Saturday, September 27, 2008


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

December 2013

After dinner was cleared, Carly pulled out poker chips and everyone began buying in. Myra touched Gillam's arm and said "Could I talk with you privately for a few minutes?"

His eyes were still less than friendly, but he said okay. Ginny looked at Myra expectantly and Myra waved her off. She and Gillam walked back to her study. She sat on the daybed, and he chose to take her chair.

Myra didn't hesitate. "We did that badly. Well, I'll speak for myself at the moment. We did want to tell everybody, but we should have talked to you and Jane privately first."

He nodded.

"And -- I realized we didn't make it clear, you don't have to choose either of the houses in question. You and Jane can pick your own place, of course, and get exactly the same help from us. We'd have made that offer whether or not the Limons' came on the market, now that you're beginning a family. Which changes everything."

He squared his shoulders. He'd always had such wide, lovely shoulders. "It does change everything, Mom. I'm -- a little overwhelmed." He cut himself off. She waited a minute, then said "I know. I remember hitting this stage with our first pregnancy, once the euphoria wore off."

He looked at her. "I feel inadequate. Not just scared, but like -- even in moments of clarity, I can't do everything I'm supposed to do."

"Well, I agree with you, that's clarity" said Myra, startling him. "It takes a shitload of resource to raise a kid; as Hillary would say, a village. You know, Allie and I were always tight, but when Margie came along and Allie stepped in to do more than the share of a friend, that's when we all became family. I felt bad sometimes about her taking on our kid, but we seriously needed her and, well, she fell in love with Margie. And then you. You have many more people than we did standing in the wings, waiting to come help. We're tribal animals, it's how we're supposed to function, no shame in it."

"But..." He picked at his cuticle. "I need you not take this as gender shit -- I'm the main breadwinner, I'm the one who will be working full-time once Poppyseed is born -- "

When Myra reacted to the name, he grinned and said "We've been calling it Poppyseed in lieu of 'it' or another name. It won't be his or her real name, don't worry."

"Poppyseed. I love it" said Myra.

"Anyhow, the fact is, I took this job at Nova because it's where I really wanted to work, that alternative setting with kids in need, and I adore it, Mama. But it pays crappy. I could earn 50% more at even another public school, maybe double at a private school. The fact is, my income alone is not enough to buy a house, handle the $5000 health care deductible that will hit us next year and every year after that, and all the rest I can't even anticipate. Plus we need a new car. I have enough left in my trust fund maybe for the car, after we pay all the tuition to finish our Masters' degrees. But then we'll have no savings. So...your house offer means taxes and upkeep, and anything else -- I won't be able to swing it."

"Yeah. You won't be financially independent, not completely. And if that matters to you more than having a house, I'll respect that, Gillam. I really will."

He leaned back, rubbing his forehead. "I can't imagine being so proud as to turn this down. Don't take that as a yes, it's not. But...Choosing to on being dependent on your and Mom, not just for all the meals and the vacations and of course babysitting, but the roof over my head..."

"I hear you. Perhaps you should talk with Allie, she had a very hard time accepting the trust fund I set up for her when I won the lottery. We were both scared it would alter our relationship and not for the better."

"Yeah. I could do that. Still, this is different. I've been dependent, now I'm in a different stage of life, and you've been working hard on not being a parent in the same way, how will this affect you?"

Myra smiled wanly. "It'll take work on my part, too. Already begun. But that's what family does. And, I should have thought of this earlier: I could do with you what I did with Allie. I, well, Ginny and I, could set up an independent trust to pay for the house and taxes, upkeep, put it in your and Jane's name and walk away. You'd have complete control over it. Wow, even to me that sounds a fuck of a lot better."

His shoulders relaxed. "God, yes. That's a completely different animal. Okay, can I take that to Jane as a revised offer?"

"Yes. I know Ginny will love it."

"Are you two really going to be able to afford this? I mean, it's been years since I sat in on a family accounting meeting, how has the economic downturn hurt you?"

"Astonishingly little. Rich people want to buy art, like they buy gold and luxury items. And Ginny's name is prestigious, so she sells among the hoi polloi. Our retirement fund is solid because, well, two things, really. One is that I insisted we invest according to what I saw as lesbian-feminist principles, which means no making money off basic human needs. So no real estate, no agribusiness, no energy except renewable energy, and no big pharma or health care. All of which have been where most of the losses occurred. Plus no military, of course. We were able to choose low-yield, stable, human-interest-oriented stocks and investments. And Ginny's contribution was to insist that we never make a financial decision where fear or worry was somehow in the mix. People don't think clearly when they are scared, and in particular the Republicans feed off fear. If we couldn't think about a possibility without some loss of our internal power -- and we'd gut check each other -- then we didn't go down that road." Myra felt proud of herself and Ginny. Their collaboration had been cross class lines, she thought.

"But all that microcredit loaning you've done, you and also the Feminist Fund -- isn't that exploiting human need?" asked Gillam.

"Our personal microcredit portfolio began with a set amount and we've never retrieved that investment, we've put all profit back into the kitty so our ability to loan has doubled and quadrupled, all going back to people who control their own decisions about what they do with the money. We never will close it out, either. If the poor in the world stop needing microloans, we'll give it away elsewhere. In fact, we do give away 10% of it each year, right before the end of the year -- you can help us decide where in the next couple of weeks, if you want. Same with the Fund. Oh, and there's an idea -- If we put you on the board of the Feminist Fund and give you an actual job, something that won't take more than a few hours a month, we could cover you with our health insurance. Which has a very low deductible and excellent coverage. I'll have to bring this to the board, but hell, you're about to play poker with most of them, I think you'll be voted in. If you want the responsibility, that is. And it wouldn't kick in until after the first of the year, but it would certainly cover the birth."

Gillam stared at her. "There's no men on the board of the Feminist Fund."

"Will be now. We talked about it a long time ago, about how you'd probably be the first" said Myra. "And, if the others agree, I'd like to ask Carly and Margie as well."

"I need more information about what my work duties would be" said Gillam slowly.

"Of course. I didn't mean to dump more on you tonight. Listen, we can go join the game if you want. I just wanted to give you a chance to yell at me and hear me say I know what's up for you. Not gender crap at all -- parent crap. Me and Ginny had some looneytone blow-outs during her first pregnancy, sometime we'll tell you and Jane how nutty we got."

"Was Mama, how shall I say it, hormonal?"

"You have no idea. And it got worse after the birth. But I'll be there for you, don't worry" said Myra.

"Easy for you to say" muttered Gillam, standing. "Let's go play seven card stud. Is there beer in the store room fridge? I want a beer."

"Yes, Grolsch which doesn't bother Ginny as much because she gets to use the bottles afterward for salad dressings. Offer some to Carly and Eric, too."

He stopped to hug her. "The Limons' place, that was Mom's idea, wasn't it?"

"Yes. But I want it too, now."

"Jane has talked about how she'd decorate this house if it was hers, you know" he said in a whisper.

"Just don't paint over the mural in your room, that's all I ask. Everything else can go" said Myra.

"All right." When they returned to the dining room, Ginny looked at Myra sharply. Myra ignored the silent question and said "I need five bucks of chips, Carly."

"Coming up" he said with a grin. "I should initial 'em, because they'll all be mine by the end of the evening."

Over the next two weeks, Myra finished her holiday baking, got help decorating cookies, and sent out her usual Ginny-decorated tins. Ginny raced through two paintings, one of them an abstract that was based on Myra's PET scan. She named it "All Clear" and it was so gorgeously unidentifiable, Myra okayed it for sale. Jane and Gillam announced they would make a decision about houses on Gillam's birthday, and confirmed their decision to house-sit for Myra and Ginny while everyone else went to Lake Quinault Lodge. "Seeing what it's like without us in it" Ginny whispered to Myra.

The two of them squeezed in three more sessions with Nancy, and by the time they climbed into the far back of Edwina's car for the drive to the lodge the day after Christmas, Myra felt drained from processing. Ginny did not pack a wet carrier or canvas. Instead, she had a large watercolor block and a box of tube watercolors, plus a stack of books and magazines on house design ideas. She'd also scored copies of the Limon's original blueprints and had them reproduced a dozen times for "doodling on", she said.

Chris took the galleys of her dictionary on disk with her laptop, Sima had jewelry-making supplies, and both Allie and Edwina took work projects. Myra's book was on her laptop, but she packed a number of mysteries instead of any nonfiction. Carly and Eric brought fishing gear and joined the early morning trek to the lake each day. Myra slept until nearly dinner the first day, ate with everyone, and afterward opted out of Scrabble to sit near the fire and read. She went to bed with Ginny and fell asleep swiftly.

