Saturday, September 13, 2008


Radar image of Hurricane Ike at landfall around 2 a.m. on 13 September 2008 (Radar image of Hurricane Ike at landfall around 2 a.m. on 13 September 2008)

I sat up until dawn, switching from channel to channel to watch foolhardy television reporters venture out into debris-choked winds or the eye of Hurricane Ike, which made landfall at Galveston just past 2 a.m. Dr. Jeff Masters' at his WunderBlog reports "Ike carried a storm surge characteristic of a Category 4 hurricane to shore. The destructive power of Ike's storm surge rated a 5.0 on a scale of 0 to 6 just before landfall, according to the experimental Integrated Kinetic Energy (IKE) product of NOAA's Hurricane Research Division. This is about the same destructive potential Katrina had at landfall."

There was no sign of wind or rain in Austin by dawn. I finally fell asleep, waking up at 5:00 p.m. to discover that EVERY BROADCAST CHANNEL except PBS had on sports (football), and PBS was airing a repeat of Ask This Old House. I had to wait until 6:30 to get coverage of the hurricane's damage. If you cannot afford cable, this is the crap we must watch.

It's going to take a long time to assess the toll. One piece of good news is that at the last instant, Ike took a little jog to the east (funny how they keep doing that) and hit Galveston full on instead of a little to the south, which means the surge there only reached 13.5 feet. This is probably the reason there's any city left at all on the island. Houston got hammered by wind, especially the downtown area where gusts higher up in the air reached the 150 mph mark. Ike remained a Category 2 storm at landfall by the thinnest of margins, with top wind speeds at 110 mph -- the shift to Category 3 begins at 111 mph. The surge moved instead to Clear Lake, Kemah, and northeast to Port Arthur, where less populated areas mean the waters may have done less than anticipated destruction and loss of life.

Post-Ike debris across Highway 146 on bridge Kemah to Seabrook, TX, 13 September 2008 -- AP Photo by Frank Franklin II (Post-Ike debris across Highway 146 on bridge Kemah to Seabrook, TX, 13 September 2008 -- AP Photo by Frank Franklin II)

Dr. Masters' states "Galveston was also lucky that Ike did not have another 12-24 hours over water. In the 12 hours prior to landfall, Ike's central pressure dropped 6 mb, and the storm began to rapidly organize and form a new eyewall. If Ike had had another 12-24 hours to complete this process, it would have been a Category 4 hurricane with 135-145 mph winds that likely would have destroyed Galveston."

Our local news says 4 million people in Texas are without power, most of them with the CenterPoint Energy utility, who is repeatedly saying it will likely take weeks to restore electrical power. The last major hurricane in that area, Alicia in 1983, left 750,000 people without power for 16 days. This morning, Austin had over 6000 evacuees in 22 shelters, plus 125 in a special needs shelter at the Austin Convention Center. In addition, every one of our 22,000 hotel and motel rooms were occupied, and every RV and trailer park were jammed. Our local Red Cross is begging for volunteers, and the area food bank is running constant requests for food or monetary donations.

However, the effort to evacuate, house and feed folks has run much smoother than it did in 2005 with Rita. Systems are now in place to do the work that FEMA once did. I have to wonder, thought, what will happen Monday or whenever local officials in Galveston and Houston say it is all right for evacuees to return. Without power, and with a boil water order in place, even if their house is intact, how will people manage? The Houston metro area has a population of 6 million. That can easily overwhelm local resources.

Despite the mandatory evacuation order, an estimated 140,000 people rode out the storm in Houston and Galveston. During the 4 hour period from the time the outer bands of Ike began hitting shore and nightfall, Galveston's 911 line received 1200 calls for assistance. By that time, no one could respond, and whatever trouble people were in, they were alone for the night. One elderly but tough-looking old guy in Surfside Beach was interviewed this afternoon, having survived in a frame house on stilts about 30 feet from the ocean. He intended to leave and had arranged for a ride with a neighbor, whom he said "ran into town to buy something and never returned." He was rattled but intact when the reporter discovered him: He was the only person to remain in that devastated town during the hurricane. Search and rescue was only this morning being able to begin the work of going door to door to check on the fate of those who stayed behind.

There are three known fatalities so far. One woman was asleep in her bed in Pinehurst when a tree fell on her house and crushed her. A 19-year-old man was on the end of a jetty in Corpus Christi as Ike began approaching, and was swept into the water. Two people with him jumped in to try to save him, and one of them suffered serious injuries, having to be flown out by helicopter to an inland medical center. The teenager's body has not been found. The most tragic death was earlier in the day, when a family was preparing to evacuate but at the last minute the father, a professional tree-trimmer, decided to cut down a tree which threatened to come down onto their house. His 10-year-old son was somehow under the tree when it came down. This is a parent's unthinkable nightmare, from which I cannot imagine recovery.

A refugee from Calhoun County, Ku Paw, was at an evacuation shelter in a New Braunfels middle school when she went into labor. Dr. Mark Burns, who specialty is geriatric psychiatry, happened to have stopped by the shelter to check on a few elderly evacuees. He wound up delivering his first infant in 20 years, on the floor of the girls' restroom. Both mother and baby were later taken to Christus Santa Rosa Hospital. When asked what it was like to deliver a child after such a long gap, Dr. Burns replied it was "like riding a bicycle".

A boat and yacht warehouse in Galveston began burning at nightfall and could not be reached by firefighters. Another neighborhood in Galveston lost several houses to an unchecked fire. The historic Balinese Room along Galveston's water front, built 79 years ago and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997, is no more, swept away by the storm surge. It once had Howard Hughes as a patron, and featured entertainment by Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, George Burns and the Marx Brothers, among others.

The JP Morgan Chase Tower in Houston, the state's tallest building at 75 stories, suffered extensive damage and continued to rain down glass and office furniture on the streets of downtown this afternoon. It is theorized that the taller a building in Houston, the worse the damage because of the higher velocity winds at altitudes.

Austin never lost power, and as I type this a loaf of potato bread is filling my house with delicious smells. (I used Barbara's organic potato flakes and pepperincino flakes, plus a mix of organic whole wheat and white flour.) I feel lucky. Our mayor, Will Wynn, is currently meeting with others to figure out what to do on Monday, when our local schools being used as evacuation shelters will be needed for classes again. He can be a goober, but I trust him to do the decent thing, after his performance during Katrina and Rita when he went all out to bring in evacuees. Austin's current population is over 1.5 million. Since this is three times the population of Alaska, does this mean Will Wynn is triply qualified to be a Vice Presidential candidate? Let's put lipstick on him and find out.

[Cross-posted at Group News Blog]



The Orphans and Nuns of St Mary's Orphan's Asylum, Galveston, Texas; photo from Rosenberg Library, Galveston (The Orphans and Nuns of St Mary's Orphan's Asylum, Galveston, Texas; all but three boys in this photo perished in The 1900 Storm; photo from Rosenberg Library, Galveston)


I walk out to the jetty's end
that morning after the blow. Town
is behind me, little more than rubble
A sunny yellow rope is threaded between rocks
I tug it in. Bobbing up from green deep
are ninety orphans lashed together
Some wear nightshirts with names
embroidered on the collars, but many
are missing clothing altogether. We will
bury them under a single stone, mourn
as best we can, in moments over the
coming years. Leave the rest to god
We are years behind in the work of love
Will never catch up

© Maggie Jochild, 27 May 2004, 6:25 p.m.; published in Di-Verse-City, 2005 Anthology of the Austin International Poetry Festival

Note: The worst natural disaster in U.S. recorded history is the hurricane that struck Galveston without warning on September 8, 1900. More than 6000 people died overnight in this storm, including 90 children from the St. Mary's Orphans Asylum who were tied together in a line by the Sisters of Charity in the tragic hope that they could hold onto them as the building fell down. Galveston Island, at near sea level, was virtually scrubbed bare by winds that reached 150-200 mph and a tidal surge of 15-20 feet. A seawall now protects Galveston.

(St. Mary's Orphan's Asylum after the Hurricane of 8 September 2008, Galveston, Texas)


Friday, September 12, 2008


Hurricane Ike from the International Space Station, photo by NASA (Hurricane Ike from the International Space Station, photo by NASA)

Hurricane Ike -- Update Friday Evening, 12 September 2008

The grim forecast for Ike has not changed and in some ways has worsened. Honestly, evacuation is what you need to do if you live in its direct path on the Texas Gulf Coast.

Thanks to reader Kent's comment from yesterday's post here, I've discovered the best blog ever for understanding this hurricane, Dr. Jeff Masters' WunderBlog. Dr. Masters co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. at Michigan, and flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990All of the information in this post comes from his research, so hop over there for the latest. I'll quote a small portion of the excellent information he has on tap:

"Although still of Category 2 strength, Ike remains larger and more powerful than Category 5 Katrina or Category 5 Rita. As I discussed in yesterday's blog entry, a good measure of the storm surge potential is Integrated Kinetic Energy (IKE). Ike's Integrated Kinetic Energy has fallen from 149 Terajoules this morning to 124 at 3:30 pm EDT this afternoon. However, this is still larger than the total energy Katrina had at landfall, and Ike's storm surge potential rates a 5.1 on a scale of 1 to 6."

