted for a hand-tailored suit" said Ginny, grinning. "I can't wait to see what fabric and style he chooses. I hope that guy is as good as Belva said he is."

"The cufflinks Sima made are the piece d'resistance" said Myra. "You want some these of crunchies that I'm skimming out?"

"You know I do" said Ginny, taking the little plate Myra handed her. She popped one in her mouth, took a quick drink of tea, saying "Oops, too hot". Myra laughed, her back to Ginny as she put more thighs into the grease. After half a minute, Ginny said "I'm really sorry, Myra. I do not think you see my art as money in your pocket, not ever. That -- it was pure Helen coming out of me. I can't believe I have that inside me. That's bad enough, but to hurl it at you -- I can't figure out why I did. But I'm abjectly sorry."

Myra turned around, her face still a little wary. "Okay. I accept your apology."

They looked at each other for a minute. Ginny's gaze dropped to the skillet and she said "Oh, god, are those livers?"

"Yeah, there was a bundle in the package. I figured you'd polish those off before the kids got here" grinned Myra.

"I need sliced onion and a heel of bread" said Ginny, going to the refrigerator.

"From quoting about loaves and fishes to pure shtetl food" remarked Myra. "You're a woman of the world."

Ginny kissed her shoulder softly before returning to the breakfast bar. Myra pulled a neck from a small pot where it had been boiling and cut it into morsels. She set them in Beebo's bowl and placed it in the freezer to cool off quickly. He watched nearby with bright eyes.

Ginny made herself a quick lettuce-and-carrot salad to go with her pre-meal, and Myra took half of it with a small baked potato and a piece of chicken. They ate at the breakfast silently, Beebo crunching at his bowl. When they were done, they finished preparing the rest of the meal and put it in the refrigerator while the bread baked.

Ginny said "I'll remake the beds upstairs. I left the deck door open and a fan blowing outward from Carly's room. What are you up to?"

"Answering mail. Trying to get back into my book."

They separated and didn't talk again until nearly 8:00, when Myra set the table for them both and they began eating the second half of dinner. They'd been at it only a few minutes when the front door opened and the phone rang almost simultaneously. Laughing, Myra went to greet Gillam, Jane and Carly, while Ginny answered the phone. Beebo raced in from the study. As the newcomers used the bathroom, Ginny set out three more plates and said "That was Margie. She said they're leaving right after Frances' shift tonight, will be here some time in the wee hours, we shouldn't wait up."

"Frances is coming with her? I'm really glad" said Myra, reheating potatoes in the microwave.

After they all began eating, Ginny and Myra took turns telling the younger folks about the second attempted break-in and arrest. Before they were finished, Carly stood up, his face rigid, and walked out to the carport. After a few moments, Gillam followed him, then Myra, who leaned against the doorway and watched them pick up the broken fence boards and trace the damage with their hands. Carly turned to her and said "You repaired this today?"

Before she could answer, Gillam came to envelop her in a hug. "My god" he whispered. He pulled back to look at her and said "You're sure he was alone, didn't have any buddies still out there?"

"Aaron seems to be sure, and I don't think he fucks up often" said Myra. Over his shoulder she said to Carly "Yeah, I couldn't stand to leave a breach. I'm going to talk over modifications to the wiring with Aaron, though."

Back at the table, Ginny was talking with Jane about the trip to Lake Quinault Lodge. After pie, they had a viewing of the new painting. A little awkwardly, Ginny then said "Myra had a breakthrough with her book, too. You want to share the details with them, honey?"

Myra wasn't sure what to say. They couldn't do a "viewing" of ideas. She sat down at her desk, Gillam and Jane nestled onto the daybed, and Carly claimed the second chair as she started trying to discuss her draft introduction. Ginny leaned against the far wall, listening as if she hadn't heard any of this before -- which maybe she hadn't, thought Myra. Slowly her explanation became more fluid and excited, urged on by the comprehending expressions of her family. Finally Gillam said "I want to see these baskets."

They had already set aside and wrapped the one they wanted to give him for his birthday, so Myra led them into their bedroom where the rest of the baskets were stacked on the dresser. They marveled over them, Myra explaining what she could remember of function and technique -- which was a great deal. Intermittently Ginny jumped in additional information, proving she had paid attention to Lois, too.

After a third long yawn, Gillam said "I know it's early for me, but it's been one hell of a busy day. I need to go to sleep. Wake me for the trip to Pike, okay?"

