Friday, June 30, 2006

A View Of Limited Access

Detroit is known around the world as the "Motor City." The car is king here, and anyone who does not have access to one on a regular basis is no better than a lowly serf. It's tough to get around even if you do have a car - between pothole plagued streets, the most speed traps in the nation (it's a documented fact), construction that bottles off easy access to the city's attractions, and some of the most expensive auto insurance rates in the nation, it's tempting to stay home. The public transportation system here in the area is underfunded, poorly executed, and has very shoddy service due to budget cuts and a lack of a defined regional service offering.

As tough as it is for the average Joe Driver to get around, it's even tougher for those who are disabled and dependent upon public transportation for their daily needs. Disabled and elderly riders who once rode city busses for free now have to pay a $0.50 fare one way due to the city's looming budget deficit. Disabled riders have long complained about busses with broken access ramps, often having to wait hours for a bus that can accommodate them. The situation became so bad, a class action lawsuit was filed forcing the city to come into compliance with ADA guidelines. The lawyer who took on the case was uniquely qualified to understand the frustrations of the riders affected. Richard Bernstein, a local lawyer, is blind and fights tirelessly for the equal access.

Then there's the dilemma of how to get around once a disabled rider is off the bus or trying to get to the bus stop. Curbs are slowly being rebuilt to accommodate the needs of the disabled, but not fast enough to meet demand. Sadly, it appears that the rebuilt curbs are not helping to alleviate the situation. The newly designed curb ramps have been criticized as being poorly designed and implemented, so much so that some advocacy groups have had to go back to court to get the city to redesign the ramps to meet ADA requirements. The city is disputing the claims, of course, and this battle could end up costing Detroit millions of dollars to do the right thing.

It shouldn't be this hard to get around the city.

Poor access is partly to blame for one man paying the ultimate price as he tried to get around. An 80 year old man, possibly a retired railroad worker according to some news reports, was trying to get to a medical supply store yesterday evening. He was in a motorized scooter and was attempting to cross a set of railroad tracks when the wheels of his scooter got caught. He was unable to free himself before being struck by an oncoming train. He died of his injuries. Reports note that he did ignore the crossing gates, warning lights and alarms, but it's not known if he didn't see or hear them or thought he could beat the train.

Progress is being made, but it's very slow in coming. Let's hope that no one else gets hurt - or worse - before things get better.

More to come later, on a slow moving train.

Update (7/5/06): I just added a link to a series of articles in Detroit's Metro Times reporting on the state of the region's transportation system. It's an interesting read. Check it out. The link is in the "underfunded" quote.

A View Of, "See What Had Happened Was...."

I'm blatantly stealing from a very funny website with this post. You know you drunk as hell when you don't know how that got there.

I've heard of wanting to get lit up, but aren't there limits?

This one is too bizarre to be believed, y'all. More to come later. After some creme and a sitz bath.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

A View Of Looking For Love In All Sorts Of Places

Do you know the history of fairy tales? Click on the picture for the background.

The search for love is never easy. It's awkward, full of false starts and dashed hopes - Prince Charming one minute, just another toad the next. What is a girl to do?

Some enterprising women in Japan have found an interesting solution, according to a story published by Reuters. For the low, low price of 1 million yen ($8,700 US), they buy their happily ever after - at least for a night - at "host clubs" where the man of their dreams pampers and caters their every whim until the meter runs out. According to the article, there are roughly 150 of these clubs in Toyko's Kabukicho entertainment district, and all are doing a brisk business. Guess this means that, contrary to that famous song, money can buy you love - but only at hourly rates.

If you do try to buy love, be prepared to pay taxes. Like I mentioned yesterday in one of my posts, there's a thrust (for lack of a better word) in governments around the world to make sure prostitutes and their johns give their municipalities a cut of their earnings. According to this story, if a prostitute offers love for sale in Budapest, she'll need a tax identification number. I wonder what the tax audit would be like?

Sometimes ladies, we have to pull out all the stops in order to attract a quality man. We diet, primp, wriggle into push-up bras and "foundation garments" with the grip of a boa constrictor, and all other sorts of nonsense to make ourselves attractive to potential suitors. A woman in Berlin decided to skip the underwire and go straight for overdrive. She has decided to auction herself off to win the man of her dreams. The lucky winner wins her hand and her red Ferrari Enzo. Fellas, you still have a chance - as of this afternoon, there were no bids placed. We all know Cupid is a romantic at heart, let's just hope he's not cheap.

In our search for love, sometimes we come across those who are a bit zealous in their need to hold on to a suitor. My mom calls it "Graveyard Love," and I call it "Lifetime Movie Love." the stalkers and crazies who get very attached and don't have enough of a grasp on reality to let go when love is gone or never existed in the first place. Like the gentleman in this story who, in an attempt to win back his ex-girlfriend, cut off his finger and mailed it to her as a token of his love. "It's my last chance to touch you," he said in the note that accompanied his digit. He even went so far as to wash it off before mailing it, but there's no word as to whether or not it was his ring finger. She responded to his warped romantic gesture by wisely filing for a restraining order.