"Ike is attempting to create a new eyewall, and visible satellite loops and Galveston radar suggest the storm is becoming more organized. However, Ike has only a few more hours over water, and there is not time for the hurricane to intensify more than 5-10 mph before landfall. Ike will not inflict extreme wind damage like Katrina's or Rita's. The big story with Ike will be the storm surge."

Illustration of Storm Surge Guidance for Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coasts, Friday -- image from NOAA (Illustration of Storm Surge Guidance for Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coasts, Friday -- image from NOAA. Click to enlarge.)

"According to the NOAA) tide gauges, storm tides are running 6-8 feet above normal along the central Louisiana coast this afternoon...The fact that Ike's storm surge has reached such high levels 200-300 miles north of the storm is a very bad omen for the upper Texas and western Louisiana coasts. The latest forecast surge values from NOAA):

Shoreline of Galveston Bay... 15 to 22 feet
Bolivar Peninsula... 17 to 20 feet
Galveston Island... ... 14 to 17 feet
Gulf-facing coastline from Sargent to San Luis Pass... 8 to 14 feet"

Dr. Masters is predicting that Ike will flood the city of Galveston. He states "If the surge exceeds the 17 foot forecast, it will overtop the sea wall and act like a battering ram against the buildings in Galveston. It is also possible that the sea wall will be destroyed along some sections, allowing the ocean direct access to Galveston." Shades of 1900.

A formerly populated area of Galveston four blocks wide, half mile long, which was wiped clean by the storm surge during the Hurricane of 1900 (A formerly populated area of Galveston four blocks wide, half mile long, which was wiped clean by the storm surge during the Hurricane of 1900; complete pictorial plus some of the earliest films ever taken in the aftermath available at The 1900 Storm.)

Dr. Masters also predicts "significant tightening of gas supplies in coming months, due to extensive damage to the oil refineries in the Houston and Port Arthur area." Regarding Houston, he states "Nevertheless, winds of Category 1 hurricane force (75-85 mph) will affect the city for about a 4-hour period in the early morning hours of Saturday. People in well-built homes will suffer only minor damage, but mobile homes and homes not build to code will suffer significant damage. The extremely long duration of the hurricane force winds will cause much greater damage than is typical for a hurricane of this strength."

He goes on to discuss the Inland Wind Model developed by NOAA scientists and has an excellent graphic and explanation at the link above. In this section, he states "We can expect Ike to cause the largest and longest-lived power outage in Texas history, with power knocked out along a 200-mile wide swath in eastern Texas and extreme western Louisiana extending 300 miles inland to I-20. Dallas will be at the fringe of the region of widespread power outages, and should not suffer major power failures." Our local news has repeatedly warned of the possibility of local power failures. I've pulled out my candles and have my crank-powered radio/flashlight handy. I've also backed up my hard drive to an online briefcase, and topped off the cat's self-serving food and water supply. I need to go cook what I can from my refrigerator in case I have to go a couple of days without power, and fill up water bottles plus a bucket for the toilet.

Austin has taken a large number of special needs refugees at our local hospitals, including many premature infants. The shelters are filling so rapidly that all our local schools closed early today, in order to convert them into evacuation facilities. Stay in touch, folks, and help where you can.

[Cross-posted at Group News Blog.]


Thursday, September 11, 2008


AVN Satellite image of Hurricane Ike from NOAA (AVN Satellite image of Hurricane Ike from NOAA)

Ike is approaching. Our local news tonight said Austin had opened 75 emergency shelters to hold 36,000 evacuees. They're asking for food and blanket donations. Interstate 35 is bumper to bumper (a block from my apartment complex). Ike is expected to reach Category 3 by landfall. The National Hurricane Center issued a warning for Matagorda County which the local meteorologist read on the air, saying he had never in his career heard them say such a thing: "In Matagorda County, people remaining in a single family one or two story home face certain death." Ike is larger in area than Katrina was.

Red Cross Hurricane Evacuation and Storm Surge Map for Matagorda County TX (Red Cross Hurricane Evacuation and Storm Surge Map for Matagorda County, Texas)

This is a beautiful, fairly rural stretch of the Texas Coast, smack in the middle of the biggest bird flyway in the U.S. I lived in Palacios as a baby, and have gone birding in this area often. Tonight, however, I'm worried about all the people who can't travel.

The current path shows landfall slightly west of Galveston or directly over Galveston. With storm surges of 9-12 feet and the seawall only 10 feet, Galveston is worried about flooding. The wind damage, however, will come one county over, which is Matagorda: Counter-clockwise winds hit from the north and west.

Latest three-day forecast track for Hurricane Ike (Latest three-day forecast track for Hurricane Ike)

If Ike continues as predicted, Austin will be hit with tropical storm strength winds as it passes to the east of us. I'm not worried about wind damage, because my windows face south and are few. I'm also on an elevation, so I've never had flooding. But a prolonged loss of electricity, which happens here with big storms, is concerning to me. Likewise the tornadoes that sprout on the edges of hurricanes. If my power goes out, you won't see me on line for while, but I'll be okay. I'll get help from a neighbor, if need be. I'm not who needs your prayers and assistance.

To track this storm via the National Oceanic and Atmospheric website, click here on NOAA. Please share news here as necessary.



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

Late November 2013

Myra found it strange to ride the train to Portland alone. She was reminded, several times, of the trip she'd taken on this same train after Gil died, to visit Kate. She'd begun writing poetry again because of that train journey. Now Kate lived in Seattle with a new lover, her son Rafe was going to Udub, and she had trouble remembering what Gil's voice had sounded like unless she worked hard at it.

Loving Ginny had moved her into a parallel universe.

It wasn't just strange, it was devastating to knock at Margie's door and not hear Narnia's woof, her sniffing at the other side and then the warble which meant a member of her pack had arrived. Margie's glad face was antidote for Myra's burgeoning grief. She took Myra's bundles from her and dumped them carelessly on the couch, then hugged her for a long time. They both walked downstairs for Myra's bag.

"What's with the tire on Frances' motorcycle?" asked Myra.

"She needs to get a new one, but hasn't had time and neither have I. She's got the Cerebellum today because it's so cold out and supposed to rain at any moment. If you and I go out, we'll have to take the bus" said Margie, already nosing into the shopping bags.

"Anything with wrapping paper on it, you have to save until tomorrow. The rest is for your larder" said Myra. Margie put three presents on the table, the bread and jars on the counter, opening the quart of apricots immediately and eating one with her fingers. Myra was looking again at the portrait of Frances, hung in pride of place over the couch. It really was an extraordinary painting, one of Ginny's best.

"Listen, baby girl, the only seats I could get from here to Seattle on Saturday morning is the 8 a.m. train, all the rest were gone" said Myra. "I know that cuts into Frances' sleep from working the night before -- "

"It's okay, she can nap on the train. We'll put her next to the window with a pillow, she sleeps easily. I'll sit across from you and we can talk." Margie ate another two apricots, then recapped the jar and set it in the fridge. "What's this box?"

"I made you a dozen cupcakes and Ginny decorated them. I figured you'll have a real cake at Simpatico on your birthday, but you can spread these throughout the day, starting at breakfast" said Myra.

"Or right now?" asked Margie.

"Well, Ginny was already in labor with you at this point 25 years ago, so why not?" said Myra. She accepted one of them -- dark chocolate with a cream filling and raspberry frosting. Ginny had drawn a prickly pear on it with green icing and used red hots to make its ripe pears. Margie had taken one of the dolphin series. They wolfed them down and licked their fingers.

"Happy early birthday" said Myra with her mouth still full. "I brought your birth tape with me, we can watch it tomorrow when Frances gets up."

"You know, it makes her a little queasy" giggled Margie. "She can gut any kind of carcass and clean intestines for sausage, but me coming out of Mama makes her green. Anyhow, I'm planning to run in the Portland Zoo's annual Turkey Trot this year. It's a fundraiser and everyone at work is sponsoring me."

"How long a run is it?" asked Myra.

"Four miles, and it starts early. We can go out for breakfast afterward, me and you. Then come back here and meet up with Frances."

"Sounds great" said Myra. "As long as I have a Coke. And don't have to run myself, of course. What else do you have planned?"

"Well, Simpatico at 2-ish. And afterward, one of the art movie houses is showing classic horror movies until midnight, I thought we could catch one or maybe two if Frances isn't too beat. Then back here because she'll have begun work early. I don't have any plans for Friday, but I figured you'll want to check in at Powell's, right?"

