Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Pride and Joy

My brother is getting hitched this weekend. Married. Civil unionized? I don't know what the official term is for same-sex unions in Germany. Whatever it is, it's a long time coming. My brother and his partner (whom I consider my adopted brother) have been together for more than 30 years now.

Thirty years.

I think they have the average straight American marriage beaten by a mile at this point. And I couldn't be happier for them. These are two great guys. Two really wonderful men. If anyone in our family needs help - material, emotional, financial - they are the first people in line to offer assistance. They remember every birthday, every anniversary. They are forgiving and kind and utterly generous. The support and encouragement they have given me in the past couple of years is beyond measure.

I really regret that I won't be there this weekend. I'd love to see them have this moment, long denied, pointlessly, unfairly, unjustly. What a triumph for them to be able to do something that so many others take for granted. What they have waited decades to do, average Janes and Joes do every day, without a second thought. And average Janes and Joes undo every day, too.

So many opponents of gay unions talk about the "sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman." Sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman, my ass. If straight marriage really was such a holy estate these days, it wouldn't be something that could be done drunk in Vegas and then be put asunder with fillable PDFs, a flick of a pen, and a modest filing fee. Just ask Britney Spears and her first husband.

Marriage is supposed to be a partnership. A commitment. An expression of love and deep friendship. (I'm starting to sound like an e-Harmony ad.) Why does it matter to some insecure strangers if it's between a man and a woman or a man and a man or a woman and a woman? It should only matter to those two people, bonded by something powerful and beautiful and, may I add - speaking as a single person, something enviably wonderful.

I could use this space to ponder and growl about why there is so much hatred and bigotry and ignorance and stupidity in the world - much of it here in our "Christian" nation - but this isn't the time for that. This is simply a time to say "congratulations" and offer wishes for 30 or 60 or 100 more years of happiness and contentment.

Friday will bring the matching grey suits and engraved rings. A Bentley to take them to the Rathaus in the center of Frankfurt. A sea of friends who are gathering already in anticipation of the celebration. A feast befitting such a joyous event. And, from this side of the Atlantic, every good thought, every fine wish, and all the love I can send to them.

May we all find such a lasting and true love. May each of us be blessed with a partner as fine as my brother has found. Lucky guys. Very, very lucky guys.


RIP, Bic Banana

Charles Nelson Reilly died this week. And I will miss him.

For those of us who are children of the 70s - the Electric Company and Zoom generation - Reilly was a fixture on the boob tubes in our homes. He was a smart, talented, and witty actor who wasn't above being an utter goofball for the entertainment of children. (Dear lord, do any of the rest of you guys have nightmares about Lidsville?) He was a regular on MatchGame, of course, and popped up on shows all over the dial. The X-Files episode where he played writer Jose Chung has to be one of the best they ever did. (He played Chung again on the only funny episode ever of the dark drama "Millennium" - it was pretty damn good.)

When I worked for another MatchGame alum, Reilly came by to visit the office on a stop in the DC area. I was floored. I called a friend and said, "Holy shit - the Bic Banana was at work today!"

You *do* remember the Bic Banana, right?

Ah, the jingles of youth.

His one-man stage show, "The Life of Reilly," took the audience through his amazing and off-kilter life, from a kid raised by - for real - an institutionalized father, a racist mother, and a voluntarily lobotomized aunt to a Tony-winning actor and TV icon. The last two performances of "The Life of Reilly" were filmed, and a movie version was released last year. It's out on DVD, and I want to rent it. I could use one last big laugh with the Bic Banana.

Rest well, Charles. Thanks for all the giggles. May you *blank* in peace.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Memorial Day

Through the anniversary of D-Day, is making 90 million U.S. military records available free of charge.

From the U.S. Rosters of WWII Dead:

John A. Quaid
My mom's stepbrother. Uncle Jack.
Died June 6, 1944.
St. Mère Église, France.

George F. Hardman
My mom's brother. Uncle George.
Naval aviator.
Missing, declared dead, along with his squadron, 1943.
Lost in flight near Guadalcanal in bad weather.

A visual of my father's draft card isn't on file, but the information from it is. He lied about his age, indicating he was born in 1920, and not 1922. And this is what was marked as his civilian occupation, I swear to God: "Actor (Motion picture actor. ) or Director, Motion Picture (Motion picture director.) or Entertainer"

Apparently, my father was delusional. (Then again, Sams Club gave me a business membership and they have me marked down as a cinema operator. Who knew owning a 27" inch Sony Trinitron would garner me such acclaim? Go figure.)

There is, of course, no documentation for my mother, since the USG didn't consider the WASP to be military pilots back in the day.