The next morning, she met up with Lois and sat with her, watching weaving and chatting for the first hour. As they both subsided into silence, Myra pulled out the Levenger Circa notebook Ginny had given her for Chanukah and began writing: Two poems, one after the other, then a silly rhyme which turned into the chatter of a little girl named Poppyseed talking about making bread with her Gramma. It was spare, funny, and not a voice Myra had ever heard come from inside herself. After lunch, she showed it to Ginny and Allie, who stared at one another wide-eyed. Allie said "I'll arm-wrassle you for it."

"I'll do the cover, I'm better with one-offs" said Ginny. "You do the story." Allie shook her hand.

"Just like that?" said Myra.

"It the most accomplished kid's thing you ever done" said Allie, her astonishment settling into a grin.

"Don't let them touch a line of it" said Ginny. She patted the chair next to her at the table and said "Would you like to daydream about energy usage and room arrangement?"

"I redecorate my own way" said Myra. "You go ahead. I'll say no when I need to. I got other fish to fry."

"Speaking of which" said Chris, who had been listening in, "You think that guy was pulling Carly's leg about the sturgeon?"

"His tackle was intended for something fuckin' huge" said Allie. "I know they can get to be ten feet long, easy, but I don't know about in this lake."

"There's a ten-foot fish out there?" said Ginny, diverted from her blueprints.

"They were claiming so" said Edwina.

"There's an ancient legend about a monster who used to live here. He was killed by a native man named Kwatee after the monster ate his brother. I wonder if the white boys have gotten that mixed up with somebody spotting a big chinook or something" said Chris.

"Lewis and Clark killed a ten-foot sturgeon, it's in their journals" offered Myra. "But I think that might have been on the Columbia."

Chris leaned over to Ginny and said in a soft voice "Can you make up a poster advertising a reward for the capture of a quote killer fish unquote? Say it's eaten dogs who've chased sticks into the lake and maybe attacked a person. Disguise your handwriting, and I'll post it by the cleaning dock."

Ginny began giggling. Allie said "Carly won't go out in his waders no more."

"Yes he will" Myra defended him. But she began giggling too and said "He'll wear a cup, though." When they all roared, Carly and Eric looked over at them suspiciously from their game of spades at a nearby table.

Myra took her notebook and current mystery to a giant soft chair sitting in a pool of light from the window. For the rest of the week, she read, wrote poems, watched weaving, and slept on Ginny's schedule. She didn't check e-mail or open her laptop once. One afternoon, she lay down on the couch where Allie was making sketches of Poppyseed and gently bickering with Ginny about skin tone, putting her head on Allie's thigh and dropping off within a minute. Allie woke her up an hour later, saying "I don't mind you drooling on my khakis but I gotta go take a whizz."

Ginny's dog-eating fish poster wound up in the local Sunday paper the day before they left. Lois had joined them for breakfast and brought a copy, saying "I suspect this stunt has your fingerprints on it." Ginny swore her to silence. That afternoon, Chris drove an hour to a small town where she bought an assortment of odds and ends at a convenience store to cover the purchase of a dog collar. She and Allie "mucked up" the collar to make it not look new any more, then wrote "Snowball" on the inside with indelible ink, sliced it jaggedly in two places with Allie's pocket-knife, and left it in the shallows next to the beach where people took their dogs for walks. Myra asked Lois to call them in Seattle if the collar got found and joined the news cycle.

Gillam's birthday fell on a Thursday that year, so they held his party on Friday. After he blew out his candles and cut cake for everyone, he said "We'll take the house. This one. But only in the form of a trust we manage ourselves. Alveisa is retiring but she recommended a guy we've hired as our financial adviser."

Everyone cheered. Jane waited a few minutes before she said to Ginny, "We're going to tear out the wall between your study and studio, make that one big family room again. Plus we're putting down carpeting and repainting all the walls in neutral shades."

Myra couldn't believe Ginny hadn't anticipated this, but clearly she had not. She didn't seem to be able to even move the muscles of her face. Gillam said blandly to Myra, "We'll want all our own appliances, too, so take whatever you want. As long as you're still determined to keep the stove, that is."

Ginny finally croaked out "What do you mean by neutral shades?"

Gillam said gently "I think of all people you know what that term means, Mama. Listen, we'd love to keep your roses out front and rhododendrons along the side -- is it possible for you to make cuttings, thin them each out and us share them that way?"

It was a sop, and Ginny accepted it. Myra knew she'd hear the blowback later. "Definitely" Ginny said. "We may have to move them for construction, I'm not sure what...else you have planned. But we'll deal with it. The Limon house will need a great deal of alteration, so we won't be out of here for months, you know."

"By May first, we're hoping" said Gillam.

"We'll do our best" said Myra. Sima proposed a toast, to "Fences and gates!" and they all clanked their glasses together.

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.


Friday, September 26, 2008


Aunt Penny and the half-moon hoe, at work in the field Boggy Creek Farm (Aunt Penny and the half-moon hoe, at work in the field Boggy Creek Farm)

From Carol Ann Sayle's News of Boggy Creek Farm:

September 25, 2008
Obituary of Aunt Penny Barrock

Aunt Penny, as she was known to the Friends of the Farm, died peacefully, at the age of six and one-half years old, 1 PM, Monday, September 22, 2008, at her home, the Hen House at Boggy Creek Farm, in Austin Texas. She is survived by her subordinates, Tootie J. Tootums and Hoppy J.Tootums, her nieces the twin Patty Wyandottes, and her servants and companions, Carol Ann, Larry, Cousin Claire, Andrea, and The Marias. She is predeceased by her mentor, Mrs. Elvira Bentley, who passed away in 2004.

Aunt Penny was a singular hen -- the most remarkable hen that Carol Ann has seen in a twenty-six year association with chickens.

Aunt Penny spent the first two months of her chickhood in a garage in a fancy neighborhood in Austin, but since she was deemed "illegal," due to antiquated subdivision rules, her servants brought her to the farm for adoption in March of 2002. There she lived in a tacky cage on the back porch of the farm house, and earned her keep by watching over the twin one-month old hellions, the Patty Wyandottes. Once the three were transferred to the Hen House, Aunt Penny quickly decided that she didn't like chickens. She instead favored the company of the farmers.

At a young age, she and her mentor Mrs. Bentley (the golden hen with the bent tail) went to work in the field each morning, accompanying Carol Ann and the half-moon hoe to dig up worms. r at least that was her assessment of any project's objective. Appetites sated, she and Mrs. Bentley would retire to the huge fig tree at the farm stand and watch further action from the shade. Anytime her servants walked by, Auntie would issue salutations, to which they would respond appropriately.

Aunt Penny was quite vocal, possessing, as do all superior chickens, over thirty vocalizations, many more than either dogs or cats. She carried on long conversations with Carol Ann daily. Hawks on high elicited a low-toned growl from her and a quick dust-raising scurry to the cover of trees, leaving Carol Ann to deal with any forthcoming atrocities. (She did not apologize, even in her final days, for this desertion.)

When Mrs. Bentley went to her reward, a victim of worms, Aunt Penny was elevated to the status of Head Hen. She was a wings-off executive of the Hen House, preferring to be in it only at perch time or for a spot of grain. She didn't like the competitiveness of the other hens at "afternoon treat time" or any other mealtime, much preferring to eat out. She enjoyed, for instance, lunching with the Marias who sat in the arbor under the shade of the climbing Old Blush rose. They were not competitive and indeed shared all kinds of interesting tidbits with Auntie.

She was a real fan of the farmstand and her beloved Friends of the Farm. They also seemed endeared of her and polite enough to hand out special treats such as bits of croissants and crumbles of tofu. Indeed, tofu was Auntie's favorite gourmet food. After a satisfying snack, Auntie could be found resting underneath the market tables, watching ankles pass by, or under the cashiers' tables. She just enjoyed being with humans.

She was, in her later years, a frequent visitor inside the farm house, occupying her own rocking chair (apparently willed to her by Larry's grandmother) and scouting the floor for any edible morsels. Even though she had to put up with rude comments from Larry, she learned to ignore him, as she did all rooster types.

Regarding roosters, Auntie absolutely detested the two she had known in the Hen House. Clumsy Buffy could be tolerated, but Rusty Roo, she decided, was an avian member of the Taliban. He was consistently rude and even brutal at times, since he considered Auntie's activities outside of the Hen House the behavior of an infidel. At times, Carol Ann would have to kick him off of Auntie or stand between him and her until she could get up on the perch. Auntie was not an infidel, just a career girl who found out at an early age that she had no maternal instincts.

The hens, however, deferred to Auntie as the Head Hen. Her sidekick, the bespectacled Tootie J. Tootums, following Mrs. Bentley's death, accompanied Auntie to work in the fields, and was known to be very respectful when Carol Ann uncovered a cut worm -- she always allowed Auntie first dibs. If it was a grub worm, however, Tootie and Carol Ann both knew that Auntie detested them, shaking her head briskly and negatively, so Carol Ann would toss them over to Tootie, who swallowed them whole.