Myra grinned. "I guess it's time to give you the big present from me and Ginny early: I'm taking you shopping at any mall you want for that insane day after Thanksgiving blow-out. Shop until you drop. So I need to be rested up, too, because I will not quit until you are ready."

Margie threw her arms around Myra. "Oh, Mama, that's the best ever! And I was just looking at ads in the paper before you came in, there's a dress I'd die for. And a sale on shoes at Nordy's -- bring your laptop and we'll set you up at a food court with fountain Cokes, I'll bring each purchase back to brag before heading for the next store, how's that sound?"

"Maybe later in the day. But I want to be with you for at least some of it, savor the Margie selection process" grinned Myra. Margie hugged her again.

"What shall we do now? You had lunch on the train, right?"

"Actually, no. It was so crowded I was reluctant to leave my seat. I'm definitely hungry, but we can either go out or I'll cook for you here, you pick" said Myra. "If you're low on groceries, we can shop first."

"We're never low on groceries, Frances is always bringing stuff home. But I want French -- remember that restaurant we went to with the profiteroles? Anyhow, there's a place here that's really good but expensive, so I've only been once. I better call and make sure they're open today."

They were, and Myra insisted on calling a cab instead of walking through the fresh downpour to the bus stop. At the bistro, Margie ordered mussels and shallots in creme fraiche with a baguette and the house salad. Myra got a croque madame with pommes frites. For dessert, neither of them got the profiteroles, after all -- Margie selected the almond butter cake with cinnamon raisin ice cream, and Myra went for the bittersweet chocolate cake with praline-coated vanilla ice cream. "A sugar bender" said Myra.

"That's what birthdays are for" replied Margie. "Besides, if we were in Seattle we'd be surrounded by pies and sneaking enough bites to equal what we're eating here."

"How's work? I mean, beyond just what you said about it going well?"

"They're trusting me with projects that are right at the edge of what I can handle" said Margie. "I asked for it, and I got it. I've been working on a manuscript from 850 A.D., fire damage that's affected some of the text. We're using a special light to bring up images on even charred surfaces, and there's chemicals now that can clean soot without lifting ink. It's like working in slo-mo, and at the end of the day, when I head back out into regular activity, I feel like I'm racing. I think by the end of the year, if they keep letting me, I'll know how to do anything in the place. And that's my goal. Eventually I want to be my own business."

"What kind of expense are you looking at, for equipment as an independent contractor in this field?" asked Myra.

"I've been making a list. Depends on my focus. I don't think I actually want to work on manuscripts, I'd rather do maps and paintings, drawings, images in general. And, of course, it depends on the market wherever we end up."

Myra concealed any change of expression she might have. New York, I bet she thought.

"How did the mural at Lowell turn out? I can't wait to see it -- how fun it would have been to have it on the wall when I went there" said Margie.

"It's spectacular. It's a dragon school playground, and at the edge you can see into the library where little dragons are reading fantastic books. Since Lowell has so many orthopedically challenged kids, Ginny put some of them in wheelchairs with flames shooting out the back or on wing-shaped crutches. The school is being swamped with visitors who want to take photos. Bonnie's having to lock the front doors and demand folks make appointments instead of strolling in."

"Bonnie, my teacher Bonnie?" asked Margie.

"Yep. She's the vice principal now. She and Ginny had a chance to reconnect during the project, and I think it was really good for both of them. They were friends first, you know" said Myra.

"I didn't. I actually know very little about Mom's earlier girlfriends. Maybe you could fill me in?" Margie winked at Myra.

"Well...I can't see why not." Myra told Margie everything she could except for specifics about sex. She discovered it gave her evil pleasure to make comments about Dakin and Jules. She didn't have a charge about Ginny's other two exes. She loved how Margie laughed with her conspiratorially.

Margie said "Was there ever a point in your relationship where one of you was attracted to someone else? I mean, I know you've been monogamous, but were you still like pining after Aunt Allie at the beginning, or what?"

"Good god, Margie, what if my answer was yes? You'd nearly faint from the shock" Myra laughed. "No, I was not like pining for Allie, if I had been I wouldn't have noticed Ginny. The Allie episode was mercifully brief. And, speaking for myself only, I've never felt an interest that I could call romantic or sexual in anyone else since Ginny entered my door. She takes up all the room I have, and then some. You know what, I can speak for her too -- if her attention had ever been drawn elsewhere, I think I'd know it. You can tell such things, if you're honest with yourself."

"Yeah. You can" said Margie, a little sadly. Myra immediately wished she could take her last sentence back. But Margie had introduced this topic, she must be needing to talk about it.

"Then -- have you or Mom ever had a talk about not being partners? Or considered it?" Margie's face was now deathly serious. Myra felt her maternal instinct kick in, her body wanted to respond to a threat aimed at her child -- but this wasn't a threat she could fix.

"We had a few fights in the beginning, negotiating terms, testing parameters, I think you know what I mean, where the stakes were high. Like, is this commitment one we can actually pull off, that question in the back of your head. But the answer was always 'yes' within an hour or so. And of course I got scared sometimes, more so in our early years, mostly that I couldn't keep up my end of the bargain. Then -- no doubts at all for a long time, until recently." She saw Margie register shock and she continued quickly. "Not doubts now, just the question as we transitioned into having no full-time parenting duties, who do we want to be now, as a couple? That question has to always include the option of not being a couple. But again, the answer up at the front of my brain was choosing Ginny."

"Did you tell her?" said Margie, still looking shocked. "I mean, about maybe not being a couple?"

"We were in session with Nancy at the time, so yes. It was good to air it, and answer it. I know I keep telling people this, but if I have a problem, I'll say so. I always give at least a hint when I'm approaching a brick wall, in terms of my limits" said Myra.

"Yeah, Mom, but the thing is, you let people push you a lot. You live on a lot of boundaries, you like living there, and you want us to keep things interesting. So you're giving 'wow that's scary' signals all the time. We can't always know when it's more serious than another time" said Margie.

Myra was struck silent. Out of the mouths of your children she thought. She memorized what Margie had just said, to repeat to Ginny, and focused back on Margie.

"So, is this about Frances and Imani?" she asked gently.

"Kinda. I mean, nothing's changed there. If anything, Frances sees her less, since...Narnia died. But I'm minding it more as times goes on. I went to a counselor, the week I got back from burying Narnia, and I kept seeing him. He's pretty good. Eventually we got to the polyamory stuff, and -- he's got me working on my relationship with you. You and Mom. It always come back to the mothers, I bet you'll say."

Myra smiled. "Actually, I would. It's certainly true for my life, and Ginny's. But we raised you without a single error, you can quote me on that. He'll have to look elsewhere for the source of your problems. Maybe Mark the Spark is to blame." It made Margie laugh, which she hoped it would.

"Caleb -- my therapist -- says early competition for the love of our parents is often the source of our insecurity. We want them to love us as passionately as they love each other." Margie didn't look at Myra when she said this.

"Well, speaking as a parent, I do love my children as passionately as I love Ginny. But it's a different kind of passion, you're right, and kids pick up on that. Kids want it all. As they should, really. It's a lesson we all have to learn. Certainly my own insecurity, as it has arisen around Ginny, can be traced to my childhood. My mother was deeply unhappy with my father, and she leaned on me emotionally in ways that were, shall we say, inappropriate."

Margie was startled again, and looked curious. But Myra wanted Margie to have the chance to stick to her own issues at the moment.

"I've read a lot about polyamory, Margie, which we called nonmonogamy, and of course I tried it for years. One big part of making it work is having a loving, trusting relationship between all the people involved. You and Imani aren't even really friends. That's a huge hurdle to overcome, maybe too huge. And, insecurity can be part of why someone needs more than one partner, not just an obstacle to it occurring without problems. It was for me; having more than one girlfriend kept me from getting in too deep with any of them."

Margie began chewing her thumbnail. "I don't think that's true for Frances; god, I hope it's not."

But what about you, sweetheart? Myra wanted to ask it, but it felt too invasive.

"I just -- I have these moments when I think 'What if you're not the one, after all?' And I get so scared I can hardly move, and I want her reassurance that instant. But I can't bring it up with her. I'm so scared she's having the same doubts."

"Is it better to worry than to know for sure, one way or the other?" asked Myra softly.

"For right now, yes, it is. I don't know how to even think about living without her" said Margie.

"Well, let me remind you: You're both very young, and learning as you go. Ginny and I were ten years older than you were when we began our relationship. Think about the difference between who you are now and who you were at 15, and imagine learning that much again before you start being part of a couple. You're having to get on-the-job training, with Frances as well as at work. It's just that the stakes are a lot higher with Frances." She was gratified to see this sink in. Margie met her eyes again, with a small smile on her face. She finished with "Doubts are the curse of an active imagination, not omen of trouble ahead." Not necessarily, she didn't add.