"I want to be in on that too" said Carly. "We just don't have anything like it in Oly. I think of it as essential Seattle."

Jane elected to go upstairs with Gillam, though it didn't appear automatic to Myra, which she liked to see. Beebo stuck around for a minute, then thundered upstairs after them. Carly came back into the kitchen and picked up the list on the breakfast bar. "What's your menu plan?" he asked, reading it.

Myra told him, adding "Any changes you want to make, go for it. I meant to ask Jane, too -- what's Gillam's favorite cake at the moment?"

"Chocolate's never wrong" said Carly, grinning. "But, hey, Jane's been talking about a marble fudge she's known for, why don't we let her do that?"

"Will you get the ingredients from her before we shop tomorrow?" asked Myra.

"Sure. In fact, if you want to sleep in, you can leave the shopping to us" offered Carly.

"I want to go with you" said Ginny. "I want to see the produce for myself."

"Okay, I accept" said Myra.

Carly said "My room smells okay but it was pretty chilly from the airing out. I'd like to watch a movie, and we can make it Ginny-friendly."

Ginny looked torn. It felt like days since they'd gotten up at Lake Quinault. She said to Myra, with coded meaning, "Is it all right with you if I don't join you?"

"Yes. You need sleep, too. I'll get my extra in the morning." After a moment's hesitation, Myra crossed to Ginny and hugged her. Ginny squeezed her tight, then let go. Carly was at the DVD shelves and didn't notice the tension in their embrace.

"Don't laugh, but I kinda wanna see Oklahoma, I never have" he said to Myra as she joined him in the living room.

"Ah'm jest a gurl who cain't say no" she replied. He looked briefly confused as he loaded the DVD.

He headed up to bed a couple of hours later, after talking with Myra a while about how much he had enjoyed his trip back to Chicago with Patty. "She's way more happy than I remember her ever being. She didn't push me to go visit Pat's family, and on Christmas morning, it was just me, her and Thea. Really sweet" he said with satisfaction.

She looked at the color in his face as she said "I love you to bits, Carl Elijah. I really hope you have children, and that this world gets to have your descendants in it forever." He was frozen with embarrassed joy.

After making a hot steamed milk, Myra turned off the lights to everywhere but her study. She sat at her desk to drink her milk, missing Beebo, then Ginny. She began reading through her work earlier in the day and got caught up. It was 2:00 before she pulled off her pants and socks, lying down on the daybed without brushing her teeth. She was tired enough to drop off quickly, despite feeling bad about Ginny alone in their bedroom.

She woke up once in the morning, hearing the sounds of spoons clanking bowls and Carly singing "Pore Jud is daid" half to himself in the kitchen. When she woke up again, sun was in her eyes, Beebo was sprawled on her hip, and she needed to pee urgently. Once in the bathroom, she showered and dressed, scrubbing her teeth and tongue.

It was 10:30, and the house was very quiet. She went to the storage room and got a Coke from her stash, pouring it over ice in a glass and sipping at it as she made toast and sliced the last of the Edam with a couple of apples. Before she sat down, she heard a door open and two seconds later Narnia was glued to her shins, vibrating and warbling. Margie came dopily down the hall and gave her a bed-warmed hug.

Myra put half the cheese on a second plate, along with her toast and all the apple, and handed it to Margie. She began making more for herself. Margie said "Is there coffee?"

"No, but I'll make you a cup" offered Myra.

"I'll do it" said Margie swiftly. Myra said "We're out of real cream. Everyone else is on a grocery run, should be back any minute."

Margie put some of Edwina's Cremora in her espresso, grimacing before she even tasted it, and fed a crust of toast to Narnia under the table. "Frances was still wired up from work, so she drove and I sacked out in the car" she said. "She needs another couple of hours, at least."

Narnia had started for the pet door, but reversed herself abruptly and scrambled, paws sliding on the kitchen tile, toward the front of the house. The front door opened and Carly staggered in with two bulging canvas shopping bags on each arm.

Myra chose to finish her breakfast as the groceries were hauled in, sorted, and put away. Gillam set an almond danish on her plate from a bakery bag, and she declared "You just moved ahead in my will."

Ginny said "The milk folks were completely out. I bought commercial organic, including yogurt and ricotta."

"Hand me a carton, will you?" said Margie. "Plus one of those little bananas."