You've all read a good deal about my mother here. I've even done a radio commentary about her and the WASP. If you'd like to hear her tell a couple of stories in her own words, WVIK now has the audio posted of their WWII oral history program featuring my mom and several other women veterans of WWII. Click on this link and listen to program #8, Women in the Ranks. My mom's piece kicks in at approximately the 38 minute mark, but all the women have great stories to tell, and it's worth a listen.

Friends, the veterans of WWII are reaching their twilight time. It is our job to keep their light alive.

Always remember. Never forget.

There was a time on this planet when evil was a much more clearly defined thing. And there was a great generation that fought it.

Never, never, never, never forget.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Jurassic Ark

I think someday I will have to take a field trip to the Creation Museum in Kentucky, just so I can see the exhibit on Noah's Ark. Why, you may ask? Well, I'll tell ya...

Apparently, the ark had dinosaurs on it. Who knew? That had to be one friggin' huge boat. I want to see a reenactment of Noah herding a happy T-Rex pair on board.

(Which would come just before the happy T-Rex pair ate everything else on the boat.)

Call me a cynic, but I think the Bible would have made note of giant predatory thunder lizards sharing space with Noah and the family. Hell, I think even the gentle vegetarian giants would have been worthy of some note.

And yea, Noah did say unto his children, "Do not grow too attached to the brachiosaurus, my offspring! Give it no name like 'Sparky' or 'Skip', for, while it giveth a great vantage point to search for land from its neck so high in God's heavens, it will be served unto thee (and everyone else) for dinner tonight and tomorrow night and so on, and so on..."

Thus endeth the dinosaurs, I guess. Big meteor strike be damned!


One of the single most disturbing items in that linked article is the note about the Gallop poll last year, which found that nearly 50% of Americans didn't believe in evolution. Jeeezus, that freaks me out. I dunno, there are things I love about my country, and so much that creeps me out. That statistic definitely creeps me out, especially since I'm certain I have at least one sibling in that "nearly 50%" figure.


Friday, May 25, 2007

30 years ago, at this moment

I was at the Showcase Cinemas in lovely Milan, Illinois with my brother Ed. Ed took me to the 7 p.m. showing of a new movie called Star Wars. Laugh if you will, but it had a pretty profound effect on my life. And I know I'm not the only one.

Thanks, Ed.

Wherever in the heavens you are right now, thanks.

And I don't care what Uncle George's revisionist views are.
Solo. Shot. First.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Mom on the radio

Back in 1999, just about two years before she died, my mom gave a talk to the local chapter of the U.S. Air Force Association in the Quad Cities (Iowa/Illinois, for those not familiar with the fabulous QCs.) My sister, Nurse Rachet, recorded the talk on the only recording device she had available - an old tape recorder with less than great audio quality. However, my friend Dave Garner at WVIK, the public radio station where I grew up, was able to clean up the audio a bit, and chunks of that talk will be used in a WWII oral history show on WVIK this coming Sunday:

If you're in the Quad Cities, you can listen to WVIK on your radio, of course (2 p.m.!) Unfortunately, due to new, lame legislation that hobbles streaming radio broadcasters with ridiculously high fees (thank you, RIAA and the Copyright Royalty Board), the show will not be streamed live on the Internet on Sunday. However, after the original air date, the show *will* be available online via WVIK's archives (

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Working Title

I just came up with a working title for the book:

Hookers, Death & Snickers Bars: Bad Trips Through Mutha Russia

I swear, that won't be the final title. But for now, I am amused.

(And it is a fairly accurate title.)

So, if you run into me, feel free to say, "So, how you getting along with those hookers?"


Okay, I'll admit it. I've done a fairly lousy job of updating the blog lately. Yeah, I've posted things, but they've mostly been things in the neighborhood of "here's a link for you" or "I'm gonna write a book." Not exactly the most compelling reading, I fear.

The truth is, I'm dog-tired. The pain meds for my back and leg have totally sapped my energy. I fell asleep last night during the early news. That, for me, is utterly lame. And speaking of lame, I walked down the hallway at work this morning without my cane - I was helping a colleague find one of our really spiffy presentation folders for a meeting with an executive VP. (A spiffy presentation folder can make anything look good - like putting a guy with a mullet in a tux. Well, maybe not with a mullet, come to think of it.) As I dragged my leg down the hallway, I realized I looked like my name should be Igor. As in, "Igor, come quickly! The master needs you!" Enough leg-dragging for the morning, I think.

I have a four-day weekend coming up (thanks to the generous inclusion of "Founder's Day" on our holiday schedule here at work) and I intend to take part of that time to flesh out my book outline and sort through the details I've noted for each story, in an attempt to put them in some sort of logical order. Knowing my tendency to ramble, I think this will be vital to keeping me on track. I can easily see myself turning one story about Moscow into some odd diatribe, completely derailing my already Amtrak-ishly unsteady train of thought.