As Myra was paying the bill, Margie said "Now what shall we do? Honestly, Mom, I'd like to go to Powell's with you, there's a couple of books I've been meaning to get."

"You're sure? Okay, keep me to an hour there, okay? Well, make it an hour and a half." Myra called the cab service on her cell as they walked out into drizzle.

By the time Margie, Frances and Myra were met at the train station by Ginny in the Volvo, Myra was determined to ask for time alone with each of her children more often. She felt closer to Margie than she had ever been, and Ginny commented later on how good Margie looked. At the station, she raved about Margie's new outfit, which made Margie jig a couple of steps and say "It's from YOUR present, Mama! We shopped for six hours."

Ginny looked at Myra in commiseration, but Myra said "I loved it. I really did."

Back at the house, Gillam and Carly had prepared a mid-Saturday feast. Nika was there, along with Annie Gagliardi, Davonn, Alveisa, Petra, Poe, and Nancy. Plus of course the aunties. Margie lit up and made the rounds while the table was set with all its leaves. Eric produced goofy party hats which he and Ginny had made, and Ginny took the floor to read from the baby book exactly what Margie had done this date a quarter-century earlier, at two days old. Allie stopped her when she got to the poop description. "I told them not to put that in" she said to Margie, "but they was so excited you had a colon, I guess."

After Margie's second cake -- third, if you counted the cupcakes -- was lit, sung over, and eaten down to crumbs, she opened presents. Gillam had gone through the family albums and online stashes, retrieving every photo containing Narnia and printing them. These were compiled in a thick album hand-decorated by Allie, and a disc with all the photos was in the back sleeve. Margie and Frances both wept. Gillam cried, too.

Margie cried again when they went outside to look at the new headstone. Narnia was a row back from Juju, Alice, Dinah, and two geckos, and had the largest stone, a piece of highly-polished cinnabar painted with her portrait, dates, and under her name, "Margie's Soulmate."

When they all returned to the house, Margie said "Okay, you know what I want next." Everyone but Allie looked blank. Allie said "It's electric!" and Margie said "You got it." They danced the slide until Myra had to sit down, out of breath. Older women joined her in chairs while the younger folks continued. Ginny put the kettle back on and while waiting for it to boil, she leaned over Myra's chair and said "I notice you carried in a carton from Powell's."

"Yup. There's a present for you in there, so don't go snooping."

Ginny whispered "I missed you."

"Me, too. But I really liked seeing her alone, I want to do it at least once a year."

Ginny put pitchers of iced tea and lemonade on the table, with a stack of glasses, and the dancers turned off the stereo to take a break. Gillam drank down a glass without pausing, wiped his mouth, then rapped the side of his glass with his wedding ring until everyone turned to look at him.

"Jane and I have one more gift for Margie, in the form of a general announcement" he said. He made a flourish to Jane, who stepped forward with a vivid smile and said "We're pregnant. At the end of May or thereabouts, you'll become Aunt Margie."

Everyone erupted in shouts of joy, Margie leading the way. She was invited to touch Jane's belly and whisper to her future niece or nephew. Myra demanded from Gillam "How long have you known?"

"Two weeks for sure" he said, giddy. "But we decided to wait until Margie could be here before telling anybody, she deserved to hear it firsthand." He let some of the hubbub die down, and he took Margie by the hand to say "We want you and Carly to be godparents." Carly sucked in his breath and let out a sob.

Margie said "I accept. With honor." She was fighting tears herself. "My god, next Thanksgiving we'll have a baby among us, watching us roll pie crust and helping me dish out cranberry sauce from the serving counter."

Myra had to sit down again. Ginny crowded onto her lap and whispered "Here we go." Myra closed her eyes and breathed in Ginny's smell for a minute, until her heart slowed down again.

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.



Obama Or Else postcard by Liza Cowan (Obama Or Else postcard by Liza Cowan)

They say in Spider Solitaire, theoretically every hand is winnable. I never have the patience to try thinking through each move or using "undo" to make a crappy layout winnable. In fact, if on the first layout I don't have several moves to expose hole cards, I'll usually re-deal. But that's just a game. It's not deciding who will become the most powerful leader in the world.

I got a direct challenge from a precious friend yesterday, Liza Cowan, who was a leader before I was out of junior high, whose blazed trail literally saved my life. She's an artist, not a politician, but she said "We have to win this election. There's nothing more important right now." She's 59 and has two children about to enter adolescence (her second go-round at parenting). They've both girls, so she's not looking at them being drafted if McCain wins, but she's sharp enough to not see that as a consolation because she lived through the Vietnam era draft, which scarred us all in different ways. She's made the decision to do at least one thing every day, one concrete action, to make sure Obama wins this election. She asked me to do the same.

So here we go. My goal is to come up with a simple act you can do every day that, directly or indirectly, helps us put a sane, accountable human being in the White House and/or restore basic human rights to the daily life of America. I'll aim for an action besides donating money, because (a) giving money is something we already know how to do and (b) if you're like me, you don't have money to give. Although as Liza says, lots of people can afford ten bucks.

There's two main reasons to engage in direct action like this. One is that this groundswell is what this election is all about -- it's how we've gotten this far. The Republican strategy is to feed their extremist minority with a VP choice whose extremism they're keeping under wraps and pass it off as populism, i.e., "She's a hockey mom". They pacify their corporate overlords by NEVER passing legislation which benefits the average working person, and they dupe the rest of the country into voting for them by any lie available. They lie, they lie, they lie. But we are ravenous for the truth out here, and direct action will bring you into contact with the truth. You'll feel better afterward.

The second reason is that we are afraid and feeling some degree of despair about how things are going. It's bad out here, and looks to be getting worse. We've gotten out of the habit, in too many ways, of learning how to deal with these feelings. We take drugs, we watch TV, we complain on a blog, we sit at home and snark at our family. We think it may be too late. We want reassurance that we have not made a disastrous series of mistakes which have dumped shit in our own backyards, destroyed our economy, made us a joke in the rest of the world, and divided our landscape into enemy camps. We want Hope. And Change.

But the reality of hope and change, we're starting to realize, involves work and mess. Some people don't know how to step past the despair to do the actual work, and for those folks, McCain is offering Change Lite. He's offering absolution -- or, for those of you without a Christian background, atonement/redemption without fasting or self-examination. Except, of course, the bill will come due the day after he's elected, with interest and penalty charges.

The only way through despair is through it. Don't make any major decisions while you're at your worst; accept any offer of help; and move your body/mind according to the best thinking you had before you got desperate until you feel a little better. Keep going ("Proceed as the way opens"), and eventually you'll arrive at Change. The key is to move. Taking action is a direct contradiction to despair. Don't spend a lot of time processing it in advance, just act and process later if necessary.

Today's suggestion comes from Democracy For America. They've put together a 30 second video they're thinking about running on TV, which consists of excerpts of an interview with Phillip Butler. As their explanation states, "Dr. Phillip Butler is a veteran and a former prisoner of war at the “Hanoi Hilton” with Sen. McCain. He knows the real McCain. Now he has shot a 30 second ad with our friends at Brave New Films to make sure Americans hear the truth."

Group News Blog already ran the extended interview from which this ad was taken here in the post by The Littlest Gator Being a POW Is Not A Resume Builder.

Click on this link for Democracy for America, watch the video if you have not already, and tell them yes if you'd like to see wider exposure. Of course the point of this, from their vantage, is to add names to their database and hit you up for money. But they're a good place to donate if you agree with their strategy, and you don't have to give money to add your voice to this movement. I'm not affiliated with them in any way, by the way -- this is just about the video. Here's a transcript of the DFA ad:

Screenshot of Phillip Butler, Commander U.S. Navy (Ret.), POW Hanoi 1965-1973. (All items in quotes below are spoken by Dr. Butler.)

"Hell, I'm 70 years old and I've lived through being a prisoner of war, I'm going to tell it like it is.

A fellow POW on John McCain: Reckless. Erratic. Unfit to lead.

"The prisoner of war experience is not a good prerequisite for a President of the United States. He was well-known as a very volatile guy, and he would blow up and go off like a Roman candle.

"John McCain is not somebody I would like to see with his finger near the red button."

The YouTube URL for this longer interview is here. You could send this to everybody in your e-mail box (especially all those friends and relatives who are not solidly Democratic) with the Democracy for America link to contradict the fairly wacky notion that being a prisoner who was tortured over 30 years ago makes someone a good President, especially since John McCain has refused to outlaw torture by our own government. (Can somebody please check the box "Fails to learn from own experience"?)

And, lagniappe for today: The postcard graphic at the head of this post was designed and printed by Liza Cowan. She's already given away or mailed out a thousand of them, and she's extending an offer to the readers of Group News Blog: Send her a self-addressed stamped envelope with postage of 59 cents on it, and she'll mail you ten of these postcards for your own use. Or, if you or your organization wants more, e-mail her at Liza(at)pinestreetartworks(dot)com. If you use this graphic elsewhere, please be sure to give her copyright credit and link to her blog.