Aunt Penny laid many fine, large brown eggs, usually preferring to lay them in special nests of her own choosing in the farm stand barn. She loved to pose very still for the half hour or so necessary to lay the egg, thus fooling folks into thinking she was a "stuffed hen." She'd tilt her head and they'd exclaim, "Oh! it's a real chicken!" Well, even though that was a tiny insult, as if she was one of those hens, she still enjoyed their surprise. Often she would allow children to watch her actually lay the egg. It was one of her gifts to the community.

At her death, Aunt Penny was shrouded in her signature organic cotton tshirt (featuring her comely figure) and entombed at the base of the graveyard pecan tree. Her grave is adjacent to Mrs. Bentley's, around the trunk from Tubby J.Tupelo's, and has a fine view of the farm house and the fields of her dreams.

Visitation is every Wednesday and every Saturday, 9 to 1. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to her favorite charity, The Green Corn Project, whose annual fundraiser tasting party every year at the farm (this year Sunday, October 26th) features leftovers saved for the hens.

Tootie J. Tootums, Boggy Creek Farm (Tootie J. Tootums, now head hen)

Her untimely departure (thanks to worms, just like Mrs. Bentley) at the still fertile middle age of six and a half years old, has left a huge hole in the heart of the farm. She will be missed by many -- but not by Rusty Roo.

[For more photos and stories of the hen house, go to the Boggy Creek Farm website.]


Thursday, September 25, 2008


U.S. Air Force Pararescueman Staff Sgt. Lopaka Mounts receives a hug from a resident during search and rescue operations after Hurricane Ike in Galveston, Texas September 13, 2008 (U.S. Air Force Pararescueman Staff Sgt. Lopaka Mounts, assigned to the 331st Air Expeditionary Group, receives a hug from a resident during search and rescue operations after Hurricane Ike in Galveston, Texas September 13, 2008; photos by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. James L. Harper Jr./Reuters)

Hurricane Ike resulted in deaths and/or disaster areas being declared in ten American states: Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas. With an important national election pending, those directly affected by Ike may be wondering how they are going to vote in November. Here's how to answer to your questions.

First, make sure you are, in fact, registered to vote. Go to Vote for Change and do a quick search. Be advised, however, that if your search information does not EXACTLY match how it is entered in your state's database, you may be incorrectly told (as I was) that you are not registered. If that occurs, check with your state's registrar directly.

If you are not registered, you can do so quickly at the above site. You can also find your polling location and where to vote early. I personally love voting absentee, available to anyone who is disabled, because it's a paper ballot and I know Diebold isn't erasing my enfranchisement.

Arkansas: Arkansas has not issued an advisory particular to post-Ike voting, but general information about registration and voting is available at this site from the Secretary of State Charlie Daniels.

Illinois: Illinois has not issued an advisory particular to post-Ike voting, but general information about registration and voting is available at State Board of Elections.

Indiana: Indiana has not issued an advisory particular to post-Ike voting, but general information about registration and voting is available at Secretary of State Todd Rokita. NOTE: It's important to remember Indiana has a new Voter ID law requiring a photo ID. Don't let this Republican maneuver keep you from voting -- use absentee voting by mail if necessary.

Kentucky: Kentucky has not issued an advisory particular to post-Ike voting, but general information about registration and voting is available at League of Women Voters, Kentucky or the State Board of Elections.

Louisiana: Louisiana's Election Division page of the Secretary of State Jay Dardenne states "Displaced voters may vote by mail, vote early in person at the registrar of voters office of their parish, or on election day at their precinct." In addition they report "Hurricanes Gustav and Ike and their after effects necessitated several changes in the fall elections cycle. The Sept. 6, 2008 closed congressional primary elections are postponed, as well as some municipal elections.:" For details about these changes, as well as specific information on voting, go to the above link.

Missouri: Missouri has not issued an advisory particular to post-Ike voting, but general information about registration and voting is available at Voter Information (including absentee voting) from Secretary of State Robin Carnahan.

Ohio: Ohio has not issued an advisory particular to post-Ike voting, but general information about registration and voting is available at Voter Services from Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner.

Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania has not issued an advisory particular to post-Ike voting, but general information about registration and voting is available at Votes PA the from Department of State.

Tennessee: Tennessee has not issued an advisory particular to post-Ike voting, but general information about registration and voting is available at Division of Elections.

Texas: Ann McGeehan, Director of Elections for the State of Texas, has issued a statement as to Election Procedures and Information Following Hurricane Ike. Please go to this site for COMPLETE and possibly updated information. The abridged version is:

Voters who have been displaced have several options for voting in the November election.
• Voter Registration and Residence. ...Our advice to people displaced by the storm is the same as to any other person—the voter is the one who decides what the voter considers to be home. If a voter relocated to another county before the storm and has decided to stay in their new county, they may register to vote in their new county. Voters in this situation must submit a new voter registration application in their new county of residence no later than October 6, 2008 in order to vote in the November election. However, if a person has been relocated due to the storm and is unsure when they can return to their home county, but intends to return, then that person can maintain their voter registration in their home county (or apply to register if not already registered).
• If a voter is able to return to their home, they will likely vote as usual in their county.
• A voter away from their county of residence may apply for a ballot by mail from their home county.
• Voters with specific questions may contact the Elections Division, toll-free at (800) 252-VOTE (8683) or visit our website for updated information.

UPDATE: A sharp commenter, Marshall, pointed out that alternative voting methods may be necessary for those who are being disenfranchised because their homes have been foreclosed upon. The same links above should help you get the information you need.

[Cross-posted at Group News Blog.]


Wednesday, September 24, 2008


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

December 2013

The following Friday morning, Myra was on eBay after breakfast, checking out the Fiesta Ware. None of their dishes needed replacing at the moment, but she was considering buying another of the deviled egg plates, this one in evergreen -- they used these servers creatively, for stuffed mushrooms and other canapes as well. She pulled up her list of Fiesta colors, current and retired, and counted them: Right now at 41. They had at least one dinner plate, dessert plate, salad bowl, dessert bowl, and soup bowl in each color, plus a dazzling array of serving dishes gathered over the years. A dozen pitchers in different colors, in constant use. Two dozen ramekins, three butter dishes, four carafes, eight pie plates, six teapots. Their sideboard with all these on display was one of Myra's favorite places in the house to rest her gaze.

Every member of the family had their "preferred" color, and setting the table meant automatically matching hue to who was going to sit there: Myra was original red, despite Ginny's comments about the uranium content and attempts to shift Myra to the newer scarlet. Ginny had originally been peacock, but when David had moved in and picked that color for himself, Ginny silently switched to the Bloomie's exclusive sapphire and stuck with it ever since. Chris went cinnabar, Sima liked the old forest green, and Allie had chosen rose until Margie got old enough to clamor for that shade, when Allie switched to the hard-to-find lilac. Gillam had been a turquoise boy, always. Carly wanted tangerine (or apricot, in a pinch). Edwina zeroed in on plum. Frances, on arrival, settled on sea mist, Jane went for persimmon, and Eric raised Ginny's eyebrows by asking for pearl gray. Myra wondered what the new baby would turn out to want. Nobody ever chose plain black or white, but she couldn't imagine a baby looking to those, either -- more likely, sunflower or the original green, those were new-to-this-world colors, she thought.

The desk phone rang and she saw it was Allie.

"Hey. I'm shopping for Fiesta Ware."

"That sideboard is gonna collapse under the weight one of these days. Listen, your PET scan is at 2:30 this afternoon, right?"

"Yeah, there was a last minute cancellation." Myra held the phone between her neck and shoulder while she made a bid on the egg plate.

"And Ginny's painting still?"

"Yes, but she insisted I remind her in time for her to clean up and go with me" said Myra.

"Well, I'm volunteering. I want to be there, too. Will they give you results right away?"

"Officially, no, but my doc said she'd come over and sit in the control room or whatever they call it while it's done, and if anything leaps out on screen, she'll tell me without making me wait. Ginny is going to want to go, whether you do or not, Al."

"That fine. I'm not able to put it from my mind."

Myra laughed. "Me neither. You wanna come here and eat lunch beforehand?"

"Sure. I'll bring mustard greens, we got some extra."

Myra went to the kitchen to make cornbread, which was mandatory with pot likker from greens as far as she was concerned. She cooked three pans of it, started a pot of pinto beans and cut up turkey filets for making chili -- not a typical shabbos dinner, but she was in the mood for chili tonight. She had this going in her slow cooker by the time Allie arrived. Allie braised the greens while Myra broiled a couple of pork chops and sliced non-Ginny-grown tomatoes.

"What Ginny having for protein?" asked Allie as they sat down.

"Cottage cheese, she always likes that with greens" said Myra. "Listen, Nancy called last night, she'd conferred with the Chinese herb guy and they agreed, they think I'm all clear. But I've got too much heat and I'm supposed to drink this terrible tea he concocted for me."

"You gonna keep seeing him? You other acupuncturist, she left town, right?"