Yesterday I had to keep myself focused on work rather than the book. Maybe that's a good thing, actually. I haven't been this excited about something so personal in a long time. But I have to keep it out of my 9-5 world, where I have so much responsibility stacked up on my desk right now, it threatens to drown me in a sea of deadlines and paperwork.

Speaking of paper... I came into possession of a large stack of vintage magazines last night, courtesy of Freecycle. Someone in Bethesda gave me a pile of Better Homes & Gardens magazines from 1937-1942. How cool is that? I am a sucker for wartime reading, and I'm looking forward to trying out some of the ration-era recipes, including desserts made without sugar. The pile of magazines (which stinks horribly from basement mildew, by the way, and needs a serious airing on my balcony this weekend) included a 1939 photography annual (not a BH&G publication) that had the Sasquatch quite enthralled. It included an article by Margaret Bourke-White (about how portrait photography was "going casual") and the winning entries in a photo contest that included several tasteful nudes (a lot of boobies for a 1939 consumer publication, I must say!) One of the best parts of these magazines is the advertising. It's cool to see what products have withstood the test of time and which have failed. The feminine hygiene ads are freaky, funny, and a bit sad, but not as disturbing as the number of laxative ads and cures for piles and foot ailments. Considering the scary "visit to the footbinder" women's fashion shoe ads I saw, the foot ailment cures shouldn't surprise me. I wouldn't have survived the clothing trends of the day, I'm fairly certain.

Doesn't he remind you of that scary Bob guy
from the "natural male enhancement" drug ad campaign?
I'd make a tasteless joke about hammers and poles here,
but you can make your own...

Coffee break over. Time to get back to the work at hand...

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Baby steps

Well, kids, I've written the outline for my book. Each chapter is a different city in the former Soviet Union. It's funny - in writing the outline and having to remember things that happened in each place, I've managed to dredge up so much stuff I'd forgotten had happened. I'm a little frightened by the number of times that death, cannibalism, space aliens and hookers come up in my experiences. Seriously. Lots of death and hookers.

(And now I'll start getting lots of Google search hits for "dead hookers." Grrrreat.)

I don't know how long this will take me to write. Today, for the first time in a very long time, I'm sitting at Mayorga, typing away. My back still hurts, so I tend to fidget a lot in my chair, but I need the white noise of the cafe to keep me focused. Last night, I had major twingy pain in my back and leg which left me gasping for breaths at Borders, hobbling around with the Sasquatch. (I had a 30% off coupon and the desire to find a text to help me organize the writing process. Such a book does not seem to exist - at least not in the form I sought. I found the best advice on some subpage today. More or less, it said, "If you've written a college paper, you know how to write an outline. So, write the outline and get goin'!") I got home, popped one of the Vicodin I've been hording since I fell, and BAM - I was asleep in minutes. Slept the deep sleep of babies and rocks, but had near hallucinatory dreams all night. Wish I could remember them today. All I can tell you is that they were twisted. Truly twisted. But I woke up this morning refreshed and ready to rock and roll with the words.

So, here I am. Outline complete. Next step? Get goin'. I'll start where it all started, just like many maudlin, overwrought pieces of literature - in Moscow...

Long way to go, folks. Long way to go.


Saturday, May 12, 2007

Every day I write the book

At least I do in my head. Sentences, paragraphs, chapters, stories.

But it never materializes.

I've written 916 posts on this blog. There are at least another hundred that you've never seen - ones I've abandoned, rejected, or forgotten about it. (They languish in that limbo known as "draft," never to be heard from again.)

Some of my posts stink on ice, some are decent, some are just rants or links to better writers or musicians or random stuff, and a handful are fairly decent. Around 100-150 folks come here most days. I've never done anything in particular to increase readership. Sometimes I get picked up by DC Blogs, which is nice. Once I got picked up by Wonkette, and another time by USA Today. I'm not exactly A-list material, let's face it.

A lot of my best stories haven't been told yet. I've held them back thinking that someday I would seriously sit down and put the words together in a collection. And I've wondered for a long time, if I actually wrote that book, would anyone read it?

Well, I guess I'll find out. I'm going to start writing that book. I have stories about Moscow and Cairo and Bangkok and Tashkent... It's time to see if I can seriously produce something for people to read, or if I'm just a online piker with the attention span of a gnat.

Who knows?

Public commitment made. Well, a commitment made to 4.5 regular readers, that is, and 120 guys searching Google for boobies, dog condoms, and cannibalism.

Here goes nuthin'...

Mother's Day

To my friends who are moms-to-be...

To my friends who are mothers and daughters,
wives and sisters, grandmothers and aunts....