Then there are those who will go to the ends of the earth to find true love, letting no obstacle deter their search. By now, you've no doubt heard the story of Katherine Lester, the teenager who managed to fly to the Middle East to be with My Space suitor. She was detained by officials in Jordan before making to the West Bank and her rendevous with the man who was intending to marry her. When she arrived back in the States, her passport was revoked and there was talk of prosecuting her as a runaway. Cooler heads have prevailed - she's in counseling, living with her father (who still allows her to correspond with the man because he says there's no point in trying to stop them - she could always run away again), and the state has decided not to press charges. Her passport has not been returned, however. Chances are she won't get that back until next year when she turns 18. She's been quoted as saying that as soon as she's able, she wants to go back and marry her suitor. Who knows if her prince will come (or should I say if she'll get the chance to come to her prince), but she'll have one hell of a story to tell one way or the other. I imagine Lifetime TV is salivating at the prospect, too.

As for my search, there's a prospect on the horizon. So far, things are good. We've talked quite a bit and we'll be spending next weekend together. I'm not going to go into details right now because I'm a bit superstitious and don't want to jinx things, but there's some promise with this one. Will the TEM find her prince or another toad? Will it be the love of a lifetime or a Lifetime TV love? Will Cupid be kind or cruel?

Keep clicking by to find out. More to come later.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A View Of Reason #6 Why I Am An Atheist

The tendency of religion to deflect blame by passing guilt off to those not deserving of it makes me phyisically ill. Much like this story did about a defrocked priest who tries to guilt everyone possible - his former diocese (which didn't help matters by reassigning him and covering up his actions), his victims, you name it - into believing it's their fault he molested children, not his.

I would think that a god would want one to take responsibility for one's own actions and for his or her leaders to protect the faithful no matter what the cost. More and more stories are coming out to show that this doesn't seem to be the case. Click on the link to see a very chilling video (it's about 9 minutes, so you may want to do this on your break or at home), or click on the picture for a print story.

More to come later.

A View Of The TEM All Over The Place

I've got a lot on my mind. Click on the links to read all about it.

  • The debate over the cervical cancer vaccine continues. Seems there are some parents out there who believe that protecting their daughters from a virus nearly all of us carry in our bodies or will be exposed to in our lifetime equals a false sense of security or a license to run reckless. Check out this article to see the debate. I think this quote sums it up for me: "It's like any other vaccine. If it's something that is going to prevent (my daughters) from acquiring any type of disease, I would want that...It's a virus, and we have to bring it down to the scientific basis and take the emotion out of it."
  • Nine may be too young for a girl to get an HPV vaccine, but 15 is not too young for a girl to get married, at least according to the Colorado Supreme Court, if not 12 for girls or 14 for boys if you toss English common law into the mix. Not that's irony.
  • Men, if you're thinking about proposing, please keep your clothes on and stay out of the bushes.
  • This story shows that the first cut can be the deepest for a child, especially when parents are using a child as a pawn in a power struggle.

Smoke, smoke, smoke that cigarette. Click on the picture to see a hilarious video.

I can't do no more, y'all. More to come later.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

A View Of A Briny Menace

My sister has a fear of mayonnaise. She's not too hot on Miracle Whip, or that sandwich spread stuff with the diced pickles in it, either. She's gotten over it because she works in a commercial kitchen. I used to make fun of her. Who would be afraid of something like mayo? After reading a posting on the Pop Candy blog this afternoon and looking at a clip from the show, I'll never make fun of my sister or anyone else's fear again. Click on the picture above to see the clip. The girl is genuinely afraid, and Maury should be given 50 lashes with an old pickle for tormenting her.

More to come later, after I get rid of that jar of Hellmann's I hid under the DEM's bed.

A View Of Baby Got Back

"So, how much do you weigh?"

I was asked this question the other day in the course of a relatively pleasant conversation. I gave my standard answer:

"More than I should."

This answer seemed to satisfy the inquisitor, and the conversation continued on as I stifled the urge to eat a scoop or ten of some Jamoca Almond Fudge to comfort myself from the mild sting. The answer is true, by the way. Just like most Americans, I do weigh more than I should - I don't know the exact number. My eating habits are okay, but could be better - I don't eat as many vegetables as I should, I tend to eat late, I've never met a starch I didn't like, and I'm not as active as I should be. On the other hand, I rock my Lane Bryant gear proudly, I'm active, and I'm in good health. My cholesterol is fine, my blood pressure is normal, have no heart problems or chronic conditions outside of screwed up sinuses.