"Yep. Went straight and moved to Montana. How come lesbians who give up on women always feel like they have to move to Montana or Wyoming to keep on the straight and narrow path?"

Allie chuckled. "I guess austere landscapes make a one outta three chance of having an orgasm more tolerable."

Allie seldom made jokes about sex. Myra laughed for a while, feeling increasingly glad Allie was going to accompany her. They talked over the pros and cons of Edwina retiring at the end of this school year until they were done eating. Myra walked back to roust Ginny from Painterland. Ginny ate while Allie had coffee and Myra changed clothes. Ginny showered and dressed in a hurry and they headed for the imaging center. In the car, Ginny said "I'm going to insist on a personal copy of your films for us to carry home."

"You want a second opinion somewhere?" asked Myra.

"Oh. Maybe, if there's any ambiguity. But mostly I want to use it for art. PET scan images are amazing colors" said Ginny.

"Private art, not for public consumption" warned Myra.

"Of course." Ginny's willingness to treat her diagnostic materials as art relaxed the final kinks in Myra's worry: if Ginny thought Myra was really in trouble, her mind would never have made this kind of connection.

They had perhaps sixty seconds after the test to confer with Myra's doctor, but she said emphatically "Not a thing except you have no meniscus left and your thumbs are seriously calcified. We'll talk about methotrexate when I see you in the office next week." Myra memorized the drug name to look up on the internet.

At home, Myra sent out text messages to everyone with the news. Ginny taped the PET scans to the glass wall in her studio and they all pored over them for several minutes before Ginny pulled off her pants and returned to her canvas. Allie decided to sit at Ginny's work table, borrowing Bristol board to work on a Seminole village sketch she couldn't get right. Myra made a chess pie and checked on her bid. Somebody in Brighton, Michigan had bumped up the price to more than the market rate. With a sigh, she said goodbye to the egg plate.

She turned to editing. Nika was coming for much of Sunday to help, and she wanted to have everything but the last two chapters ready for her publisher by the middle of next week. Half an hour later, Edwina arrived and Margie called almost simultaneously. Myra closed her folder and settled in on her daybed to talk with Margie for 20 minutes.

Prayers that night were especially fervent. As they set the table afterward, Gillam asked her quietly "Is chili the only main dish?"

"Yes, but it's turkey -- "

"I know. It's just that really spicy stuff is giving Jane heartburn right now. Okay if I make her something else? Could I use this avocado for an omelet?"

"Oh, Gillam, I'm sorry, of course. I can do -- "

"No, I want to cook it for her." The smile on his face was so proud, it caught at her throat. He served the three-egg omelet on Jane's persimmon plate with a flourish, flanked by salad and buttery cornbread. Jane pulled him down for a kiss and they exchanged brief whispers.

As Carly and Eric cleared and Edwina cut pie, giving Allie only a sliver but piling figs and dates beside it as solace, Myra lugged in two of Ginny's extra easels and set them up beside Ginny's chair.

"What's this, paintings we haven't seen?" asked Sima. Ginny grinned at her, a daub of magenta making one corner of her mouth look rakishly extended.

"No. It's a proposition we've been saving until we felt confident of Myra's health" she replied. Her foamboard and sketches were covered with towels as she placed them on the easels. "You want to do the presentation?" she asked Myra.

Myra sat down in her own chair at the other end of the table. "Nope. I'll jump in later, you do the initial honors" she said with a smile.

The instant Ginny mentioned that the Limons' house was coming on the market, Chris turned to look at Gillam. Gillam's face had a gathering scowl. Allie looked at Myra with raised eyebrows. Ginny was showing less exuberance than she had previously. She uncovered the floor plans for the house as it looked now, leaving her other sketches covered as she came to a halt without mentioning the possibility of Jane and Gillam taking this house instead of the Limons'.

Myra said to Gillam "So, yes, we're being presumptive and putting you on the spot, when you had specifically told us we cannot buy you a house. However, with a child on the way, if I were in your shoes I'd be at least mildly interested. Here's the pike lurking at the bottom of the pond: If you'd rather us give you and Jane this house, instead of the other larger, never-lived-in-by-any-of-us dwelling, we're open to that possibility."

Edwina gasped and Chris gave a hoot of laughter. Carly, interestingly, had a small grin -- he wasn't feeling left out, then, which relieved Myra. Jane startled everyone by standing up suddenly.

"Dammit, I have to pee. Don't say a word until I get back, please" she said, bustling to the nearest bathroom. Gillam reached his hand out for the sketches, pushed aside his unfinished pie, and Ginny passed them to him. When Jane returned, she leaned over his shoulder, studying the house plans. His scowl never lessened. After a couple of minutes, he pointed to covered foamboard on the easel. "What's that, then? Joint cemetery plots?"

Everybody but Ginny, Myra and Gillam laughed now. Ginny pulled back the towel and said "If we take that house, it's a design of what we'd do with it."

Gillam's expression now did shift, to disbelief. Jane, however, said with interest "Oh, hand them over, I want to see." She began asking questions and Ginny could not resist diving into discussion of increased solar panels, moving walls and the need for an elevator. Gillam looked at Myra, finally, his brown eyes almost black, as he said "I can't believe you'd move out of this house."

"I didn't want to at first. But for you to live here..." She kept her tone neutral.

"And what about Margie?" His scowl was returning.

"We talked to her. She said she'd fight you for it if she lived here, but otherwise, she thinks you and Jane deserve it" said Myra. Gillam's face slid back into disbelief. Allie seemed to be unable to speak.

Chris said "What about your garden?"

"You mean if we move into the Limons'? We'll start a new garden there, but not dump this one on Jane and Gillam without help" said Ginny. Her probable definition of "help" deepened Carly's grin.

Gillam didn't look Ginny's way, his gaze was locked on Myra. "What's the market value of this house, right now?" he asked bluntly.

"We expect it to decrease a little this year, again, as things slowly return to sanity, but -- 1 point 2 million." Myra didn't flinch.

"And the Limons?"

"More than that. They have more square footage."

"What did you pay here last year in taxes?" Everyone else at the table was watching her and Gillam now.

"Almost twenty grand."

"My god!" exclaimed Jane. "That's more than our rent!"

"We'd have to help you" began Ginny. "And of course we'd pay for any renovation you wanted done here, or the other place..."

"How can you transfer that much property without paying gift taxes on it? Or us getting slammed with a gift tax?" cut in Gillam.

Myra said levelly "I don't know yet. Rich people have loopholes that let us get away with chicanery. We're not interested in saddling you with debt, if that's what you're implying."

Gillam pointed to the fence between the two yards. "And this is a gate, I gather."

"Up to you" said Myra. "We will have one string attached, which is that if you decide to sell either place, we want the right of first refusal."

Jane said to Ginny, "What if our renovations are extensive?" Ginny's eager expression slipped a notch but she said gamely "Whatever you decide is right for you."

Gillam pushed all the drawings in Jane's direction and took another bite of pie. "We'll have to talk. Me and Jane. What if you do turn out to have cancer, after all?"

The coldness of his voice shocked everyone but Myra. She knew her son, knew what he was being slammed with right now.

"If I'm fighting death, that will take precedence over real estate transactions" she said calmly. His eyes rested on her again as he chewed. After a minute, he said "Can I have that Empire stove?"

"Absolutely not" she said instantly. A smile flickered at the corners of his mouth. He said again "We'll talk. We'll get back to you when we're ready."

"Fair enough" said Myra. "There's a new Fiesta Ware shade out, by the way, that they're calling deep turquoise, but it looks more teal to my untrained eye."

He tapped his fork on his plate and said "This old color is right for me."

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.
Current Fiesta Ware colors


Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?, by NY Street Artist TMNK [Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?, by NY Street Artist TMNK™ (The Me Nobody Knows)]

Bill Clinton was on Letterman last night, mostly talking about the Clinton Global Initiative and explaining the current economic crisis. I wish he'd done more to assign blame, but that's an emotional reaction on my part.

In fact, here's my entirely emotional, working class reaction to the economic hooha: Ya'll are JUST NOW figuring out things are in the crapper? As usual, awareness of reality starts at the bottom and works it way up to the rarified air of the so-called "leaders". And thinkers. You know what I'd like to see? NO MORE WHITE MEN IN SUITS TALKING GRAVELY ABOUT THE ECONOMY. I've had it up to here on my fat red neck.

Furthermore, if I go to Walgreen's and steal a package of batteries, and the alarm goes off at the door, here's what happens: I get questioned, probably charged, and I don't get to keep the batteries. If I get charged, I get fined or do time. The penalty will depend on my looks (if I'm non-white, I do time; if I'm white and female and look poor/fat, I do time; etc.)

So what I want to see FIRST, before anything else, is the homes, condos, cars, boats, and pensions of every single fucker who has headed up banks and investment firms SEIZED and sold, with that money applied to the debt they've run up. Then they get fined on top of that, and their asses get FIRED. As Clinton said about the economic crisis last night, he's interested in seeing someone apply gaming theory to the situation, because there's no way things could get worse so any action will lead to improvement. If that's true, then ANYBODY hired in place of the alleged experts will make things better. Let's give it a try, shall we?