To my friends who have lost mothers and grandmothers,
sisters and wives, daughters and aunts...

But will never forget...
Will never cease to love...

I wish you all a Happy Mother's Day.

I miss you, Mom.

Friday, May 11, 2007

I *heart* Aasif Mandvi

I have a screaming headache tonight, and I think the most creative thing I'm going to do is to talk back to Stacy and Clinton on "What Not To Wear." So, while I'm vegging with my 800mg ibuprofen and a bottle of raspberry seltzer water, enjoy this brilliant piece from the Daily Show. Just remember: Baghdad just hasn't found it's Marion Barry yet!

Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Oooooh, I was not aware until just now that Cate Blanchett had reprised her role as Elizabeth I (and Geoffrey Rush as Walsingham) in a new film! I don't see a release date yet, but production is complete, and you can watch the trailer here.

And Clive Owen is Raleigh.


This will be on my must see list.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Defense Workers Have Needs, Too

My fellow Americans, witness your taxpayer dollars at work:

I just got a hit to my blog from someone searching for "celebrity slippage" from their account at "" Lookin' for boobage at work, eh?

I salute you, red-blooded, horny geek at the DoD Network Information Center in Ohio. I'm sorry I didn't actually have any celebrity boobies for you to ogle from your military work account. But you've got cojones for actually googling that at your particular place of work.

Oh wait. Dear lord - I do have one set of celebrity boobies out here - the drooptasm that is Babs Streisand sans support. My peeping-tom-green-army-guy blog reader may need to cleanse his eyes - and his imagination - with bleach after that.

Well, that's what you get for using my tax dollars to find titties online, ya pre-vert.

Smiling evilly,


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Will shill for food (or physical therapy sessions!)

One of my favorite local websites,, broke the story on Monday that local news radio station WTOP had sold "naming rights" to their hilariously monikered "Glass Enclosed Nerve Center." You know, as in, "coming to you live from our glass-enclosed nerve center..." If you don't live in the DC area, that's how the news broadcasts start on WTOP. It cracks me up.

Well, it's gotten more amusing now that WTOP sold sponsorship to the local restaurant chain Ledo Pizza. Give a listen here how the fanfare and intro will now sound on WTOP.

Silly, isn't it? Yet, it's probably a good business move for Ledo. WTOP is, as they say themselves, "the most listened to station in the region." You get enough commuters hearing "Ledo, Leeeeedo" on the way home, and BAM, you've sold a pile of pies.

This got me thinking. I'm not exactly a media giant, but I am big. Large. Huge, even. And I currently have a nerve center that's in need of sponsorship. How about this, local businesses: I'll wear your name on the back of a jacket every workday, in exchange for you covering the cost of my physical therapy and shots for the back pain from hell. I'm not as big as a billboard, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a larger backside walking through the heart of DC and conspicuous consumer-heavy Montgomery County. Think about all the possible sponsors! Maybe the Healthy Back Store... Joanne's Bed and Back... Hell, I'll take sponsorship from from just about any advertising-savvy business. Just imagine it, Mr. or Mrs. Entrepreneur, your company's name, "live, covering the skin-enclosed nerve center of Merujo's back!"

By George, I think the idea's got legs! Okay, they're gimpy legs, and they don't hobble very fast right now, but look at it this way - that's more time for your potential customers to gawk and read!

Heh. Just kidding. Honest.

Hey, at least I didn't suggest anything permanent, like that poor woman who actually had that skanky online casino's name permanently tattooed on her forehead. {{shudder}}

This reminds me of the hellish thing I saw the other day, though. When I left my MRI appointment at the crack of doom on Monday, there were already poor bastards in the middle of the road, dressed in panda and dog costumes, trying to lure people into a car dealership on the Pike. 7:30 in the godforsaken morning and their employers had them out on the median strip, trapped in their own really twisted version of purgatory.
The dog paced back and forth, flinching periodically as if waiting for an angry commuter to pelt him with the remains of a McDonalds iced coffee. The panda just stood there, head lolling sickly to one side, his black and white cheek leaning on an enormous "50% OFF NOW!" sign. I swear I could hear his soul crying for sweet release from within the furry prison.

"Kill me now. Please."

All things considered, my life could be worse.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


Had an MRI yesterday morning. My appointment was at 6:45, an ungodly hour for a nightowl like myself. Truth is, though, the painkiller cocktail and the pain itself both have been knocking me for a loop for almost two weeks now. I've been getting to sleep at 10 p.m. and barely waking up with three alarms going off. Last night, though, I watched a little Adult Swim and crashed out at midnight. I kept thrashing around, unable to find a comfortable position, but fell sound asleep at last around 1 in the morning.