Gillam was unwrapping a large white paper package, which he set down on the table next to Myra. "Look at what I picked for my birthday dinner." There were two thick, massive tenderloins. "Grass-fed. Check how little marbling. I told 'em to leave all the fat on the edges."

"Beautiful. We're out of these steaks from our big meat cutting day, huh?"

"Yep. I also want oysters, raw and steamed, but I'll run back down the day of and grab those" said Gillam. He took the package to a cutting board for rendering into smaller steaks.

"What did ya'll settle on for tonight's meal?" asked Myra.

"More of that caramelized pork" said Carly, "but this time with polenta instead of rice."

"And they had an absolutely stupendous filet of tuna" said Ginny, hoisting another paper-wrapped heft into the air.

Narnia had come back in the house from the back yard, but instead of sniffing around the counters where meat was sitting, she went under the table and pushed against Margie's legs.

"What's wrong with you, doggie-o?" said Margie, looking down at her. "Her tail's between her legs, something's scared her."

"I bet she went in the side yard" Myra said to Ginny, raising her eyebrows. At Margie's blank look, Ginny began telling her the break-in news.

Margie stopped eating and became unusually pale. When Ginny was done, Margie said "Which house did he live in? The one with the dangling gutter, or the one with the old Fiat in the driveway?"

"The gutter, I think" said Ginny. She turned to Myra and said "I wonder if the gutter got damaged from the fucker climbing around on his roof trying to get a better look at us."

Frances emerged from the back bedroom, a long pillow crease in one cheek. She shambled to the table and sat down. Carly said "Latte?" Frances nodded mutely and Carly began making her a cup.

"Oh my god, Mama, you must be completely freaked out" Margie said to Ginny. She briefly filled in Frances, who now looked wide awake. Jane placed a plate of croissants and pastries on the table, along with a bowl of plums and grapes. Ginny pulled a tub from the cheese bag and set it on the table as well, saying "This is a port-flavored caciotta, haven't tried it yet." Frances began slowly assembling her own breakfast.

Margie said to Ginny, "Mama? That was a question I asked you."

Ginny took a long breath and sat down next to Margie. "I don't exactly know what I am. I mean, relieved. But -- I keep trying to remember if I knew him, and wondering why he focused on us."

"I remember him, if it's that same house. He always said hi to me when I walked by with Narnia, but there was something creepy about him" said Margie. To Frances she said "The guy with the bulgy eyes." Frances nodding knowingly.

Returning to Ginny, Margie said "A creep's a creep, Mom, you know that." She looked at Myra and said "Have you reminded her to not take on other people's difficulty, or are you still wallowing in your own guilt?"

"My guilt?" repeated Myra, shocked.

"Yeah, 'cause it's like your job to make sure all of us are safe, especially Mom. I mean, she looks after everything too, I don't mean to diss you, Mama, but the Maginot line is Myra. Do I need to start with you, tell you nothing bad happened here, your claymores worked?" She put her hand on Myra's.

Myra couldn't think clearly. She fixed on that glib reference to "Maginot line", wondering how on earth Margie knew about that. Her children's intelligence was limitless, it seemed.

Ginny said in a strange voice "We haven't talked about it all." Gillam, who had finished rewrapping his steaks and was washing his hands, looked over the sink at Myra. "Mom, did you fall asleep on your daybed accidentally last night?"

When Myra couldn't think how to answer, he came to the table, his hands still wet, and kneeled beside her, saying "What's going on?"

Carly had been about to carry extra produce upstairs. Instead, he returned the bag to the counter and came to sit on the other side of Myra. Frances suddenly looked like she wished she'd not gotten up. Jane stood uncertainly in the kitchen. Ginny broke the silence with "We're fighting."

"You don't sound like you're fighting" said Gillam.

"We fought at the Lodge. And on the way home. And then...I'm too upset to talk with her. I...the best I can manage is to not pull an Anacortes" said Myra, looking into Gillam's eyes.

"Holy shit, what is it?" demanded Margie. On her heels, Gillam said "Does Allie know about this?"

"She saw some of it" said Myra, glancing at Ginny.

Gillam sat down in a chair, then remembered Jane and looked around for her. "You might as well come in here, sit next to Frances and learn the Bates-Josong method" he said gently.

"Josong-Bates" corrected Margie. Carly smothered a smile.

Ginny said, in a rush, "That breakthrough Myra had with her novel, from spending time with the weaver, Lois? That whole time I was buried in a painting, and when I came out of it and found out what was going on, I got jealous. I was nasty and -- distracted."