The penalty for greed at the expense of others (and that sums up the past eight years in a nutshell) needs to be deprivation on an epic scale for those who indulged themselves.

Okay, back to Bill: What I've been most thinking about is his assessment of how the Presidential race will come down to personality, not issues. How the Republicans want to keep it on that level, because they've won with idiots several times in a row now and it's all they have left. (That last sentence is my paraphrase.) And with the current ADD, so-you-think-you-can-raise-a-baby-while-dancing-to-don't-forget-the-lyrics mindset of the populace, perhaps they are right, perhaps nobody can win running on intelligence any more.

But that's okay, because we can win on personality, too.

There's been a lot of angst about the race gap in polls of voters, that there's a certain percentage of white voters who will never cast a ballot for a non-white. Yep, I'm sure that's true as it sits today. Just like there's a certain percentage who will never vote for a woman, or never vote for a non-Christian -- and I'll bet those numbers are comparable or even higher. But people who know they won't vote for a black man, who can answer a poll about it honestly, well, they aren't going to vote for our side anyhow. Whether we run a black guy or not, we're the party who acknowledges the reality of racism and at least makes noises about addressing it, so we're not the choice of someone for whom maintaining racism makes sense.

It's the other folks, the white people who believe they aren't racist, who are the voters we need to care about. And that's most of us. But we have some real advantages to doing this work, winning the hearts as well as the minds of white racists who don't believe they are racists.

Here's the skinny: Nobody is born a racist. (Cue music from South Pacific....) We learn it, from the people we love and trust the most, who are teaching us the nature of the world. We resist as long as we can, in every way we can, until it overwhelms us in spite of our best efforts.

People who have given up fighting racism, who openly admit they hate blacks, for instance, are developmentally still at a level where they dare not comprehend their parents and church and ancestors are damaged liars. They can't bear facing it; better to just give in to becoming like mom and dad.

The rest of us are, on some level, willing to admit the pars were not perfect, not right about everything or maybe even most things. We try to admire Thomas Jefferson's vision and ignore his raping slave women. We admit to some problems, but always need that "but" in there, that America wasn't COMPLETELY based on lies and hate and theft. And because we need a loophole for the myth, it's easy to squeeze our own personal racism through the sphincter as well.

Still, it's exhausting. It's exhausting either way we go, frankly.

For those who choose not to fight internal racism on any level, they have to stay mad. Mad covers up the fear. It also shortens life spans. I mean yeah, depression kills, but not as fast as cardiac disease. Being chronically angry and hostile is a coronary risk factor that ranks right up there with smoking and lack of exercise. On some scales, it's worse than having high cholesterol. It plays hob with our adrenaline systems and we wear out fast, like an engine with the timing set too high.

And being mad in a public way requires continual escalation to keep people in the game. That's why right wing radio gets worse every year, more overt, more dangerous: It's the only way they can keep people from numbing out, from losing listeners. It's like pornography or junk food: Once you give up on human reality, you have to keep feeding the addiction of substitute reality.

For those of us who do admit to doubt, to fear, to grief, even, we're also looking for a high: The high of truth. The relief of responsibility and power. The blood-surging thrill of community and connection.

But we have shitty role models for how to reach those planes of existence. The prevailing Christian model says we must abase ourselves in repentance, surrender to complete reconfiguration and never look back. This doesn't work for most people who are not either homeless, in prison, or running from facing what their parents told them. New Age approaches can be similarly based on katabatic winds of redemption and renewal.

In most instances, however, real change is gradual, sloppy, shifts back and forth like a smoker trying to quit, and arises almost entirely from a one-on-one connection with another human being. We are hard-wired to change when we are trusted and believed in, not when we are shamed and vilified. Go figure, huh?

I believe the current level of polarization in this country, a divide constantly stoked by the systems of oppression because it prevents meaningful change, is comparable to the Israeli/Palestinian or Catholic/Protestant Ireland conflict in every regard except the use of car bombs. (If you don't count Timothy McVeigh.) It's that serious. And overcoming it will mean abandoning military solutions, eliminationist rhetoric, and, especially, "venting" our "perceptions" about one another. Venting means you dump your gases into another environment temporarily, but you wind up breathing it back in eventually and you simply piss off more people in the process.

In my lifetime, I've seen racism go from almost universal public expression to the current state where accusations of it float around in dispute and some overt forms of it are condemned as unacceptably to "polite society". This doesn't mean it has actually diminished, necessarily, only that some of the racist terms and ideas I heard on TV and radio as a child are not now on mainstream channels. It's gone underground. And part of the cover-up has involved academic theories such as "privilege", which do little to help the average white person actually undo the lies of racism: Guilt is not cathartic and does not engage useful parts of the brain. In too many cases, "owning our privilege" is Covermark instead of exfoliating.

Let's just admit, our entire culture and all the systems it has created are white supremacist. The degree may vary, and that's important to quantify on a strategic level, but we're all in the belly of the beast. "Privilege" is not going to determine who lives in clean air, because none of us do.

Admitting racism is much harder, and much more illuminating, than admitting "privilege". I believe part of the reason why Obama has won over so many guilty white progressives is because he doesn't demand they admit their own racism -- they get to blame others for that. "At least I'm not like those people in Mississippi", they think with self-congratulation. Forgetting, of course, that Mississippi was the birthplace of the Civil Rights movement because of its brilliant and powerful African-American population, almost 40% of the state -- but that doesn't count as the "real" picture of a Mississipian.

We are at the next step in this campaign, now. We are being called on to build bridges across new divides -- or, more accurately, as Barbara Love (an African-American activist) once said, the bridges between us and every other human being already exist. We don't have to do the hard labor of building them, we only need to clear off the debris which has rendered them temporarily unusable.

It's not merely about race, of course. You can't discuss race without factoring in class, and you can't discuss class without factoring in gender. They are all expressed in different ways but with equal impact in the long term. So, today's "Obama or Else" assignment is to literally talk to another human being about who you are, what you believe, and, much more importantly, listen to them in turn. is making it easy for us. Last Sunday, they hosted "Call for Change" parties which resulted in almost HALF A MILLION phone calls recruiting new volunteers for Obama. My friend Liza in Burlington, Vermont was one of them. On Monday we had an exhilirating conversation where she described what it was like to talk with people in Lake Jackson, Florida. I was very moved, second-hand, by what she experienced. These parties will be occurring again this coming weekend, and MoveOn is looking for people to host them as well as participate. Click here to get started: Call For Change Parties.

Whether or not you garner a single new vote for Obama, you will have made a human connection which raises the energy and pushes into the ravine detritus from the bridge we are all ravenous to see open to traffic in both directions. Undoing racism involves action, first and last. Your ancestors are cheering you on, whoever they were, believe me. And please come back here to share with us what it felt like, whatever you did.

[About the graphic above: NY Street Artist TMNK™ (The Me Nobody Knows) has this text about the painting at his Flickr site:

In Stanley Kramer's 1967 movie "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?", a whirlwind romance by an interracial couple forced their families to confront their attitudes about race. The male love interest, and lead was a young NEGRO played by Sydney Portier. Matters were only further complicated by the fact that this was no stereotypical NEGRO. Smart, accomplished, ARTICULATE, polite, and sophisticated.

Well here we are some 40+ years later, and guess who may be coming to dinner?

Yep, another smart, accomplished, ARTICULATE, polite, and sophisticated Negro, accept today they're called Black.

It seems America is in the midst of filming an updated version of that cinematic classic starring Barack Obama. This time around , however, the love interest is not a "white woman", it's THE WHITE HOUSE! And just like the parents in 1967, America is being forced to confront it's racial attitudes (the one's it supposedly doesn't have).

You think Tilly had a fit when Sydney Portier's character wanted to marry the sweet little white girl she had helped raise. Well Tilly honey, will likely piss in her panties when she sees who's at the front door of the white house.

Guess who's coming to dinner now Tilly? "Hi, my name is Barack Obama."

H/t to Liza Cowan for her post Picture the Future: Obama Art Part 3 which introduced me to TMNK. Cross-posted at Group News Blog



Latkes with applesauce and sour cream
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.

Early December 2013

Two days later, Margie arrived for a belated Hanukkah celebration. Myra was at Pike, getting a last minute load of potatoes because they were eating everything that came out of the garden as fast as they could dig it out. When she got home, Ginny had pulled out the sour cream she had started the night before and it sat in a bowl on the counter, looking perfectly incubated. Ginny, however, was the dining table with Margie, engrossed in going over the sketches of the Limons' house.

Ginny smiled at her apologetically and said "I couldn't wait. Margie brought up a question about their apartment and, well, I just couldn't wait."

Myra felt a little irked. She said "Don't go any further. I'm starting the turkey to roast and then I can join you." Margie got up to help her, and Ginny went to the back yard to get onions and parsley.