Around 2, though, I was brought fully awake by the sound of sirens - lots of them - passing rapidly by on Strathmore, the road that connects Rockville Pike and Connecticut Avenue and runs just two blocks behind my apartment. The sirens continued on and off all night. I barely slept and kept twitching. I thought of Kramer on "Seinfeld", talking about his inability to sleep with a restless girlfriend because she had what he called "the jimmy legs." I had the jimmy legs, for certain, and the sirens seemed to make it worse.

By the time my alarm went off at 5:45, I could hear helicopters overhead. I switched on the news only to find out the cause of the uproar - a house fire that took the lives of a couple in their 80's. What a horrible way to die after so many years of life. The reporter said the wife was wheelchair-bound, and her husband struggled to free her from the smoke and flames, but they were both lost.

I left for the radiology clinic in a somber mindset, and I was glad to hear the helicopters fade in the distance as I drove north up 270. The clinic was right off the highway and easy to find, although I took a wrong turn. Like one of Pavlov's dogs, I turned into the lot where I go for periodic blood testing, across the street from the radiology folks. Still, I walked in the door at 6:45.

If you have never had an MRI, let me tell you - it's loud and, at least this morning, it's cold. Lying stock still for 45 minutes on a back that screams with pain and begs you to writhe around is quite the ordeal. Fortunately, I had the soothing sounds of Canadian songstress Sarah McLachlan to help me through the session. If you've gotta do this, I recommend the folks at Rockville Open MRI. Friendly, professional, and they'll let you bring your own CD to listen to while the magnets work their imaging magic. Of course, I didn't know about the music thing. They'd forgotten to tell me. But I got to choose from an array of music they had available.

Enya? No, thanks. I think that would make me feel like I was about to be turned into Soylent Green as I slid into the apparatus. Alanis Morrisette? A little too angry for such an early hour. Sarah McLachlan? Okay, I can go all Lilith Fair for 45 minutes. No problema. Still, even with the soothing music, somewhere in Minute 30, I wanted to squirm. I practiced deep, cleansing breathing. I counted the lines in the plastic that wrapped the MRI's hood above my face. I counted heartbeats and seconds and sang along with Sarah, quietly, quietly. I got colder and colder and pulled the "blanket" (a sheet, really) up over my shoulders. I was allowed to move my head, neck, and arms, but nothing else. I created patterns of movement to keep my mind focused. Breathe, move hands, move head, breathe.

When it was over, I could barely stand. The pain in my back made sitting up difficult. The numbness in my leg made standing one hell of a trick. I walked to the locker room hunched over, like a pale, obese Yoda, but without the wisdom or the Jedi tricks. Or the hairy ears. Thank god.

When I finally made it to work, I was subdued. Not my usual perky self. I just plowed through things on my desk, trying to find the wood surface I knew was there, somewhere. By the time I got home, my regular doc had received and read my MRI images (man, those guys in Rockville work fast!) I have some bad nerve compression and a couple of bulging discs in my lower back, and some disc degeneration, too. Great.

My doc doesn't want me to undergo surgery at this point. I may have to have some periodic injections to help me with the pain. She does want me to go to a chiropractor or have physical therapy. Problem? My insurance only offers a very modest discount (10-20%) on such services. With my current financial picture, that's out of the question. Guess I'll be taking a lot of cleansing breaths, eh?

Maybe it's time to start listening to more Enya...

Sunday, May 06, 2007

The interview chain continues...

Heather and Cynicsgirl have posted the answers to my interview questions on their blogs. Whoo-hoo! I hope the interview chain continues. I find it pretty interesting...

I still have to come up with my five questions for the Sasquatch. Tough assignment...

Hooray for the Graduate!

In about an hour, one of my online friends will graduate from college. I can't remember exactly how I first encountered Dariush. It may have been on Shane Nickerson's site or on Magazine Man's blog. But we started chatting back and forth. I think Dariush thought I was another young twentysomething from the way I yammer in chat. He was surprised to find out I was almost twice his age.

The conversation went something like this:

Merujo: So, what's up tonight?
D: Homework. And you?
Merujo: Nothing, dude. Just hangin' out. Gonna watch some TV.
D: Lucky you - no homework.
M: Well, I could have homework, if I felt like bringing something home from work.
D: Uhhh... you're not in college?
M: No! LOL
M: How old do you think I am?
D: 21, 22?
M: Dude - I'm 40.
D: ??? But you say "dude" all the time!

(It's true. I do.)

Dariush is a really great guy - and one of the first people to offer help (in the form of a website) when my eye problem - and ensuing financial problems - started. He's a talented journalist and photojournalist, pretty damn good - and incredibly positive - columnist, and a fine man. We've never met, but I imagine we will someday, and I'm gonna give this guy a big bear hug for just being who he is. Being the youngest kid in my family, I never had any little brothers or sisters. Knowing Dariush is like having a really cool and funny little bro.