I welcome comments about what you've done today, or recently, to get our Democrat in the White House or more progressives in government. Feel free to share suggestions. Just, please, don't blog whore (i.e., use this as an opportunity to promote an individual's blog instead of that belonging to an organization or a particular cause) and don't engage in hate speech. If Obama is not your first choice, that's fine, find another action which DOES promote your vision of progressive government and tell us about that.

[Cross-posted at Group News Blog.]


Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Original Lowell Elementary School, Capital Hill, Seattle, circa 1911
Here's another installment of my Great American Lesbian Novel (in progress), Ginny Bates. If you are new to reading GB, go to the section in the right-hand column labeled Ginny Bates to read background and find out how to catch up.

October 2013

Two days later, Myra woke up in the motel in Anacortes because the phone on the nightstand was ringing. She managed to find it without opening her eyes and said thickly "Hello?"

"Hey" said Allie. "Once again, I can't get through on your cell, and of course Ginny's is turned off."

"What's wrong?" said Myra, opening her eyes wide.

"Nothing, everybody's okay. But I need to ask you a question about this foreword you've written, my editors want to send it on today" said Allie.

"I'm looking at my cell right here, it's plugged in and the power light is on. Let me check -- oh, damn, it's on vibrate. Ginny, that's the funny noise we kept hearing, my cell vibrating on this tray here" said Myra.

"Well, turn it to ring. Now listen, in what you wrote, you spelled god lower-case like you always do, but my editors are uptight about it, you got a problem with it having a capital G?"

"No problem at all. What else?"

"That's it. But you know how sometimes certain words make a statement for you, and I wasn't sure about this one" said Allie.

"What time is it?" asked Myra, looking at the drawn curtains.

"Just past 2 in the afternoon. Aren't you up yet? What have you -- oh, never mind" said Allie. "I reckon I'll let you two go, ya'll have fun." She hung up quickly.

Myra slid out of bed. Ginny said to her "You coming back after you pee?"

"I thought I'd get a shower, I'm sticky everywhere." Ginny could hear the grin without seeing Myra's face.

"Can I join you?"

"Come on. When we come back to bed, let's switch over to the other one with clean sheets" said Myra.

A week later, Ginny was on the phone with Cathy when Myra got up. She made toast, put some yogurt in a bowl with banana, and went to her desk to read e-mail. When Ginny was done, she came to Myra and said "Guess what? Cathy's coming here for Thanksgiving!"

"Fabulous. She knows the routine, right?"

"Yep. She'll fly in Tuesday night and leave Sunday afternoon. She requests a slot in the gravy making section, she said." Ginny's eyes were dancing.

Myra pulled down the calendar from her wall to mark this in. She stopped halfway through, however, saying "Uh-oh."


"Margie's birthday this year is on Thanksgiving itself. And it's her 25th. But when I talked to her last week, she said Frances definitely had to work this Thanksgiving. Which means either Margie won't be with us on her birthday, or won't be with Frances, she'll have to choose." Myra looked at Ginny. "This year, of all years, without Narnia..."

Ginny sat down, dejected. "She won't want to leave Frances alone, I know her. Not with both of them grieving the way they have been."

"Is Margie still wearing Narnia's collar as a bracelet?"

"I don't know, I haven't asked her. Shit, Myra. And this is Eric's first year to do the whole extravaganza with us, he and Carly were talking about the holidays just the other day. Eric said his parents weren't big on Thanksgiving, so he was happy to be spending it with us -- they'll go to Spokane for Christmas instead."

"Well, I'm not leaving Margie alone on her birthday. You know what? I'll go down there, the day before. I'll carry our gifts and spend Thanksgiving with her. We can eat at Simpatico, so Frances can join us when she's free. I'll come back on Friday or Saturday so I get to spend time with Cathy" said Myra.

"It really should be me. But I can't abandon Cathy" said Ginny, utterly unconscious of how she was voicing Margie's likely preference. Myra didn't miss it, however. She said "And I can't volunteer Allie for it. So it's me. In fact, I'm going to call Margie right now, in case she's wondering about it all."

Ginny got on the extension. Half an hour later, as they hung up, Ginny said "That'll work out well. Frances having off Saturday and Sunday means they can stay until Monday morning -- you should book the train tickets now, for all of you, both ways."

Myra turned to her computer, but paused to say "Will you have the marker for Narnia's grave done by then?"

"Yes" said Ginny firmly. "Listen, next time you talk to Gillam, find out if they are going to be around for Christmas. If none of the kids are, let's go back to Lake Quinault Lodge."

"Or they could go with us" said Myra. "I have to talk to Chris and Allie first about that." With her back turned to Ginny, she said in a dreamy voice "And I get to see Lois the Weaver again."

Ginny laughed immediately, and so did Myra. Ginny left, but returned in a minute to say "If you're not going to be running the kitchen at Thanksgiving, you need to appoint a replacement honcho. Someone who understands how to organize a massive meal prep like that."

"Hmm" said Myra. "Well, I think either Sima or Gillam, don't you?"

"Sima" said Ginny. "Gillam is still too much in love to be all business-like for hours at a stretch, it's hard enough for him to go to work and classes each day."

"I can't believe Lowell hasn't once called Jane to sub over there" said Myra. "Her resume is excellent, and she says they are hiring others. She's pretty upset about it."

Ginny said "Yeah, I've got an idea about that." Myra's pulse picked up a little and she said "Care to share?"

"Not yet. I'll let you know."

Four days later they sat down to go over bills and household accounts. Myra said "Our food costs the last several months have almost doubled. Not that I'm complaining, but we'll have to budget differently."

"Speaking of which, we probably need to hold off on making this quarter's contribution to our retirement fund. Since I'm not selling paintings right now. Let's see how the furniture sales add up" said Ginny.

"Do you have an idea of what your inventory is at the moment? Because I should call our insurance agent and up the value of our policy to match what's in the upstairs vault" said Myra. Ginny looked at her appreciatively and said "Very astute of you. I'll work one up."

She hesitated for a long minute, then said "Speaking of income...I'm ready to talk over the idea I had that might help Jane get in the door at Lowell."


"Well, I discussed with my agent the possibility of my offering to paint a mural at Lowell. You know, as an ex-employee there and a former mother of students who went there. She said I could write off a chunk on my taxes if I don't charge them. I thought I could approach the person in their administration who's in charge of the facility, make my pitch, and indicate I wanted my daughter-in-law who has double degrees in education and music to be my assistant. It would give Jane a chance to become known to the teachers and staff over there. I think they're just insular, and a little protective because most of the students are either special ed or gifted, needing better than average subs. Once they got to know Jane, they'd realize she's a perfect fit." Ginny came to a halt and licked her lips.

"That's a brilliant idea, Gin. How long would it take, you think?"

"Oh, hard to say because I'll have to probably submit a proposed drawing and deal with bureacracy first. The painting part wouldn't be more than a week. I didn't want to mention it to Jane before I talked with you."

"Well, I say go for it. They'll jump at it, I'm sure." Myra could tell Ginny was holding something back.

"The thing is, the vice principal there who I'd be working with is Bonnie." Ginny's eyes were wide and a little pale.

"Bonnie Linehan? Well, even better, I bet she'll have a soft spot for Gillam's wife. She adored him when he was in her third grade, remember?"

"You won't mind?" said Ginny.

"Honey, you're welcome to look up all your exes and make plans with them, I wish you joy of it. Especially Jules" grinned Myra.

"No, thanks" said Ginny, grinning back at her. "I see her name from time to time on donor lists for arts organizations. Except now she's not listed as part of a couple with that other doctor, so I'm guessing they've broken up."

"Well, here's your chance. My lottery payout is gone, you could hook up with a successful prominent physician" teased Myra.

"Hush. I'm just grateful no enterprising reporter has decided to do a biography of me that includes digging in my past enough to turn up Jules and go interview her" said Ginny. "That would be awful."

"Yeah, no one's ever dredged up my string of messes either in a review" said Myra. "Probably none of my exes want to claim me."

"Then I'll talk to Jane the next time they're over for dinner, and if she wants to devote a week to sucking up at Lowell, I'll set the gears in motion." Ginny leaned over and kissed Myra's cheek.

In two weeks, Ginny's preliminary sketches had been approved by Bonnie without advance submission to the school board -- Bonnie said she was willing to assume responsibility for the go-ahead, they were lucky to have the offer. They settled on one wall of the entry hall, opposite the library, and a small network of pipes and electrical conduits were cleverly incorporated into the design by Ginny. When Gillam heard about the project, his eyes went luminous as he looked at Ginny with gratitude. He looked even more amazed when Ginny showed Jane the background sections she was willing to let Jane paint in herself.

"Has she ever collaborated like that with someone else?" he whispered to Myra.