As they all settled back at the side of the table, Ginny propping up her foamboards on the salt and pepper bowls, Margie said to Myra "She gave me veto power."

"What do you mean?" said Myra, startled.

"I told her if she really doesn't want us to offer them this house, she can ask us not to" said Ginny.

Myra leaned back against her chair, feeling nothing but disbelief for a few seconds. Margie's face was now wary, and Ginny's expression was bland.

"You had no right" Myra finally said. "I only agreed to the possibility of offering Jane and Gillam this house yesterday afternoon in our session with Nancy, and here you are charging ahead -- "

"I took you at your word, how much post-decision time do I need to give you?" interrupted Ginny.

Myra stood up, saying as levelly as she could manage, "You know, this is one of those times when I wonder who I'd be if I wasn't partnered up to my neck in concrete." She strode into the kitchen.

"Where the fuck are you -- "

"I haven't had lunch, I'm making something to eat" Myra snarled over her shoulder. She took leftover brisket from the refrigerator, and began slathering two slices of bread with thick mayonnaise. No lettuce, no veggies of any kind. She cut her sandwich Mary Poppins, opened a Coke, and returned to the table with her plate. No one had spoken a word in two minutes.

Myra took a big bite, mayonnaise squeezing out the sides onto her fingers. She licked it off slowly, knowing how this would disgust Ginny. She took a drag of Coke, then said to Margie "Listen. Of course if you would be hurt enough by this house going to your brother to speak up about it, I'm not going to do that to you. To either of you. You need each other, in your elder years you and Gillam will be the family of origin you have left. I know how important that is, even if you don't yet."

"I do, Mama. More and more, I do. And -- well, I can't pretend that the idea of not having this house as a sanctuary, as the gathering place for us all, doesn't bother me. It will be a loss, no matter how hospitable he and Jane are. But I'm already feeling a loss,'s the people that matter. It's the faces who turn to see me come in the door, not the door itself. I would be happy to see him have this as the ground beneath his feet. If I lived in Seattle, I'd fight him for it, but..."

Myra wiped her hand on her napkin before reaching to close it over Margie's. She was very moved. Of course, Margie had had half an hour to get used to the idea, more than Myra had been offered.

'Well, then, Marjorie Rose, I'm going to ask you to never tell Gillam we offered you the veto. I know the temptation will come up in you to smack him with it, when you get insecure, and I'm asking you to make sure that doesn't happen. And if that means you can't tell Frances either, then I'm asking that as well. We are obligated, as parents, to not give you two ammunition for competition, and Ginny's stupidity today is not my choice. Can you understand that?" Myra realized she was furious. Her other hand, around her Coke, was trembling.

"If you two need to talk privately -- " began Margie.

"Nope, you're in it this deep, might as well stick around" said Myra. She thought Margie's presence might keep her from saying something she would regret in short order. She took another bite of sandwich, waiting to see where Ginny went.

She didn't have to wait long. Ginny said "I want you to apologize, for that partnered up to your neck in concrete crack."

"Apologize for what? For feeling taken for granted, for unreasonably pushed? Or for being honest about it?" She and Ginny glared at each other.

"You just said you agreed with my perspective -- "

Myra cut her off. "But you didn't know that. You didn't give me any chance to talk it over with you in advance, you barreled ahead with your fucking agenda. What is it about this house shit, Ginny? Are you so bored you have to do a geography to deal with something lacking in your life? Redoing a new house is so exciting you can ignore me in the process? Or is it that you bought this house in the first place without me, and I'm still butt ignorant about real estate, the ignorance of my class, so I don't really deserve an equal say in the disposition of property?"

Ginny was seriously offended. In her way, though, she also heard the subtext of what Myra was saying, and stopped to think, Myra could see it on her face. And that got through Myra's rage. It always did. She took a deep breath and another drink of Coke.

"Wow" said Margie softly. "Never occurred to me."

"Live and learn" said Myra, a little more shortly than she would have wished. "And, Ginny, about the apology -- have you never have moments of wishing you weren't partnered, of noticing it felt confining?"

Ginny looked at her steadily. "Honestly, I don't think I have."

"Huh. Well, let's take that back to Nancy along with the other issues we just raked open here. Because that smells like a power imbalance to me." Myra knew how brutal she could be when she was mad and articulate at the same time, but at the moment, she didn't care. A flicker of uncertainty crossed Ginny's face for the first time.

Margie said "This may be bad timing on my part --" Knowing Margie, it almost certainly was -- "but, Mama, when I asked you if you ever thought maybe you'd picked the wrong partner...Doesn't what you just said negate what you told me?"

Myra was finishing her sandwich and swallowed first. "No. I never have doubts about the partner I chose. I sometimes have doubts about being partnered, as a state of being. But not about Ginny. Even when she's an asswipe." Ginny let out a burst of laughter, and Myra had to grin. Margie looked pleased with herself, as if she had negotiated the point of connection.

Myra stood up. "I need to start grating potatoes. Margie, if you're done with Architectural Digest here, you can pull out my baked doughnut recipe and begin on those."

"I'll do it with you" Ginny said, gathering her sketches. "And I'll call Nancy to see if we can get in sooner than in ten days."

"Great idea" said Myra.

Two hours later, a massive bowl of latke batter sat in the fridge waiting to be fried for dinner, Ginny had fresh applesauce simmering in a pot with an aroma that blended intoxicatingly with roast turkey, and Margie was brewing herself a cup of coffee to "counteract" all the doughnuts she'd eaten. Myra was walking by the breakfast bar to go dust the living room when the phone rang and she picked it up.

"Hey, Nancy, thanks for calling back...Yep, little blaze-up today. What did she tell you?..." Myra's eyebrows went up appreciatively and she glanced at Ginny, who was openly eavesdropping. "Well, that's a pretty fair description...Sure, I got time..."

Myra sat down on a stool and leaned forward with her hand cupped over her forehead, listening for a couple of minutes. Finally she said "Okay, I can see that...Yeah, hang on." She said to Margie "What time you leaving tomorrow?"

"By ten a.m." said Margie. Myra said to Ginny "She can see us at noon sharp, that good with you?"

When Ginny nodded, Myra said in to the phone "We're on. What about those supplements? Oh...Okay, give me his phone number, I'll make an appointment..." There was another long silence and Myra's face went very still. "All right, I will. Yes, I promise. And I'll tell her. I swear. See you tomorrow, then."

Ginny turned off her applesauce and crossed her arms over her chest, waiting. Myra appeared to be organizing her words. She began slowly.

"About the house stuff...Nancy said it's common for people making a big change in their world view or major relationship to want to alter their physical environment as well, and it's not a cop-out if they are actually doing the emotional and spiritual work concurrently. Which she says there is no doubt about either one of us doing. Or Jane and Gillam." Myra paused and swallowed. "Plus...She said how much I was moved around as a kid and the fact that my family never owned where we lived, except for trailers which are by definition impermanent and fragile, will of course have made me less able to be flexible about choosing what I might really need in the way of environmental evolution. She mentioned I have not changed the orientation of my desk, for instance, in 25 years. She didn't discount the possibility that classism is playing a role in some of Ginny's attitude, but it's probably playing just as much of a role in my own..." Myra swallowed again. "And -- whether we move to another house or stay here, she recommends we feng shui the shit out of the place and make some changes not driven by either art or practicality. I quote her directly."

Ginny said softly "I continue to be amazed at what you can hear from her and nobody else."

"Well, that's true of everybody I trust, including you, Ginny Bates" said Myra. "Anyhow, she said it's great, as usual, that it's bubbled up so we can work on it."

Margie laughed. "Bubbled up as in Mount St. Helen's, more like it."

Ginny had not relaxed, however. "What else did she say? That's not what you promised to tell me, is it?"

Myra looked directly at her. "She talked to her own Chinese herbalist, and he thinks it would be better if he examined me himself for the joint issues, so I'm going to see when I can get on his schedule" she said slowly. "But he reminded her -- reminded me, too -- that....that uterine cancer, when it recurs, tends to show up as bone metastases. So he wants me to go to my doctor and have a full body scan as soon as possible."

Ginny was around the breakfast bar and leaning against Myra before Margie could take it in. "Son of a fucking bitch" Myra said under her breath, turning to push her face against Ginny's shoulder. "Tell me this isn't what my freakout was about a week ago."

Ginny lifted Myra's face to hers and said "I can't tell you that. But if it was, it's because you have an early warning system that saved you once and will save you again. I'm not letting you go."

They wrapped around each other silently. After a minute, Margie came and was pulled into their embrace. She was fighting crying, Myra could tell.

"Let it loose, baby girl" Myra whispered. "We'll all take turns, but you get to go first."

Margie opened her mouth wide and gave a cry of anguish. "Oh, god, no, not this!"

I wish god listened in ways we understood thought Myra.