I know his professional future is bright, and I hope that his life is filled with adventure and love. (And there should be a line of whip-smart, sexy young things lined up to meet him!)

Congratulations, D. Enjoy your day!

Your future is waiting for you.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Spinning, slowly

I have so much to get done this weekend. All the great apartment cleaning I did before falling and screwing up my left leg has been undone by my inability to hobble around much and this tremendous drowsiness from the painkiller cocktail. I am frighteningly foggy all day from the drugs. My status as a nightowl is temporarily stunted, as I fall asleep around 10 p.m. and sleep in a haze of terrifyingly vivid dreams. Last night's dreams were so creepy, I won't even write about them. If I could mindmeld with Wes Craven or John Carpenter, they could make one hell of a scary flick from the images I crafted in my skull.

Add to this the strange feeling I have, going about my business, blogging away while one of my favorite bloggers is still dealing with the aftermath of a family tragedy. I don't know him, except through his words. I know his name now, but we've never met. And yet, because reading his blog is part of my daily ritual and I have such a fondness for his stories - most of which are about his family, it feels almost inappropriate that I'm continuing to just tell my tales and rant out here. It just doesn't feel completely right. Is there such a thing as Catholic Blogger Guilt?

While I did laundry today (which was a freaking ordeal, just getting down and back up the same stairs that bit me last week) I remembered how I felt when my mother died, and again, when my brother died. I recall feeling this strange anger the morning after, when the sun rose as usual, and cars started and birds sang. Why is the world continuing on as usual when mine stopped spinning altogether? Doesn't the rest of the planet feel the ripples of my pain?

No. Only the small part of the world that mattered to me felt it. The rest of the planet moved on. The sun rose. The sun set. Workers kept commerce in motion. Crops were harvested. Phones rang. People shook hands. People held hands. Couples married. Babies were born. Other people died. And somewhere else - many somewhere elses - people felt their own personal worlds spin out of control and then suddenly stop. While all around them, life flowed by, unknowing, uninterrupted.

My world is moving on - well, hobbling on this week - but it is slowed by the full stop in another's life. I've always found the Internet to be a thing of evil and good. I try to keep myself to the side of good, although I falter. And maybe it is a good thing that, through our blogs, the Internet allows our pain and our joy to ripple out to people who might otherwise never feel it or know it or understand it. A piece of humanity is held firmly in place - an island in the flotsam that clogs and chokes this ocean of ether, for the most part.

The earth rotates. The sun rises. Life moves on. Acute pain and sorrow fades, but lingers for a long while, I know. I don't know if it ever really goes away.

Life moves on.

Sometimes, though, it moves on at a slower pace.

No Honor

Honor killings.

Just disgusting.

But the U.N. estimates it happens about 5,000 times a year. In this case, a 17-year-old Kurdish Yezidi girl in Iraq was stoned to death - stoned for THIRTY MINUTES - by her male relatives because she had a Sunni boyfriend.

Considering the shameful, violent, pointless evils being committed by the stinking dungheap of a White House currently running my country, I often feel like the pot calling the kettle black when I talk of other atrocities. But not in this case. This is a culturally-excused evil that has no place in decent, intelligent society.

Plain and simple, there is no honor in an "honor killing." It is murder. It is a reprehensible, disgraceful practice, like female circumcision and the immolation of women who are "unacceptable brides." I always imagine the people engaging in these "traditions" getting their asses kicked by their god in the afterlife. I grew up Catholic; I can picture a pretty angry deity in my head.

I hope the next world is kinder to you, Miss Aswad. For this world, it's all too clear, is mad.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Is it any wonder Paris Hilton is a dumbass?

So, Paris has been sentenced to 45 days in jail. About friggin' time. While 45 days is really a slap on the wrist for a weasel driving on a suspended license after an "alcohol-related reckless driving" situation, I'm sure it will be hellish for (hasn't everyone spent a night in the) Paris Hilton. She might find her time in jail quite... interesting considering her penchant for flashing her bare crotch in a number of tabloid photos. Perhaps she will be inspired to slap on a thong after a few nights shared with some lonely fellow convicts. Hell, by the time she's out, maybe she'll be wearing granny panties and sweats.

(Yeah, I know. I suck at cut and paste. I don't have the mad dee-sign skillz...)

What got me about today isn't Paris' behavior in court, which from all accounts, was somber, sober and appropriate, shockingly. No, it's mama Kathy Hilton's response to her daughter's jail sentence. From

"As a city prosecutor said during closing arguments that Hilton deserved jail time, Hilton's mother, Kathy, laughed. When the judge ruled, Kathy Hilton then blurted out: 'May I have your autograph?'"