It would be nice if I could look like this:

How does she do it? Even her website is adorable.

Who wouldn't? Short of having a self portrait hiding in my attic, however, I never will. There are also days when I feel like I look like this:

How does she do it? Even her website is adorable.

Like whenever I catch a glimpse of myself in a dressing room mirror. (Funhouse mirrors aren't as distorted.) Or the day an ex-boyfriend put his hands around my waist, jiggled my midsection the way one would give a cute puppy a tummy rub, and noted that I "didn't look as big as usual." He grinned as though he'd just given me the highest compliment one could give another. I suggested he go home, then came this close to scarfing some Oreos. We weren't together long after that remark.

All things considered, I think I look okay for a thirtysomething woman who will never be rail thin, but will never have to have a wall torn out of my house to airlift me to a hospital. Don't you agree?

How does she do it? Even her website is adorable.
Google "View From The TEM" to find out.

Now, I should note that the man who asked this question happily volunteered his weight with the eagerness of a first grader trying to impress his favorite teacher. He also meant no harm in asking the question. The same goes for the ex who made the unfortunately worded remark. (He said it after I'd come home from the gym one day.) Still, both remarks bothered me for two reasons:

1) Women catch a ton of flack about their weight and have tons of body issues. It shouldn't be that way, but unfortunately it is in this country. Think of all those issues of Star, US Weekly, and People you see in the grocery store - usually next to the candy at the checkout counter. Or those weight loss plan ads. (Have you ever noticed that those weight loss places are always next door or a couple of doors away from a fast food place? Take a look next time if you don't believe me.) I even saw a commercial once for weight maintenance cat food and the cat in the commercial was a girl. For reasons that escape me, overweight women in this country are unacceptable and we shouldn't take the unnecessary body image issues lying down. Beauty is in many sizes, shapes and forms.

2) I realized that I've bought into the hype. I could stand to lose a little weight, but overall I think I look quite good, thank you very much. At the same time, the thought crossed my mind after those remarks were put out there that maybe I'd be a bit more attractive if I were a size 8 instead of an 18. I'd be happier if my waist were smaller. If I looked "good," then I'd feel better. It was quite the wake up call to realize I was open to the idea of letting the society defined ideal define who I am and how I look.

So rock your curves, Halle. You look great, but I'm right there with you. A wise woman once said, " lips, my eyes, my feet, my thighs, I'm loving what I see."

More to come, as soon as I finish my lunch.

Oh, I forgot to tell you this little tidbit. The gentleman, a very interesting guy with potential, who asked how much I weighed will be coming to visit me next weekend. If he asks again, I'm going to sit on him and eat cookies as he struggles under my girth. Stay tuned.

A View Of Letting The Wrong Head Do The Thinking

When one is doctor shopping, does one consult "Addicted Reports" for tips and recommendations?

I always figured him to be a useless dick. This story just confirms my suspicions.

More to come later. No pun intended.

Update (6/27/06): Not only is he useless, he's stupid, too. He may have blown (for lack of a better term) his pending plea deal. Why couldn't he have tried to be like Bob instead?

Friday, June 23, 2006

A View Of Something Completely Different

My recent blog topics have been quite heavy, so here's a cute picture of squirrels frolicking to lighten things up.

Aren't they adorable? As my sister would say, I'd give these two tisses right on the tippy tops of their cute, little heads.

More to come later, after I stop saying, "Awww."

Thursday, June 22, 2006

A View Of The TEM - The Exhibitionist

Some of you may wonder why I talk about such personal, intimate issues and experiences. People generally are unwilling to talk about depression, suicide, sexually transmitted diseases, the choice to be child free or other taboo topics with their closest intimates - and discussing such topics with total strangers on the other end of a computer screen is seen as a form of insanity. What makes me stand naked before you on a regular basis?

It's simple. I hate taboos. One of my favorite films, "The Aristocrats," was all about the taboo of language. The basic point of the film was simple - if you try to suppress a word or a concept, that gives that word or concept more power. I thought this point has universal appeal. Keeping something taboo out there, and being willing to expose something that makes one uncomfortable or is a source of anxiety to a society allows that taboo to become more of a threat. Being willing to explore the frightening, the forbidden, the contents of Pandora's Box (which, according to Greek myth was actually a jar, but that's another post), means one is willing to go through growing pains to become a more self-actualized full person.