"Mama, when I was little and you'd talk about how much you missed your mother, sometimes I'd make fun of you behind your back" choked out Margie. Not so much behind my back, thought Myra. "I was such a brat, I want a chance to make it up to you!"

"You have nothing to make up, Margie, nothing. You were and are the daughter of my dreams, that's how it works when it's basheert, and you are basheert for me" said Myra.

Half an hour later, with faces dried, Myra said "Of course, if you really do want to make things up to me, I can't find anyone who has the time to see the newest James Bond movie with me..."

Margie burst into wild laughter. "You know what? I'm taking an extra day off, work will understand. We'll do a matinee after your Nancy session tomorrow."

Myra face lit up. "Really?"

"And let's get your appointments made with the herbalist and our doctor" said Ginny. "We need to have those in place before Gillam and Allie get here, you know how they panic until it's clear what the next step should be."

"Neither one of them actually ever panics, per se" mused Myra. "But yeah. I'll go to my desk and make the calls. It's ten minutes early, but that turkey smells done, will you check on it?" She picked up a doughnut on her way to her study.

© 2008 Maggie Jochild



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 22, 2008


Shackle the lion LOLLion concept by little gator (LOLLion concept by little gator)

I watched ten minutes of Inside Edition today (first time in my life) because they promised video of Shackle the lioness who rode out Hurricane Ike on the near-epicenter of Bolivar Peninsula in the Crystal Beach First Baptist Church. Turns out, the lion AND the tiger both belonged to the same guy, Mike Kujawa. He has a sort of home-grown zoo there, which in addition to the felines also once had goats and an emu. When it came time to evacuate, Mike knew he could not get both lion and tiger into the same vehicle -- they're not buddies. Mike had raised Shackle since she was a cub and she was human-friendly in a way the tiger (also a female) was not, so he let the tiger loose from her cage to keep her from drowning, but left her inside a fairly spacious enclosure. He and Shackle hit the road, but were unable to leave because of early flooding from the surge before Ike arrived.

Tigers are good swimmers and this one survived the storm just fine. As soon as the blow was over, Mike let authorities know about his situation with both big cats and requested help with moving the tiger-- who, in the meantime, was being fed and was definitely not roaming the Peninsula, as news sources had reported. According to a "settings things straight" article from the Beaumont Examiner Online, "Dr. Sarah Matak is the local veterinarian in Winnie, the nearest town on the mainland. She was contacted by officials who requested she tranquilize the tiger so it could be moved to safety. She in turn called Carl Griffith, the former Jefferson County Sheriff and Judge who owns an exotic game ranch down the road.

"Conditions in the storm-ravaged community had deteriorated by the time Matak and Griffith arrived in Crystal Beach on Wednesday, Sept. 17, four days after Ike hit. 'They had been feeding it, but he was a very aggressive and angry cat,' said Griffith. 'There were only two choices. It was either put it to sleep or they were going to have to kill it.'

Tiger sedated for transport from Bolivar Peninsula on 17 September 2008 (Tiger sedated for transport from Bolivar Peninsula on 17 September 2008, photo from Beaumont Examiner Online)

"Accompanied by Texas Game Wardens, Griffith and Matak went to Kujawa’s animal house. The former sheriff and two others cautiously approached the tiger’s enclosure in an attempt to avoid agitating the animal. 'That’s the biggest problem with darting animals,' said Griffith. 'As long as you don’t get them excited, the adrenaline doesn’t start pumping. He went down fairly easily; we got a dart in him and got another dart in him.' (sic -- again, it was a female tiger). Matak said the tiger was transported to an animal refuge facility near Somerville in Central Texas."

It seems likely to me that Galveston County's Judge Jim Yarbrough led reporters astray deliberately as to the danger from the tiger, not to make a good story but to discourage unwanted visitors to Bolivar Peninsula. I bet it worked, too.

The Inside Edition video revealed how very large Shackle the lioness is -- at 400 pounds, she looked giant next to Mike Kujawa, a well-built man. (The tiger was also 400 pounds.) He said they spent the night of the hurricane on an air mattress on the altar, as shown in photos, "cuddled up and hanging onto each other". The neighbors who brought Mike and Shackle into the church for safety elected to spend the night in a balcony above the altar, from which vantage point all the news photos appear to have been made as well. During the video, Shackle took exception to the camera at one point and began growling, starting to gather herself up. Mike said genially "Let it go" and she settled back down. A minute later, he turned to her and said in the tone we use with small dogs, "Gimme a kiss." She obligingly licked his cheek.

I can't even get that kind of sugar from my 7 lb. house cat, Dinah.

And, as the article soberly concludes, this "may be the only good news coming out of Crystal Beach anytime soon...On his trip to Crystal Beach to tranquilize a tiger, Griffith got a troubling glimpse of what the recovery to come might reveal. 'I saw a number of new vehicles that were in the debris, which led me to believe there were probably many people still there when the storm hit,' he said with a weary shake of his head. 'I do not believe too many people could have survived that storm.'

"The clear implication from this long-time lawman and public official was that it was unlikely people would leave late-model cars and trucks in the path of a destructive storm they felt compelled to flee."



Sushi, photo by David Rehner
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.

Early December 2013

The following Wednesday, when Allie came over for her evening with Ginny, she and Edwina discovered Ginny squatting in the rose bed when they came up the path.

"That rust back?" asked Edwina.

"No, I'm pulling garlic" said Ginny. "Plus we've both been on a roll today so no cooking got done. I've got an order for Japanese food coming and I thought I'd catch the delivery person out here. Nice to have you eating with us, 'wina."

"I'm hoping to sit in with you and Allie as well" said Edwina. "She's getting offers to pre-publish sections of her next book in one print periodical and one online magazine, and I want to be part of that discussion. Mostly curiosity on my part."

"Great" said Ginny. She stood up with a sheaf of garlic stalks and globes in her grip and handed them to Allie, saying "I need to look in the back corner before we go in."

"So Myra's glued to her desk?" said Allie.

"For the time being. But right before I came out here, she put on Linda Ronstadt. Once she hears 'Desperado', she'll come looking for me" said Ginny.

Allie laughed. "She still think that her theme song?"

"She's got several theme songs, but yeah, she acts like that one was written for her directly" said Ginny, her voice muffled as she bent over, her back toward them. She pulled several stalks, stood again and threaded her way to the sidewalk. "It makes her some weird combination of sentimental and clingy, you know, like she only came in from riding fences at the last minute and I'm her schoolmarm waiting in the cabin or some such. Predictable as clockwork. But at least it's better than when she listens to The Talking Heads -- she always gets snotty and distant after half an hour of their songs."

Allie was still laughing when they went in. Ginny set one bulb on the cutting board to clean and put in the fridge, and the rest she began typing into a bunch with string from the kitchen drawer. Allie and Edwina walked back to say hi to Myra, who was singing at the top of her lungs "Well you put me through some changes, yeah, kinda like a Waring blender". Myra followed them back to the kitchen and wrapped herself around Ginny, kissing her neck and saying "Mm, you smell like garlic and roses both. Kinda like a Renaissance vampire hunter." Her tone was gooey.

Ginny grinned at Edwina over Myra's shoulder as she said to Myra "There's the doorbell, dreamboat, will you go pay them and get our food?"

Ginny scrubbed her hands while Edwina put out drinks and Allie set the table. As they sat down and began passing cartons, Allie said "I had a lunchtime chat with Margie today. She called me from her job. I think she was trying to pump me about how you two are reacting to Gillam and Jane's pregnancy."

"Tell her to call us directly, I'm not keeping anything from her" said Ginny, taking Myra's share of the seaweed salad as well as her own.

"That brown sauce is for me" said Myra, taking a small container from Ginny. "And if you're going to bogart my tempura, start with the eggplant, that's my least favorite." She faced Allie and said "Did she sound upset?"

"Maybe sad" said Allie. "It sunk in on her, auntie from another state not like Auntie Allie dropping in at breakfast."

"Well, she can rectify that any time she wants" said Ginny unsympathetically. Myra had put all the yam tempura on her own plate, which was rude to their guests, Ginny felt. It was also on the side of the plate farthest from Ginny. Seeing where Ginny was looking, Myra lifted one of the yam slices with her chopsticks and set it on Allie's plate, grinning to herself.

"Trade you half my beef teriyaki for some of that pork cutlet?" said Allie. Myra assented. Ginny was distracted by Edwina saying "I don't really care for the ika or una rolls, could I let you have those and take more of the avocado and crab?"

"You sure?" said Ginny. "Go for it. Here, take an extra hamachi, too." Ginny loved urchin and having an entire roll to herself was a treat. Then Myra put another yam slice on Edwina's plate. Ginny began humming to herself, the part that went "Don't your feet get cold in the wintertime, the sky won't snow and the sun won't shine, it's hard to tell the night time from the day". Allie smothered a giggle. After a minute, Myra handed the next to last yam slice to Ginny and said "I adore your appetites, girlfriend" in a tender voice. Ginny said "Could I dip this in your sauce, too?"