Nice, Kathy. Real nice. If this is how you react to your kid being sentenced for having broken the law and having put other lives at risk by driving under the influence, it's no surprise your daughter has turned out the way she has. Just think of how many minds you could have changed, Mrs. Hilton, had you been as respectful as your daughter finally was today. Think of how great it would have been had you, after the sentencing, told the press, "My daughter is paying a modest price for endangering others and breaking the law. No one should be above the law. I hope she learns a valuable lesson."

No, instead, you were a jerk. And the panty-free apple didn't fall far from the tree, did it?


Just thinking about Paris Hilton makes me want to bathe in Purell.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Lord & Taylor 'n' Stuff

Many moons ago, while driving to a meeting with my then-boss Fred "Gopher" Grandy, we passed White Flint Mall with its highfalutin anchor store, Lord & Taylor. Out loud I wondered, "Why are all the stores with the high-priced clientele called 'This and That' but the low-end stores are all 'Crap 'n' Stuff' or 'Junk 'n' Things'?" Fred laughed and told me how his old Match Game PM friend Fannie Flagg wanted to open up a funeral home/gift shop and call it "Death 'n' Stuff." That amused me greatly. It reminded me of the movie "Roxanne" and how one of the characters in the film owned a taxidermy-ish shop called "All Things Dead." Sick, but funny.

Wow, one paragraph in, and I've already digressed from the story I meant to tell. I blame the drugs today. They've made me Miss Short Attention Span '07, big time.

So, where was I? Ah yes, at Lord & Taylor...

If you ever meet me, you will recognize immediately that I'm not exactly Lord & Taylor's target demographic. I'm not skinny, rich, or old. I'm a Target girl. Actually, these days, I'm more of a Freecycle girl, frankly. The point is, I simply don't look the part of the typical Lord & Taylor shopper. I can't fit into any of the clothes they sell, and I'm allergic to most cosmetics, and, other than that and the odd box of Godiva chocolate, what else does Lord & Taylor sell?

Answer: just about jack squat.

But something funny happened earlier this week. I went through my daily pile of junk mail and there was a slick, greeting card-sized piece of pre-sorted mail from Lord & Taylor. Curiosity got the better of me, and I opened it. Lo and behold, the card was basically a desperate plea for people to come and shop. So desperate, in fact, it included a $50 gift card glued to the inside. Fifty bucks, guys. (So, hey, peeps - don't just toss that junk mail!) No strings attached. Well, hell, I could at least go check it out.

Considering the cost of most things at Lord & Taylor, fifty bucks is just a drop in the bucket. I'm sure that the philosophy behind the cards is "get 'em in here, and they'll buy something priced more than $50, and feel like they're getting one hell of a bargain!" My philosophy, on the other hand is "find the clearance rack and maximize the $50 and walk away without spending a dime!"
So, there I was last night, hobbling through Crypt Keeper Central. The store was almost completely empty, save for the clerks, as I looked for something I would actually want and use. I walked right past the women's clothing. Had they sold decent sneakers, that would have been my one and only stop, but unless I wanted to pound pavement in a pair of tiny heels, I was out of luck. Two clerks gathered and sniggered as I walked through their department. Made me want to use my cane to knock crap over, honestly. But I kept on walking. Twice more, Lord & Taylor clerks giggled at me as I walked through. Apparently, there is a weight limit at their door, and I missed it. You must be this skinny to get on this ride, kids!

I felt like a fat Julia Roberts in "Pretty Woman" when she was treated like crapola by the exclusive Beverly Hills boutique clerks. I wanted to say, "Dudes, you have NO customers, you work on commission, and I have $50 burning a hole in my pocket. You lose!" Instead, for once, I opted to not confront the morons. Must have been the drugs, keeping me mellow.

I wound up in the accessories department. I looked at rack after rack of shi-shi handbags and had to stifle laughter. Seriously - who really needs to spend $280 on a purse? I mean, really, people! I buy my purses - perfectly fine leather handbags - at the luggage store at the strip mall behind White Flint. And I've never broken the three-digit mark (or a sweat) buying a damn purse. Michael Kors and Ralph Lauren and the fine people of Coach? Y'all can stuff your overpriced leather where the sun don't shine, as far as I'm concerned. If you spend $280 on a purse, you must be insane - and you probably light your fireplace with handfuls of $20s, too.