That's why I talked about my father's suicide and the aftermath. To pretend that it didn't happen or, as I've done in the past denied the fact in some form or another, allowed it to be a continuing corrosive element to my life and my family's life. The underlying cause, his depression (and mine), is a similar corrosive element. The only way to fully heal is to acknowledge it and set it free. The need to conceal mental illness and suicide is especially prevalent in the African-American community - my community. We hide the things we feel are shameful; like calling depression "the blues" or saying (as I often did with my dad) that a suicide was "an accident," or telling people, "we're not sure what happened, but...." It's never good for anyone to deny the source of internal hurt, and it's especially hurtful to me when my people continue to harm themselves in this way. This is the subject of a fascinating article by Desiree Cooper in today's Detroit Free Press. Marilyn Martin, a psychiatrist and author of the new book, "Saving Our Last Nerve: The Black Woman's Path to Mental Health," feels the same way. She'll be talking about this subject at a forum tomorrow morning from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at YouthVille, located on 7375 Woodward Avenue in Detroit. If you are free tomorrow morning, it would be a great way to spend your time. Call New Center Community Mental Health (313-961-3720) for more information or to register. The forum is $30 per person. If you can't make it, buy the book (yes, even if you aren't black and/or a woman) and read it. It's on my reading list.

It's also why, after years of pretending and denial, I finally decided to discuss my atheistic viewpoint. The only way I could be a full, happy and functioning person was to be open about who I am. Hiding my spiritual views was in some ways easier when interacting with people, but in the end was tiring. Too many lies, too much wasted time attending church services that were personally unfulfilling, downright frustrating because of the difference in core beliefs, and destructive in some personal relationships - it was time to stop and let go. Being out in the open about not holding a belief in a god or a religion, while awkward in some situations, is much healthier (mentally and physically) for me and encourages open exchange because pretense and deception are eliminated. It encourages candid discussion, and we all know that knowledge is power. A fellow blogger (and fellow atheist) holds this same point of view and is interested in open discourse about the nature of belief. If you have some time and aren't afraid to challenge your point of view, check out this post on Exact Approximations. It's a fascinating read and makes you think, no matter what your creed or denomination, and you're offered to share your viewpoints.

Madonna said it best: Express yourself, don't repress yourself. Strip away your inhibitions; be it your religion, your sexual orientation (it's not a lifestyle choice - accept it, deal with it), your political views and be naked to the world. Once you get past the initial self-consciousness, you'll love the freedom and you'll be more willing to be open to other viewpoints.

More to come, naked and unashamed.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A View Of Bob Barker's Blues

I got my pets spayed, Bob. Aren't you proud of me?

Bob Barker is having a very good day.

He's smiling like he just won a showcase because of the actions of the Rhode Island state legislature. They are the first state in the nation to heed his plea to have your pet spayed or neutered - it's now a state law, with fines of $75 a month for cat and dog owners who fail to sterilize. A lack of funds is not an excuse either - the law includes subsidies for low-income pet owners. Farmers and state licensed breeders are exempt. The law was designed to help reduce the number of euthanasias performed because of animal shelter overcrowding.

He's also smiling because a feline menace has been spared the death penalty. Remember the story of Lewis, the baddest pussy on the East coast? He was due to be put to sleep because he was a menace in his Bridgeport area neighborhood, but a judge commuted his sentence to life with no parole - so to speak. If he's a good kitty, his record will be expunged.
I'm not making this up.

They say that cat is one bad mutha - shut yo mouth!

Bob's got love for the dogs, too. Take Belle, for example. This beagle did her best Lassie impression when she called 911 for her owner, a diabetic who suffered a seizure. "There's no doubt I'd be dead if I didn't have Belle," he said of his pooch - the first canine winner of the VITA Wireless Samaritan Award.

Now that's a good dog!

Still, Bob's smile hides some tears because of an incident that recently took place in St. Peters, Missouri. A 33 year old woman, angry that a Chihuahua puppy she bought - a four week old animal taken from its mother too soon according to her veterinarian - died, reportedly went back to the breeder to complain. Her attempts to get restitution included beating the breeder about the head with the dead puppy, trying to force her way into the breeder's home to get a new puppy, and (after being forced out the breeder's home) driving off while yelling threats out of her car window and waiving the dead puppy out of her sunroof.

I'm not making this up, either. Shame the Animal Cops weren't around to take her crazy ass (or the vet who let her leave the office with a dead puppy) to jail.

How come there aren't minimum requirements for pet ownership? There's a new cause for you to champion, Bob: Have your pet owner screened for psychological defects.

More to come later.

No animals were harmed in the creation of this post.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

A View Of A Father's Day Meditation

(To my family: This post may be a bit intense for you to read because it discusses a very dark point in our history. You may want to pass on reading this because of the memories it may bring up for you. It's not meant to hurt, but it may unintentionally.)

This post is inspired by a song.

I remember when, I remember, I remember when I lost my mind. There was something so pleasant about that place. Even your emotions have an echo in so much space.
-Gnarls Barkley

The last time I saw my dad was in late October 1982. We had dinner. We danced - trying to teach him how to do the Rock until he came out of his socks. We played video games on the Atari 2600 he helped hook up to our TV. We laughed and joked. When it was time for him to leave we begged him to stay, but he didn't. He said he had to go.