"Well, the Skene map on my wall divider. But that was Allie" said Myra.

"I guess Jane is in" he said.

"Of course she's in" retorted Myra.

Once the work began, Gillam began going to Lowell after his own work day ended, he said to give Jane a ride home but since it was an easy walk, Myra guessed it was more that he wanted to see the daily progress. Jane spent a lot of time keeping small hands away from the wet wall, but she did this with charm and skill, making fast friendships with children and teachers alike.

On Thursday at noon, Myra walked in the front doors at Lowell to discover Ginny sitting on the floor, leaned against the un-muraled wall, at the feet of Bonnie in a chair. They were eating from a cafeteria tray balanced on Bonnie's lap.

"Hey, look who's here!" called out Ginny, waving Myra over.

"You left your lunch in the fridge, I was worried you'd be hungry" said Myra. She handed a thermal bag to Ginny, not sure if she should kiss her in the hall.

"Bonnie got me something from the cafeteria, bless her. But I can eat both, this painting with an audience leaves me ravenous" said Ginny. She unzipped the bag, grinning up at Bonnie "You gotta try these crab cakes, my own recipe. And the dipping sauce is mine too." Myra's pasta primavera was left in the bag.

"Where's Jane?" asked Myra.

"Oh, great news -- the music teacher called in sick and Jane's taking her classes for the day!" enthused Ginny. She turned back to Bonnie and said "See what I mean? Isn't that the best crab you ever tasted?"

Bonnie agreed with a little caution in her voice. Myra didn't think Bonnie had been fooled by Ginny's plan to insert Jane into the scene at Lowell, and had likely done her share to make it happen.

"Look, there's extra" said Ginny. "Push aside that cruddy meatloaf, we have a feast here." The extra, of course, had been in case Ginny could eat with Myra, but Ginny wasn't putting two and two together at the moment. "I grew these snowpeas, too."

"Well" said Myra, "I'm going to head out. Tell Jane congratulations for me."

"Where are you going, some greasy diner, I bet? Don't drink too much Coke. And, Myra -- aren't you going to comment on the mural?"

"Oh, yeah. It's strange seeing your work only partially done, I'm not used to it. Looking good. I like how the dragons are making a Celtic knot."

Ginny said to Bonnie, "See, I told you they were Celtic dragons!" Myra waved at them and left.

She decided a diner was, in fact, a great idea. She began driving toward Broadway when her cell rang. She managed to pull over and answer it before it went into messages.

"Myra?" It was Annie Gagliardi. "I hate to do this, but I need to ask you for a favor. My car has broken down, and I think I can fix it but where I am is a little off the beaten path. Could you pick up some spark plugs and come help me out?"

"Sure" said Myra. "Where are you?"

"Well, kinda far. A residential neighborhood in Kenmore. If you have pencil and paper, I can tell you more or less how to find me. I don't have triple-A right now and you're the only person I could think of who isn't at work -- "

"Don't sweat it, Annie, I'll be glad to see you." Myra pulled out her notebook and got directions plus the specs for the spark plugs. "Should I swing by home and get my tools?"

"No, I got tools" said Annie. "This is a big relief."

"I was about to grab some lunch, you hungry?" asked Myra.

"There's a good taco stand at the end of this street, I walked down here to call you, so if that's okay with you, I can recommend the carne asada" said Annie.

"Perfect" said Myra. "I'll see you whenever."

She headed for the local auto parts store. Once she made her purchase, she called home and left a message on the machine saying where she was and to not wait dinner on her. She got lost twice, but finally located Annie and munched on tacos while Annie talked diagnostics out loud. They replaced the plugs, which got Annie's Toyota started, running ragged with a strong smell of gas. They didn't have an idiot book, so they kept brainstorming new possibilities and tinkering. Myra offered twice to have Annie's car towed to her garage and pay for the repair, but they were actually having fun with the puzzle and voted to keep at it. The day was cool and clear, and every hour Myra would walk down to the taco stand and get another fountain Coke.

When it got full dark, some of the fun wore off, but they felt they were close so Myra held a flashlight while Annie worked on. They turned away three men who wanted badly to take over for them. Eventually, with a belch of flame under the carburetor cap, the engine roared and began running steadily. They danced a jig of triumph before wiping their hands and starting to pack away tools.

"I'd bring you home for dinner but I don't know what they made" said Myra. "How about instead we go to a cafe or diner of your choosing and eat a real meal, so I can follow you and make sure the fix is permanent?"

"You name the place, I'm buying" said Annie. Myra chose the diner she had considered earlier and they reunited there. Annie's car started again easily when they were done eating, and she insisted she could make it home without an escort.

"This has been a blast, Annie-O" said Myra, using the nickname she hadn't uttered in years. "I'd like to see more of you, just drop by any time."

"Okay" said Annie. "Give my love to everybody."

It was past 7:00 when Myra came in the front door, looking ruefully at a grease smear on her shirt that she was afraid might not come out. The house was full of people --Jane, Gillam, Eric, Carly, and Chris were in the living room, looking at her with sober faces. Ginny was at the breakfast bar on the phone. She said "Oh, hell, she just walked in. I'll talk to you later, Edwina" and hung up. She swung around and said "Where the hell have you been?"

"With Annie Gagliardi, fixing her car. Like I said in my message" said Myra.

"There was no note here" began Ginny.

"No, my phone message. Not your cell, the main machine on my desk, didn't you check it?"

"Twice" said Ginny. "And e-mail. And I called everyone we know."

"Well, not everybody or else you'd have gotten Annie" pointed out Myra, a little unwisely. She turned to the living room assemblage and said "Are you all here on search and rescue, or what?"

"Yeah" said Chris, standing. "Since you're alive, I'm heading home."

"We still on for lunch tomorrow?" asked Myra. She was not going to take on Ginny's worry, she had called and left a message.

Chris gave her a salute and went rapidly out the door. Myra went to her bathroom and scrubbed her hands. When she was done, she walked back to her desk, motioning Ginny to join her. She hit the playback button. There was a call that registered as no number on the caller ID and came through as static.

"Whoops" said Myra. "I guess I was in a dead zone."

"What the fuck took all this time?" demanded Ginny. "Why didn't you call back, or answer your cell?"

"I left the cell in my car. I didn't call back because I'd told you where I was. What are you so heated up about, Ginny? I'm only an hour or so late for dinner."

"I didn't know where you were, at all, and it's not like you to not make dinner without word" said Ginny. "Plus..."

"Plus what?"

"Well, I realized after you left that you probably had meant to eat with me, and I'd been a little oblivious" said Ginny, still too anxious to be actually apologetic.

"You were oblivious. Nothing new there. But that has nothing to do with my going to help Annie, and you need to believe me when I say I'm okay with something" said Myra.

"I know...I was, mostly" began Ginny.

"That crew out there doesn't speak to you being okay" said Myra calmly. "Why don't you go decompress with them, and leave me out of it."

"Aren't you hungry?" asked Ginny.

"No, we stopped on the way home and ate" said Myra. "But in my message, I told you not to hold dinner for me, before you say anything else."

Ginny looked irresolute. Myra gave her a friendly shove. "Go, calm the kids and let them calm you. I'm going to check my e-mail."

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.


Tuesday, September 9, 2008


Graffiti billboard photo by Jill Posener
(Graffiti billboard photo by Jill Posener.)

On July 23, I posted at Group News Blog about a proposed change to Department of Health and Human Services regulations which would allow the re-definition of contraception as "abortion" and the subsequent denial of contraceptive services on religious grounds. A month later, despite action by Senator Hillary Clinton, the ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project, and others, those suggested changes were made into formal proposals.

According to the ACLU, "The rule leaves open the possibility that -- based on religious beliefs -- institutions and individuals can deny women access to birth control. It also permits individuals to refuse to provide information and counseling about basic heath care services. And it expands existing laws by permitting a wider range of health care professionals to refuse to provide even referrals for abortions.

"The public comment period on these insidious regulations is open until September 25. Help generate a massive outcry."

Click on the link below to submit a form with your objection. The response thus far is very encouraging. And please help spread the word.

Protect Birth Control



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


Monday, September 8, 2008


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

October 2013

Allie arrived at 8:00 the next morning. Ginny was sitting at the table, eating toast and sliced apple. Allie kissed her on the head as she went to the coffee maker.

"If you're hungry, there's leftover homefries and turkey ham in the stove staying warm" said Ginny.

"Myra eaten yet?" asked Allie, opening the oven.

"No. I don't know when she'll get up. There's plenty for both of you, though. And these apples are wonderful."

Allie made a plate and brought it to the table with her coffee.

"Margie and Frances still in bed, too?" she asked as Ginny handed her slices of apple.

"Yes. Carly, Eric and Gillam all went off to work. Jane got up with Gillam and decided to go home after he left. None of us went to bed until 2, so it will be a tiring day for them" said Ginny. She had gotten up at 7:00 to help make breakfast.