As I quietly laughed over the handbags and the awful, garish sunglasses, I realized I was being shadowed. One sneering clerk was constantly hovering a couple of aisles away from me, watching my every move. "Holy crap!" I thought. "This one thinks I'm going to rip them off!" I just ignored the surveillance and headed for a rack of long scarves on clearance. Cool colors, some pure silk, others a silk and linen blend. The silk guys were shorter and would still have cost $29.99 above my freebie gift card. I found one long, funky deep salmon-colored scarf in the silk/linen group. It was unusual, and I thought it would look good with some of my all-black ensembles. It was only $39.99. I pondered my options. There were boxes of Godiva chocolates for twelve bucks a few rows away. I could get the scarf and the box of chocolates to send off to a friend who's been down and walk away, paying just a dollar or so.

As I headed toward the rack o' sweets, a lovely older lady came up to me. She must have been around 60, petite, African-American - the only person of color I encountered in the entire store. She introduced herself, asked if she could help me, told me I had a lovely smile, and apologized if she didn't greet me quickly enough - she was a new hire. (And, I thought, *way* too kind to be working here!) I told her I was pondering a scarf, and she told me to come back and she would gladly help me. Very cool, especially considering the rest of the staff.

I went and selected a box of Godivas and started the slow hobble back to the scarves. I tucked the box under my arm so I could still hold onto my purse and my cane. In seconds, my shadow had pounced upon me. "Uhhh, ma'am! MA'AM!" I spun around. "You can pay for that right here!" Clearly, she thought I was going to walk the $12 box of chocolates out the door. I replied, "But I'm considering a scarf, too."

"Ohhhh, really?" She said in the most freaking condescending way possible.

"Yes," I said. "I'm combining my purchases." (The card was good on a single purchase only.)

"Suuuuure," she said, a smirk filling her face. She followed me back to the scarves, where I collected my salmon prize and called out to the older clerk who had been helpful. I turned to my shadow and smiled. She actually looked crestfallen that I wasn't a thief. "Uhhh... ahhh.... so you ARE getting a scarf, huh? I guess you can make your purchases over here."

"Yeah," I replied with a measure of snark. "I kinda figured that one out on my own, thanks."

The sweet clerk came up to me and took my purchases from my hands. She commended me on maximizing my gift card purchase and told me that most of the customers who came in with one lost out on much of the money by buying something small and then expecting - wrongly - that they'd get the value of the balance in cash. This woman was kind, courteous, and nothing like her coworkers. She treated me like a human being. I fear she may have too good of a heart to work in Trollville. I hope she finds a friendlier place to work, where kindness is appreciated.

So, thanks, Lord & Taylor, for the freebie. I shelled out $2.04, most of which was tax. I'm not sure if it was worth being laughed at and thought of as a thief, but I'll think of the kind woman in the accessories department when I wear my spiffy scarf and hope she got a better job somewhere else. I'm confident that Lord & Taylor won't be going out of business anytime soon - there are too many wealthy older ladies in this area for that to happen. And losing my nonexistent business won't matter a hoot to them. But I think it will be a cold day in Hades before I come back. Next time I get one of these cards in the mail, I'm going to hand it to a homeless person who genuinely needs new pants or a shirt. In retrospect, I should have done that with this card.

Next time, next time...


Nothing like waking up at 2:45 a.m. with the back and leg screaming bloody murder. I suppose I should be grateful that this (hopefully) temporary situation takes my mind off the eyeball! But, really, I hate that I have do things like pop a Vicodin in the middle of the night and just wait for it to take effect. No fun. Frankly, while I joke about it, I don't even like having Vicodin around.

However, in the short term, it is a blessing, albeit a mixed one. The pain cocktail does cruel things to one's tummy. That's all I'm sayin' (and all you want to hear.)

Later, when I've had a little more sleep, I'll write about the odd phenomenon of Local Stores That Keep Giving Away Perfectly Good Money - and the one hoity-toity shoppe that gave me money, yet made me feel like a thieving guttersnipe. (Bastards!) For now, though, I'll make another attempt at glorious sleep.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Congrats to the Atomic Editor!

Whoo-hoo! A very hearty congratulations to my very dear friend, the Atomic Editor. Last night, the magazine he edits (and probably sweats blood over) won an Ellie at the National Magazine Awards gala in New York City. This is basically like winning an Oscar in the magazine field. I would hope the acceptance speeches are shorter, though. Well-edited, so to speak. (Har har.)

We're pretty proud of the boy here at the Church of the Big Sky. He's one hell of a serious journalist, but, in truth, I know he's just a delightful uber geek on the inside. Yeah, so he can talk Mideast politics and the Doomsday Clock with the best of the talking heads here in DC, but he also appreciates Lost and Futurama, Robot Chicken, and really good ribs. And for that, we love him.

Congrats, Atomic Editor! I hope you're enjoying a well-deserved moment in the sun.

I should note that the magazine here at my wonderful place of employment won a couple of these babies last night, too. Not too shabby, eh?