At least that's what I'm told. I have no memory of that day whatsoever. I do, however, have a clear memory of two days after that.

The first was a day about two weeks after he went missing shortly after our last day together. We'd been trying to call him to wish him a happy birthday. Friends had been trying to get in touch with him because nobody had seen him in about a week. His mother had been trying to reach him because he hadn't been by to see her. We were sitting at the dining room table - my mom, sister and I - and all of us were trying to think of all the places he could've been. Then, I looked up and said the words that I still hear just as clear as though I were speaking them now in a never ending loop:

"Has anyone checked the morgue? I don't think he's there, but it can't hurt to cover all the bases."

The second day I remember clearly is the day after Thanksgiving that year. My dad had been missing for about three weeks at this point, and we were all at our wits end waiting on him to show up again. My dad would occasionally go off by himself for a few days, but he'd never been gone this long. My family lives in a duplex - at the time my mom, sister and I lived upstairs, and my grandmother (my mother's mother) lived downstairs. My mom was at work. My sister and I were watching TV. At about 3:00, my grandmother called upstairs and told us to come downstairs. When I asked why, she said in a tense, furious voice:

"Because I said so! Don't you question me! Come down here before I come up there and get you!"

Pouting and sullen, we went downstairs. When we walked in, the first thing we were told was not to answer the phone. Again, I asked why.

"What did I tell you," she snapped.

I plopped down on the den sofa, and my sister went to play with her dolls. And we waited - for what, I didn't know. A few hours later, my mom came home and told my sister and I to come upstairs. I remember thinking that we were about to be punished for something, but I didn't know what we did. That thought left my mind when we walked into the house and I saw the look on my mother's face. She looked drained, tired, and haunted. I'd never seen her look that way before.

Even your emotions have an echo in so much space.

I don't remember how she told us Dad was dead, but I do remember sitting there at that dining room table with head in my hands, sobbing. She continued talking, and I think she was crying at the same time. My sister was crying. I remember not being able to move. And I remember hearing those words I'd spoke earlier ringing in my head - as though I'd willed these events to happen:

"Have you checked the morgue?"

He'd drowned in the Detroit River - I don't remember being told how he ended up there - and had been in the water for about three weeks, the same amount of time he'd been missing. He was found by a police dive team - by accident. The identification he had on him was old, so it took the police a couple of weeks to locate us. They ended up reaching the super at an apartment building we lived in years earlier. The super reached an old friend, who reached another old friend, who phoned my grandmother - my dad's number. This was how she learned her only child was gone. She phoned my mom's mom, who told my mother. My mom asked my grandmother to bring us downstairs and to keep us off the phone until she got home. She didn't want us to find out about what had happened from an outsider.

Mom told us he drowned in an accident and that, because he had old ID on him, the police couldn't find us right away. She also told us she'd answer any questions we had whenever we were ready to ask them. We were too overcome with grief to ask anything then. That would come in time.

There's a third day I remember, though not as clearly as the first two I've described. A memorial service was held for him about a week after he was found. Because he'd been in the water so long, a traditional funeral was impossible. He had to be cremated, and his cremains weren't ready in time for the service. The service was held at our church. There were huge, bright red poinsettias throughout the sanctuary and on the altar for Advent, (to this day, I hate poinsettias.) but no picture of him or any personal effects. The church was full, but I don't recall any of the faces. All I clearly recall is entering the sanctuary and turning to go to the seats we normally occupied when we attended service.

"No, baby," my aunt told me in a whisper I barely heard. "We're the family, so we sit up front for this," she said as she gently guided me to the front pews.

The rest is a dark blur.

I remember when, I remember, I remember when I lost my mind.

A fourth day, the clearest day of all, still haunts me. It was a summer day in 1986. I was on a bus coming home from an appointment downtown - not too far from spot on the river where my father was found, but I didn't think about that until later on. I took a seat on the bus, and turned on my Walkman. I'd just bought Stop Making Sense, by the Talking Heads. The music made me smile. I sang along, danced in my seat, and enjoyed the feeling of the sun on my face. Everything was fine until one song in particular came on.

The song was, Take Me To The River.

The song, a cover of the R&B classic by Al Green - the original can be found on the album, Al Green Explores Your Mind), is about a man seeking relief from a bad relationship. I paid little attention to it at first, but when I heard the chorus, the lyrics slowly began to sink in:

Take me to the river, drop me in the water. Take me to the river, dip me in the water. Washing me down. Washing me down.

By the time the song ended, I knew what had happened to my father. That day was the last time I listened to that song. I can't hear it to this day without becoming upset or crying. I don't know how I kept my composure on that bus for the rest of the ride or on the walk home from the bus stop, but I did. It was time to ask questions, and when I got home, I asked.