"Edwina sends her love and extreme sorrow. She'll come over after work. I've got my portfolio, I'm planning to work here today when I'm not being with Margie, if that's good with you" said Allie.

"You can set up at my worktable if you want. I'll be making applesauce and drying herbs today" said Ginny.

Allie ate half the homefries quickly, then lead back with a sausage patty in her hand and said "Okay. Tell me."

"Oh, Allie, it was pretty much awful. They had her wrapped in her soft old blue blanket, and Gillam went out to carry her in. She'd...stiffened up on the drive, so it was horrible seeing her legs sticking out from under the cover. The minute Margie opened the door, she began wailing. The other kids had gone to bed for a couple of hours, but they all got up. Frances looked spent. I steamed milk for her with that Torino syrup she likes so much, and she kept one hand in Margie's while she drank it. I think she loved Narnia almost as much as Margie did." Ginny went into the kitchen to refill her tea.

"And it was a stroke, they said?"

"Best guess without an autopsy, which Margie didn't want. Brought on by all the physical stress of the past week, and being elderly. Thank god Margie was home when it happened, if she'd come back to find her dead..." Ginny didn't need to finish the sentence. She held up another apple and Allie nodded.

Ginny continued. "So, Gillam carried her to the backyard. He -- it was so sweet, Allie. He asked Margie if it would be okay if he looked at Narnia before putting her in the ground. Margie said he might not want to, he might want to remember her as she had been. He answered that if it was a hard memory that Margie was going to carry, he wanted to share the burden. So he pulled back the blanket -- Myra turned away, which I think was good. She looked...bad. He unbuckled the collar from her neck, and I noticed his hands were shaking hard. He gave the collar to Margie, kissed his fingers and then Narnia's head. Carly was just bawling, leaned back in Eric's arms. Gillam covered her back up, put her in the ground, and then we all said a prayer. He and Jane covered her up, and Margie lost it again." Ginny paused reflectively. "I have to say, I've become attached to the idea of cremation, now that I've been through both kinds of burial. Putting a beloved body into cold ground is...brutal."

"Are you going to make a marker?"

"Yes. I have to think about it some more" said Ginny. "Anyhow, before we came in, Margie asked if we could all sing 'Ole Blue' one last time. That destroyed every one of us. You remember how Narnia would always howl on that repeating line, with its mournful stretched out sound?"

"Oh, god" said Allie. "I remember singing that at Juju's funeral, too."

"Myra talks periodically about getting another kitten, but I still miss Juju, I'd like a puppy" said Ginny.

"You could have both" said Allie. "Well, maybe not a puppy right away -- "

"Yeah, after we came back in and were sitting around the table, I told Frances not to make my mistake and try to get Margie another pet right away. She looked at me as if I was nuts, saying it wouldn't occur to her. Then Margie said she wasn't home enough to be a good human, she'd already killed the dog of her life with neglect."

"Ow" said Allie. "So she's blaming herself."

"Completely. They're not going back until tomorrow, but even then -- which reminds me, I need to call Nancy." Ginny went to the phone and got through to Nancy, who made an appointment for Margie at 4:00.

At 10:00, Ginny left pots simmering on the stove and went into the bedroom to wake up Myra. Myra rolled into her arms and said "I smell basil."

"I made pesto to freeze. But I also discovered enough late season tomatoes to make a couple of quarts of marinara" said Ginny, kissing her gently.

"I feel weird, Gin, like...Oh god. I just remembered" said Myra, her body flooding with grief. "How's Margie doing this morning?"

"She and Frances haven't emerged yet. Which I'm taking as a good sign, either eight hours of sleep or them talking things over. I've got her an appointment with Nancy, and Allie is here for the day. You ready to get up?"

"I wish we could spend the day talking, just me and you" said Myra.

"Yeah. I was thinking about maybe you and me going away for a few days. I mean, after Margie and Frances leave" said Ginny.

"Oh, I don't know, I don't want to be out of easy reach for her right now" said Myra.

"I agree. But what about Anacortes? It's only an hour. And here's my idea: I won't take my painting gear. My sketchbook, yes, that's as automatic as your notebook. Otherwise, I'll plan to walk beaches, watch whales and birds, eat in great little cafes, and of course shop for marine hardware" said Ginny. "You can do whatever you want. It's just that we always work when we go away, and I'm ready for an actual bona fide vacation."

"What a concept" said Myra. "Let's do it -- maybe early next week?"

"You make reservations" said Ginny. "By the way, I have us down for a Nancy session on Thursday morning."

They cuddled a few more minutes. Myra said "I have some boneless chicken thighs, I could pound 'em out and make parmigiana with your marina."

"Maybe get Frances to share her secret with you? Sounds great. Margie loves that dish" said Ginny as they got up. They found Margie and Frances on the couch with Allie between them, all of them weepy. Myra kissed them hello and went to eat a very late breakfast.

Frances went with Margie to her Nancy session, experiencing the mystery for the first time. When they came back, they looked better than they had all day. After dinner, Frances took some of Ginny's fresh pesto and taught them how to make pasta infused with it. Margie played poker with her aunts and siblings/plus. She and Frances returned to Portland the following day. That Friday, Ginny and Myra caught the train to Portland with challah and wine to bring in shabbos. They returned on Monday morning and spent the day preparing to leave for Anacortes, Ginny harvesting and canning, Myra working her way entirely through her mail.

Their friends joined them for dinner, Nika coming along with Chris. Ginny made a cake with applesauce instead of sugar and eggs, and it didn't rise much but was very well-received, especially by Allie. As they were clearing the table and stacking dishes, the doorbell rang.

"Not one of ours" remarked Myra as she went to answer it. A 40-something woman stood there, her sandy hair streaked with blond highlights, her round face serious. She said "Uh...I'm looking for the residence of Myra Atkins. Or -- Myra Josong, I guess."

"That's me" said Myra, an unaccountable shiver traveling up her spine, maybe from the mention of her childhood name. She couldn't stop looking at the woman's face. "How can I help you?"

"I...Your phone number is unlisted. Yours, I mean, not...I'm in town for the national Costco convention, I'm a manager...My name is Libby Harris, my married name...I think you knew me when I was a little girl."

Myra grabbed the door facing and held on. She really might pass out. She kept her eyes open despite the vertigo, fixed on Libby's face. Suddenly Ginny was behind her, solid and warm, saying "What's wrong, Myra?"

Myra turned away from Libby to meet Ginny's eyes. "This is Libby. My first -- Libby. Astrid's daughter."

"Holy sh -- Excuse us, Libby, we don't mean to keep you standing out there. Come in, I'm Ginny, Myra's partner. Come sit down on the couch. Myra, sit here. Can I get you some coffee or tea? And we have some fresh applesauce cake." Ginny was extremely polite. Myra's friends stood uncertainly in the kitchen. Libby looked terrified.

"You're 43 now, as of your birthday in July" said Myra. Libby looked even more jolted.

"Yes" she said in a near whisper.

"I haven't seen you since you were six. But you still look like you" said Myra.

"You look familiar, too, now that I see you. I -- we never had any photos of you, and my memory was, well, what does anyone remember that far back?" said Libby.

All of it thought Myra. But that's just me.

"You said you're in town for a convention? Where do you live now?"

"Santa Monica" said Libby. "My husband and I, and -- I've got three kids. Mom is still in Dallas, she's remarried after her divorce. She still does quilting, though, and teaches classes at Hobby Lobby. I -- I meant to call first, but I couldn't get a number and I leave in the morning. I hope I'm not intruding?" Libby was looking warily at Allie in the kitchen doorway. Divorce? Quilting? thought Myra.

"Not at all, we're done eating. Come on in, ya'll. These are my oldest and dearest friends." Myra introduced them, and they shook Libby's hand solemnly. "This is Libby. I helped raise her from when she was six months old until she was five. During the last two years, while I was in college, I was with her most of the day."

Libby looked surprised. "I thought I went to some kind of preschool?"

"You did in the mornings. I had all my classes crammed into four hours. Then I'd pick you up at noon and we'd hang out until 5:00, when we'd make dinner for when Astrid got home at 6:00. After dinner, she was often busy, so it was me and you again until bedtime. Do you still have your Bionic Woman doll?" asked Myra. She felt a little out of her mind with the oddity of it all.

"I'd forgotten about that doll! When you turned her head, there was this clicking that was what, her bionic hearing?" Libby smiled for the first time, and a wave of memory capsized Myra.

"I gave you that doll. And your skates, and the Bert and Ernie pajamas you insisted on wearing every single night" said Myra. Ginny had returned with a tray, which she set on the coffee table. Edwina took over the job of serving as Ginny sat on the arm of Myra's chair.