"My pleasure" said Myra. After Ginny was done with the container, Myra said "You're not fooling me, by the way."

"Good" said Ginny. "Are you done with the wasabi, Edwina?"

"God damn, that's hot" said Edwina, with a cough. Even Allie looked startled: It was rare for Edwina to curse.

"They don't use powder, they make it from scratch at this place" said Ginny. "Eat some rice, quick."

After Edwina was recovered, Allie said "They coming for Chanukah and New Year but not Christmas. What about all the newlyweds down here?"

"Carly and Eric want to go to Lake Quinault Lodge with us after we're done cooking on Christmas Day, but not for a whole week. They'll drive their own car and go visit Patty, then Eric's folks for a couple of days each, getting back here in time for Gillam's birthday. Gillam and Jane are still talking it over, I'm not sure why, they're definitely not going to Fresno" said Myra.

"I think they might like time with no plans at all" said Ginny. "Jane asked me if they could house-sit for us, hole up here for a week with Beebo. I said that would be great. Nika will be gone, yes?"

"Yes" said Myra. "Well, I happen to think of Lake Quinault as a perfect relaxation spot, but I can see them not even wanting to make a drive."

"It's not just that" said Ginny. "It's all of us. They talk to kids all day and listen to professors in the evenings, they want utter silence, I'm willing to bet."

Myra tried not to feel cranky about her son needing silence from her. She complained "I don't think this is going to be enough to fill me up."

"It's because I joined in, isn't it?" said Edwina. "Here, you want half this futomaki?"

Myra was chagrined. "No, no, we always order extra, there's plenty for you. It's simply not what I want. Hand me that unopened container of rice there, Ginny, I'll put the last of my sauce on it and that will do it for me."

"Oh, honey, it's not rice. I thought you knew -- this is Kobe, I got it specially for you" said Ginny.

"It's been sitting there getting cold?" said Myra, reaching for it urgently. "Oh, look at it, done to perfection. If I heat it in the microwave, it'll ruin it."

"Just as good at room temperature" said Allie, "Don't get your panties in a wad. Cut me off that end of it there."

Myra gave the other end to Edwina and ate the heart of the steak herself. It was impossibly tender, and she was satisfied when she was done with it. She left clean-up to the other three, since they were going to work at the table afterward, and went to her study. Ginny called after her "No more music, it will be distracting even in here."

"I'm going to call Margie" Myra answered.

A week later, Myra was folding clothes on the couch, watching her secret DVD of the first two seasons of "Party of Five" while Ginny was out of the house. When Ginny burst in suddenly, without the sound of a car in the driveway, Myra fumbled for the remote but couldn't find it among all the socks and T-shirts. Ginny glanced at the TV and ignored it. Myra finally located the remote and turned it off as Ginny sat down on the edge of the coffee table with excitement strong in her body.

"I just walked around the block to talk with the Limons" she began.

"Oh, that's where you were. You mean about the blackberries? Are they bothered by the overgrowth or secretly harvesting what they want?" asked Myra.

"Uh -- neither. I mean, they don't care and -- that's not the news. The news is, Felipe really can't get up and down their stairs any more -- they have two flights in that house, front and back -- so they're thinking about selling. They haven't contacted a realtor yet, but they've located a retirement community they both like and it's just a matter of their kids signing off on it." Ginny finished with a hand wave as flourish.

"Well, I'll be sorry to see them -- oh, fuck, Ginny, now I get it! How much do they want?"

"They couldn't give me a figure. I persuaded them to not call a realtor yet, because their oldest is a lawyer and he might be able to advise them how to do it without incurring a realtor's fee, at least research the market and find out what they can ask. I said we absolutely want it, which I know is very bad bargaining but -- my god, Myra, we could put a gate between the two back yards and have one connected property!"

"What's it like inside? I was only there once, to drop off some soup when he first got sick."

Ginny said "You got your notebook? Never mind, I want to do this on my big sketchpad while it's still fresh in my mind." She stood and actually jogged toward her studio. Myra abandoned the laundry to follow. Once on Ginny's daybed, with -- Myra noticed -- three different widths of charcoal pencils in Ginny's left hand, the right already sketching on the pad across their laps, Ginny began talking in stream of consciousness.

"Okay, it's Bauhaus like ours, which makes me wonder if they were built at the same time -- I never see other Bauhaus style houses in this part of Seattle, they must be connected somehow. So there's glass walls here and here, along the front and back, part of the side, on both stories. No windows at all on the east wall which abutts the alley. The stairwells are both on the west, landings in the middle and a switchback...Upstairs on both ends are big open spaces, then three bedrooms upstairs, three baths, and what she called a sewing room...There's a massive living room at the back, plus dining room and a too-small, claustrophobic kitchen. Another huge bedroom at the front, two more baths downstairs, a laundry room, and this which was crammed full of junk..."

"It's humongous, Ginny, bigger than our place!"

"Yeah, because they have two full stories and not as much yard. They had five kids, remember? The yard is in sad shape. She says the roof is ten years old, the furnace which is back in this crammed area is not doing well but they've been not going upstairs for the past couple of years so they just use space heaters...She went upstairs with me, and there weren't any leaks I could find. The bathroom fixtures are old but I liked the tile color in a couple of them, very retro. All the appliances are ancient, and the walls are dark, but where it's wood it looks okay. Listen, we could walk back over and take a second tour, I don't think they'd mind. He's watching TV and she was putting together a puzzle. You want?"

"Bring a sketch pad" said Myra. "Not this one, smaller. I'll grab a tape measure. And -- go get a pie or package of brownies from the freezer, I'll take some bread."

Ginny also put two quarts of tomato sauce and green beans in her arms before they headed out the door again. As they rounded the corner, Ginny said "What were you watching?"

"Don't ask" said Myra. "Listen, if their place is that much larger, can we afford it?"

"We'll have to sell the farm, I'm pretty sure. But think, Myra, it's got room for five kids to grow up in it!"

"I'm a little scared this is too good to be true" said Myra.

An hour later, they returned home and Ginny started a fresh sketch with concrete measurements this time. It was astounding to Myra how Ginny could recreate the same space she had just seen with such clarity and detail. She said "It smelled like old people, but even so, I adored the feel of it, Gin. I guess it's enough like this house..."

"Mm-hm" said Ginny distractedly. She was in full art mode now, Myra could tell. She went to finish the laundry and put it away. She had decided on a frittata for dinner and was beginning to grate vegetables by the time Ginny finished, carrying in two enormous watercolor renderings already mounted on foamboard.

"Holy fuck, Gin -- it looks so much better without their furniture in it. And you altered the wall color, I see."

"Playing around with it" said Ginny. "But look at this piece of tracing paper, lay it over the outlines as they are now and see an idea I had..."

"What is this, a renovated kitchen?" asked Myra.

"Doubled in size, with two work triangles and tons of counter space, plus a bar between it and the dining room instead of a wall. And I took part of that junk room and carved a pantry from it, see?"

"I'd love to have a kitchen that roomy" said Myra. "Well, eventually Gillam and Jane will need it, and I could go over there to cook for the masses. What's this, with that funny door?"

"An elevator" said Ginny. "See, upstairs I took that third bedroom and used part of it for elevator space, part for a varnishing room. And I split that big family room upstairs into a study and part of a studio, the rest of the studio sitting in the light well at the top of the stairs. The light there is even better than here, Myra."

Myra looked at Ginny quizzically. "Daydreaming, are you? But we don't need that big of a house, Ginny. Elevator, yes, we have to talk about that here for our elder years, although I can't imagine where to put it. But..." She trailed off, watching Ginny's face.

"We might need that much space, Myra. What if I can talk Cathy into living with us? What about Chris and Sima's retirement? And sleepovers for grandkids? If we want to stay the place where everyone else comes to eat and visit, we could really use these large public spaces."

"Or maybe we need to relinquish that to Gillam and Jane" said Myra.

"What if they don't want to be the hub that everyone else crashes? What if that's not Jane's idea of home?"

"Well, Ginny, we can ask her. What are you suggesting, we take that house and give this one to them?"

"There's plenty of room here for five kids, too, Myra. And the pool -- "

"Which is only a short walk across the yard, if they have that place. What if Jane's idea of home is not the place where Gillam grew up, what if she wants a neutral space to claim as their own?"

"As you said, we can ask them."

Myra put down the tracing paper and said "I love this house, Ginny. It's where we began, where the kids were born, where everything good has happened."

Ginny struggled to not look disappointed. "All right, if you're really set on it. I guess I got a little carried away..."

Myra didn't want to say no, absolutely, but she wasn't willing to say yes, either. She said "We'll have to talk more. Let me digest it. In the meantime, will you go pull a couple of onions for me?"

Ginny carried her foamboard back to her studio, hiding it in a stack of blanks, before going to the garden.

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.