I remember when, I remember, I remember when I lost my mind. There was something so pleasant about that place.

That night, my mom told me about what had happened that November day four years earlier. Long story short, my dad - for reasons we'll never truly know - had committed suicide. He'd been depressed and had a tendency to internalize things that troubled him. He also had a history of alcoholism - drinking was his way of coping with the disappointments life had visited upon him. She didn't tell my sister and I what happened because she didn't think we were ready to handle it when he died. She knew the day would come when she had to tell us, but none of us were ready that day in 1982. It was a bit of relief to know what had actually happened, but I wasn't prepared for the impact that knowledge would have on me over the years.

And when you're out there, without care, yeah I was out of touch. But, it wasn't because I didn't know enough. I just knew too much. Does that make me crazy?

A lot has happened since the day my father died and the day I discovered how he died. Shortly after I found out the truth about my father's death, I went through my own depression. A couple of times, when my grief, depression and anger seemed to be insurmountable, I entertained the thought of suicide. Those thoughts were always fleeting - my father's actions showed me that committing suicide was never a feasible solution. A suicide not only kills the person, it kills a part of that person's loved ones. For a while, I pretended that he was not dead. This was easy to do because there was no body at his memorial. I created a scenario where he decided to run away from his life by faking his death, and - just like in the movies - it was only a matter of time before we found him again. There was a time when I dreaded the approach of Father's Day or Thanksgiving because it reminded me too much of his loss. For a brief period, I was angry at my mother and grandmothers for not telling my sister and I what actually happened. It wasn't long before I realized I was being selfish with my grief - his death and the sudden, shocking nature of how it happened had impacted us all. None of us were ready to handle it. I held on to a very deep seated anger at him for taking his own life, seeing it as him rejecting his family. That anger almost destroyed me as it was a major cause of my depression, but it was an anger that was almost impossible to let go. My memories of him are so sketchy, so scarce, that the anger was at times the most palpable part of him I had left.

After therapy, the passage of time, I now realize I have more of him than I originally thought. I remember him teaching me to stand up for myself. I remember his words of wisdom - some quite powerful and some unintentionally funny - and use them to this day. I remember him making dinner for my sister and I one day and how hard he tried to make everything perfect even though he wasn't much of a cook - teaching by example to go all out and do your best no matter what the situation. I remember his dry, understated humor - cutting, intelligent and highly observant. I remember how he would tell me all the time how I was special because I was his number one girl - then teaching me that because of that, I had a responsibility to be strong and a leader for my sister. I remember him having pride in me and my sister's accomplishments and emphasizing our intelligence - he once said in jest, "your mind will take you everywhere, but your pocket will take you nowhere," but there was a lot of wisdom in that observation.

For everything I do remember and cherish about him, there's a lot about him that is irretrievable. Like the way sound of his laugh. The weight of his hand on my shoulder. The way he held his cigarette or tilted his head when he talked. For every memory I have, I can't help but wonder about what memories I could've had if he hadn't taken his life. Like the look on his face at all of the milestones that happened since he's been gone - graduations, marriages, new jobs, other family transitions. The ability to be able to talk with him as an adult about any and everything. How he would've aged and reacted to my sister and I growing older. It would be fascinating to see what would be different now, and what would've stayed the same.

Wondering what could've been is what occupies my mind this Father's Day, not what has been lost. My father wasn't a perfect man, but he was good man. He was troubled, but he had more strength than he realized. He may not have been as successful as he would've liked to be, but he was a wonderful, caring father to my sister and I. I now realize that not remembering the last day we saw him is, in a way, a gift because it would be a constant reminder of his loss. It still hurts from time to time, but it would hurt more to have that memory and nothing else than to have the full image of my dad - warts and all - I have today. The memory I have of my father is painful, hopeful, inspiring, real and not idealized.

As the song says, there's something so special about that place.

Happy father's day, dad. I love and miss you.

More to come later, warts and all.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A View Of The TEM's Idol - A Birthday Salute

A View Of The DEM, getting ready to raise hell back in the day...

This adorable picture is of my favorite person. Back in the day she was loud, funny, profane (but it was so cute to hear foul words come out of such an innocent looking mouth), adventurous, smart, clever, and had a personality that could fill up a stadium. She loved chewing the feet off Barbie dolls, sucking her two middle fingers, and singing her favorite song, "Play That Fuckin' Music, White Boy" at the top of her tiny, little lungs. Family legend has it that her pediatrician told our parents she exhibited "dwarf like tendencies." It wasn't true, but that's never stopped me from teasing her about it. (If you ever meet her, ask her if she liked the movie "Willow.") This was a girl destined to have a larger than life personality and be two inches shorter than yours truly, even with her beloved platform flip-flops.