"Jealous of who, the weaver?" said Margie. She looked at Myra. "Was there something going on?"

Myra's mind cleared as anger flooded back in. Before she could lash at Margie, however, Ginny said "No! Except that someone connected with her, I wasn't jealous in any rational way. But I kept on -- being stupid, and sometimes mean, and Myra -- she's run out of slack. And I have to fix it, without her help now, and I don't even begin to know how." She began crying, despite desperately trying to force it back into her chest. She began coughing right away.

"Nancy?" asked Gillam.

"Out of town" said Myra, feeling irritated at Ginny for crying and feeling guilty about that.

"So you're not sleeping together?" continued Gillam. Carly looked stunned. "Were you planning to cover it all up while we were here?"

"I don't have a plan" said Myra. "That's part of the problem."

Frances said, "Do you need us to clear out and give you some space?"

Margie glared across the table at her. "No, we're not leaving them alone with it, not if they're this stuck."

Jane's hands were folded in her lap and her face was very alert, but she didn't look apprehensive, Myra noticed. She said to Margie, "What did you mean, Maginot line?"

Carly spoke up. "You're the one who keeps guard, like, the security system is your responsibility. And chlorine in the hot tub, and answering the phone."

"Sitting up for curfews" said Margie reminiscently. "No driving with a cell phone on."

"Feeding Mom when she's in Painterland" said Gillam. "Feeding us all, and keeping us a family, while she's in Painterland. While she's naked and completely vulnerable."

Ginny burst into sobs. Myra noticed that Ginny's hands were shaking violently. Margie put her arm over Ginny's shoulders, and Ginny gasped "I've been so fucking scared, I couldn't stand to think about it. It wasn't until we got to the Lodge, or any hotel lately, that I felt safe to paint again. I know I'm not doing my share, Myra, but what if I can't? What if I have to choose between doing my share and painting?"

Now even Gillam looked stunned. Myra said softly "I'll never ask you to give up painting, Ginny Bates. You wouldn't be you without that."

"But I don't know how..." Ginny couldn't speak any more, she was crying so hard.

Myra said to Margie "Maybe I did feel guilty. I can't tell. I -- feel like it's Ginny, that she's the problem."

"Well, there's a big flashing clue" said Carly. "You usually think it's all your fault, whatever it is. If you've transferred it over onto her, then maybe you've simply flipped over the tortoise. Shells on both sides, you know."

Smart, smart kids thought Myra again.

Jane finally spoke. "If somebody could help, Ms. -- Myra, if you could imagine help being offered, what would you want?"

Myra thought. "I don't know. I have to think about it."

"Well, for starters, you need to be sleeping in the same bed, you're just fucking with yourselves by separating that way" said Margie vehemently. "Tonight is New Year's Eve, you can't start the new year like that."

Myra said slowly "We don't really think of it as the new year. I haven't, since I started celebrating Yom Kippur with Ginny..."

Ginny wiped her face on her sleeve, her voice congested as she said "If Myra needs room, that's the best thing to give her. I learned that a long time ago."

Myra picked up stray croissant crumbs from her plate with a moistened fingertip. She said "I'll keep thinking. And if I could talk with you kids, one-on-one, when I feel able to -- "

"Of course" said Gillam.

"Don't get all weird about this" asked Myra. "We're not splitting up, we're only fighting. I want to have a normal visit with you all."

"Same here" said Ginny. Margie tightened her arm around Ginny's shoulders and whispered "Any time you want to talk."

Myra finally met Ginny's eyes. Maginot line she thought.

Margie said "I have to get dressed so I can W-A-L-K you know who, stopping by that sonuvabitch's house to heave bricks through his windows."

"Not without me" said Frances, standing up. After a couple of seconds, Ginny said "Could I -- go with you? I want to look, but..."

"We'll flank you" said Margie. Gillam stood up as well and said "I need a hard swim."

Carly looked at Myra and said "So do you. Or a work-out, take your pick. I'll spot you."

"I'll take the work-out now, maybe a swim later" said Myra. She thought Gillam might want a chance to talk alone with Jane right now. She pulled him down to kiss his cheek, and he whispered "I'm calling Aunt Allie, too."

"I thought you might" said Myra. Carly was saying to Ginny "Leave all that on the counter, we'll have to begin the tamalada right after lunch, I'll get us set up."

Tamales thought Myra with pleasure. She followed Carly upstairs, pulling off her overshirt as she went.

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.