"I've heard so much about you" said Ginny, putting her arm around Myra's shoulder. "Endless stories, all of them wonderful. As have our children -- Myra and I have two, a son and a daughter. They're both in their 20s now, married. Gillam, our son, lives nearby. Margie, our daughter, is in Portland."

Your half-siblings thought Myra. Except of course Libby would never have been allowed to think of them that way. She leaned the back of her head against Ginny's arm.

Allie stood to retrieve photos from the mantle, showing them to Libby and giving names. Myra thought Libby was a little afraid of Allie, which made her both angry and stricken. This child had had none of the opportunity she'd given Margie and Gillam. It was a miracle she'd come here at all.

After a visible hesitation, Libby lifted her massive purse and pulled out a billfold with photos of her own family. Myra lingered over them. The oldest girl reminded her so much of Astrid at 20, it was disconcerting. She wanted to ask for a copy of them, but thought that would be pushing Libby too far.

"How did you find me, then?" she asked, handing back the plastic fold of photos.

"On the internet. There was a write-up about one of your books, giving your real name -- I didn't know about Josong."

Myra corrected her pronunciation. "It's for my mother, Jo" she explained.

"Oh, now her I remember!" said Libby, her face lighting up. "She was a world of fun. We played cards, and she always let me win, even when I made up the rules. And -- Mom didn't tell she had died until I was a teenager. I'm sorry."

There was someone in the room who had actually known and loved her mother. Myra didn't know how to bear it.

Ginny stepped in. "So have you read any of Myra's work?"

"Uh...Just the one book, Skene. I -- I'm not really the kind of person who reads poetry" said Libby. "I saw a few of your paintings online, too, they've very...colorful."

"Did you ever read any of the Podinqo books?" asked Ginny expectantly. But Libby had not. "My school was strict, our reading was off a list" said Libby.

The third Podinqo book won a Caldecott thought Myra. Not a thing in it that would offend born-agains. Except, of course, it was about black people, can't have that.

Myra's silence was becoming noticeable. Libby set down her cup and said "Well, I should be getting back to my hotel -- "

"Oh, no" said Myra, leaning forward. "I mean...Could we keep in touch? Let me give you my phone number." She pulled her notebook from her back pocket and began writing.

"I'm not much of a letter-writer" said Libby, very nervous.

"How about e-mail? Here's my address, what's yours?" asked Myra.

"It's at my job, I can't really get personal e-mail there" said Libby, clearly lying.

"Oh. Okay. Well, could I get a photo of us both before you go? To show my kids" pleaded Myra. "I'll send you a copy if -- when you give me an address" said Myra.

Ginny had gone to the sideboard and returned with the digital camera. They took two shots of Myra standing next to Libby, not touching her because it was clear Libby didn't welcome contact. Myra said "If you ever want to find out details about your first five years, just ask me, I remember everything." She was trying not to babble.

Libby said "Well, thank you for seeing me. I'll...You all have a nice night. The cake was delicious." She was out the door, and Myra refused to let herself stand in the doorway watching until she drove off.

As soon as she closed the door, Ginny's arms were around her. "Oh, my angel, that was heartbreaking" she whispered.

Myra walked unsteadily back to her chair and collapsed into it. "I don't have a clue why she came here. She obviously doesn't fucking want me in her life. I'm the evil dyke who had to be exorcised from all memory."

"Except she did remember you, and she's at an age where people often look up their past" said Sima.

"I bet one of her kids is rejecting her" said Chris. "That youngest daughter. Hell, maybe she's come out."

"She won't call or write" said Myra, swallowing hard.

"Not right away" said Ginny. "But...she walked into a nest of lesbians -- "

"Big ones, and not all white" said Nika, her first comment since Libby had arrived. It made even Myra laugh.

"Was I a total goober?" asked Myra.

"Oh, sweetheart, you were astonishing" said Ginny. "If I'd lost Margie when she was six and not seen her again until she was 43, I'd be unable to talk at all."

Myra looked at her. She couldn't find the tears inside her. "She's not Margie. Not even close."

"No, because she was raised by Astrid, not you and Ginny" said Allie.

"She seemed nice, though" added Edwina.

Myra picked up the camera and played back the last two photos. "Should I show these to the kids? Especially Margie right now, she used to get kinda jealous as a little one when I talked about Libby."

"Margie will be fascinated" said Sima. "It'll be a distraction. She's completely sure of you now."

"I bet she never mentions to Astrid that she came to see me" said Myra.

"No, but now you have a married name and a location" said Ginny. "We can get back in touch with that detective and find out all we want to about Libby."

Myra shook her head. "I just wanted to know she was alive and okay. I have that information. Anything else, she needs to give me herself. And Astrid I could care less about. She did a terrible, terrible thing. I hope she knows it."

"Write it up and put it on your blog" said Nika. "I'm willing to bet she's reading your blog. Tell the whole story, all the details except anything that would out her. Let her have enough information to rethink her mother's stance."

"Huh" said Myra. Ginny said "I agree, that's a great idea. As Liza says, honor your legacy and shape it the way you want it to be remembered."

Myra was thinking. "There are so many 'other mothers' from our generation of dykes out there, many of whom got dumped and trashed because we had no rights. I bet this could turn out to be an important piece of work."

"You could work on it while you away in Anacortes" said Allie. "When you not writing a foreword for my book, that is."

Myra grinned at her. "I'm almost finished with the foreword, I just have to look up a few more synonyms for hot and brilliant. But, no, this trip is about Not Working. Right?" She nudged Ginny.

"This is about climbing out of the jeep and going for a hike" agreed Ginny.

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.

[NOTE: Below are the lyrics to Ole Blue as I heard them growing up, sung slowly and mournfully, with a hound-dog howl on the Oooo-oo part:

Had an old dog and his name was Blue
Betting your life he's a good one too
Blue-oo-oo, good dog Blue

Old Blue's feet was big and round
Never 'llowed a possum to touch the ground
He treed a possum in a hollow log
You can tell from that he's a good ole dog
Blue-oo-oo, good dog Blue

I'll take my ax and take my horn
And get a possum in the new-ground corn
Well old Blue barked and I went to see
And he had a possum up in a tree
Blue-oo-oo, good dog Blue

Well the possum crawled way out on a limb
Ole Blue barked, the possum growled at him
Well Blue what makes your eyes so red?
You run that possum till you're near most dead
Blue-oo-oo, good dog Blue

Ole Blue took sick, sick and mighty sick
I called for the doctor, better come right quick
The doctor come, he come on a run
He said Ole Blue, yore huntin's done
Blue-oo-oo, good dog Blue

Ole Blue died, and he died mighty hard
He shook the ground in my back yard
I took Ole Blue, laid him in the shade
I dug his grave with a silver spade
Blue-oo-oo, good dog Blue

I lowered him down with a golden chain
And with every link, I'd cry his name
Now every time I hear Blue bark
He's treed a possum on Noah's Ark
Blue-oo-oo, good dog Blue

Now I will tell you just so you'll know
Ole Blue's gone where the good dogs go
When I get to heaven, I know what'll do
I'll grab my horn and blow for Blue
Blue-oo-oo, good dog Blue


Sunday, September 7, 2008


Scene from Pillowtalk with Doris Day and Rock Hudson
Kat, who is a regular reader of this blog, writer at BitchCraft, as well as the Chief Expert on Ginny Bates, has forwarded to me a marvelous article in this weekend's New York Times by Caitlin Gibson and Rachel Manteuffel titled "The Anti-Wedding". She stated "Myra will enjoy this." Myra did indeed, and so did I. Thus, I share it with you.

A couple of the opening paragraphs:

"We are convinced that there is no justification for wedding insanity. We feel qualified to make this judgment as single women who have never been married or engaged, and have never planned an event more complicated than happy hour. But we have seen what happens to some intelligent, strong women when confronted by the multibillion-dollar Wedding Industrial Complex: Those few unattractive tendencies, weaknesses generally kept under control -- bossiness, melodramatic romanticism, obsession with looks, agony over superficial details -- coalesce into a toxic distillate. What chance does anyone have against an industry that seduces the rampaging feminine id? The masses need to be liberated.

"What if . . . we become Anti-Wedding Planners? What if we find a couple who shares our opinion and lets us plan their unorthodox, fabulously cheap anti-wedding, located -- we dream -- in a bus depot or a Laundromat? We envision the glorious reversal of typical wedding cliches: the symbolic release of dirty city pigeons in lieu of doves, bouquets of dead leaves, a buffet of peanut butter or grilled-cheese sandwiches. The wedding itself would be a statement, a metaphorical loogie aimed right at the wispy veil of wedding-obsessed America. It must be anti-industry, but pro-romance, because real love means knowing, This is my soul mate, even if (s)he's wearing a garbage bag."

Of course, Myra's (and my objections) go beyond weddings to the definition and meaning of marriage itself. But, as they say about a busload of Christian Fundamentalists going off a cliff: It's a start.