Time marched on, and though she's grown up, she's still my kid sister. As I've watched her mature, she's confounded me, made me laugh so hard I've begun to wheeze, impressed me with her common sense and wisdom, frustrated me to the point of tears, and has made me proud to be her sister. She's easily my best friend.

Today is her birthday so, as a tribute, I present you with a list of the top 10 things that make the DEM my idol:

1) Her devotion to Mickey Mouse, balanced by her disdain of Minnie Mouse. According to her, Mickey is a mouse beyond compare (don't you dare call him a rat), and Minnie is "that big footed slut who's trying to ruin his reputation."

2) Her self-described mind like a lint trap, holding a lot of fuzz and nothing of value, often with hilarious results. Like the time she wrote a note to remind herself that her sunglasses were in her jacket pocket ("...if sunny put glasses on"), or the time she described someone as having a "freakishly large Dondi head," even though the Dondi strip hasn't been in circulation since the 80s.

3) Her eclectic musical taste. She's the only person I know who has a deep appreciation for ABBA, Mariah Carey, Biggie Smalls and Wu-Tang Clan. She's also the only person I know who has loved Andy Gibb, Brian McKnight, and Raekwon simultaneously.

4) Her soft heart. She loves animals, but rarely makes it through an episode of "Animal Cops" or "Meerkat Manor" without shedding a tear. I tease her about crying whenever we watch "Frosty the Snowman" and he melts in the greenhouse, but I admire her caring nature.

5) Her dark core. Every fuzzy critter she swears she'd give "tisses" to or sheds a tear for when they are hurt is balanced out by her inexplicable love for all things true crime. She's seen every episode of "American Justice" and "Law & Order" (she even liked Dennis Farina's character), will tape "Cops" and "America's Most Wanted" if she won't be home, and will buy any true crime story Borders will sell.

6) Her love of all things "Lifetime," or as she calls it the "talk back to the TV" channel. She watches the movies ("...ooh! This is the one where Jaclyn Smith is married to the mobster who killed her sister...."), knows the lyrics to theme song for "The Nanny" by heart, and went in to a brief depression when her satellite service dropped the station for about a month earlier in the year. I made the mistake of suggesting she start watching Oxygen instead. It was as though I'd told her I liked to kick puppies or something. "I love my trash," she said, "but it has to be good trash." I should've known - back in the day, she loved her Jackie Collins novels.

7) Her uncanny ability to identify a person's lookalike. She was the one who pointed out that the Geico caveman who doesn't have "much of an appetite" looks just like Val Kilmer. (Click on the links and compare. You may even save some money on your car insurance if you do.) She also swears that Ben Affleck looks like he'd hang out at the corner Dairy Queen with his buddies Goober and Pete, smoking a joint and making fun of fat chicks. She has a point if you think about it.

8) Her way with a lyric. See if you can figure out what song this line comes from: "With scooped up funk/trashed it on the floor." Give up? Click here for the answer.

9) Her love of monkeys, pigs, and Muppets. She's had a thing for monkeys ever since she terrorized me as a kid with a rubber King Kong doll. (I had a deep fear of rubber animals, like spiders and snakes.) I don't remember when the pig fixation began, but I think it has something to do with one of our relatives calling her "Pig" as a nickname. (That relative, by the way, is the only person who could call her that. Trust me.) And, yes, she cried watching both "Babe" (she bawled at the end and "That'll do pig," will still make her tear up a bit) and "Charlotte's Web." Her love of the Muppets is cuckoo crazy - she even knows the name of Miss Piggy's dog. I didn't even know she had a dog and I watched the show as much as she did. She adores the movies, has a special place in her heart for Johnny Fiama and Pepe the King Prawn, (yeah, she likes the obscure ones as much as the more well known ones) and swoons every time the "Muppet Show" house band sings. (She actually said, "Those Muppets threw down singing 'Crocodile Rock'," once with a completely straight face and without a trace of irony.) Don't even get her started talking about Emmet & Ma Otter. Don't get me started on the day she gave me that puppy kicking look when I asked, "What the hell was Gonzo, anyway?"

10) This face, still adorable and still raising hell after all these years:

Happy birthday kid, from your sister with the freakishly large Dondi head.

More to come later, after the birthday cake is gone.

Monday, June 12, 2006

A View Of The TEM's One Way Ticket To Palookaville

Remember a while back when I told you about my thwarted dream to become the Vince McMahon of the cutting edge, hardcore world of professional Rock Paper Scissors? Well, tonight, I get to see my dream come to life with some other visionary mogul reaping the fruits of my imagined glory.

A&E (who came out as the victor in a vicious battle for the broadcast rights against Bravo, no doubt) will be airing the Rock Paper Scissors championships at 10:00 p.m. (Eastern Time). They even sprung for a copyright and everything. I'll be sitting in front of the TV tonight with a lukewarm near beer watching my dream fade before my eyes.

Man. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody....

Sigh. More to come later, after I get over the crushing disappointment.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

A View Of The TEM Dripping In Latex

I took the Friday before Memorial Day and the week after off to begin a task I've been putting off for over a decade. I began painting my house.

Day 1 Of The TEM Painting (Re-Enactment)

So far, I've got 2/3 of the work done. My bathroom is a really cool peach/pink/shrimp color depending upon what type of light hits it. My main hallway is a melon color. My living room is a very nice salmon/orange/melon color, again depending upon the type of light in the room. I also bought a nice floral rug, a foor lamp with a rouge red lampshade, and a rouge red slipcover for the sofa that I'm nowhere near ready to replace to round out the room. Next up is draperies or bamboo roman shades for the windows to replace the tired old mini blinds. My house is beginning to look like a home.

I still have a lot to do. The dining room needs to be scraped of decades old flocked wallpaper and repainted - a task that I'm beginning to take on and hope to have completed around Labor Day. My bedroom, sewing room, and den need to be painted. Fortunately those rooms, like my hallway, will be quick tasks because there's paneling on the walls. All they'll need is paint on the windows, ceiling, and trim.

Then there's the kitchen or, as I like to call it, the spirit killer. I may just buy a door, close it, and pretend it doesn't exist.

More on the kitchen in a later post. It's making me depressed just thinking about it.

Anyway, I learned quite a bit during the initial go around, and I thought I'd share my newly found wisdom with you. Here are the top 10 things I learned about painting:

1) Some say painting is relaxing. They're wrong. Painting sucks - especially if you have an old house with plaster, weird nooks and crannies, and moulding up the yin-yang.
2) There's only one thing that sucks more than painting - paint swatches. Whoever came up with the idea that a 2"x 2" square of paper as a reflection of what your final color will look like on a wall must've been sniffing an awful lot of paint thinner.
3) Cats will not go near paint until you've painted a windowsill and open the window to help speed the drying process. I love my two, but it's a minor miracle they didn't end up with a melon colored stripe on their tummies.
4) You know that saying about how something can be as dull as watching paint dry? The reference is clearly about daytime television. Between the soaps, endless "Law & Order" reruns, mind-numbing talk shows and court shows (how many times can Maury Povich do a DNA paternity test show, anyway), I thought I would go insane. I knew I was going to the dark side when I found myself looking forward to Tyra Banks in the morning. To her credit, her show does have a really nice theme song by India.Arie.
5) If you take time off from work, no matter how many things you do and steps you take, you will get a call from someone on your job asking you how to do something. Thank goodness I thought ahead and turned off my cell phone.
6) Speaking of turning off the cell phone, it's very easy to get used to being offline and unplugged. No e-mail, no voice mail, no virtual meetings? Now that's paradise. I just remembered to turn my cell phone back on today. Sigh. Vacation is truly over.
7) If you are painting, you will never have enough paint to finish your job. NEVER. I had to make three trips to Lowes for paint. Expensive ass paint.

There's no such thing as a bottomless paint can.

Which reminds me...

8) ...You also will spend more on your project than you plan. Accept it. Deal with it. Get used to it. I planned on painting my three (okay 2.5) rooms for under $100. Wasn't that naivete cute?
9) Paint gets into every possible nook, cranny, and unmentionable inch of exposed skin.

A View Of The TEM After A Week Of Painting

It, however, will never go entirely into corners and on to plaster mouldings, even if you buy those special corner tools and fancy-schmancy paint brushes.

Piece. Of. Crap.

10) In the course of painting, you will break something of value in your home. I popped the seal on the friggin' drain pipe under my bathroom sink. It has to be repaired. Again. Damn it.

Redecorating. Will it ever end?

More to come later.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

A View Of The Fifth Beatle

One of my earliest memories is learning how to use the stereo back in the day so I could jam to music by Freda Payne, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, and all sorts of 70s soul. I was about 2 or 3 and could barely reach the stereo, but I did what I had to so I could dance - usually at a totally inappropriate time or hour - whenever the groove hit me.

A favorite of mine was "Outta Space," by Billy Preston. He played, collaborated, and influenced the Beatles so much, he was often called the "fifth Beatle." He was the only musician to play with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. He wrote the Joe Cocker classic, "You Are So Beautiful." He got his start as a pianist for gospel legend Mahalia Jackson when he was 10 years old.

Billy Preston made his transition today. He was only 59 years old. If you've never heard that song, turn off your computer immediately, go to the nearest music store and pick up a copy of his greatest hits. If you have, go to the nearest music store and pick up a copy anyway. It would be a wonderful tribute to the man and his talent. If there is an afterlife, it's a lot funkier now.

Rest in peace Billy, and rock it out when the groove strikes.

More to come later.