Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Indian Summer

Look at that sky! From my desk there is a rectangle of cerulean blue, laced with gold and pale green shimmering aspen leaves. We just enjoyed a few days of "Indian" summer (wonder what we'll be calling that in years to come?), with comfortable temperatures and colorful fall leaves against blue-sky backgrounds.

House painting project is put away for the season. We finished the first coat and will do the second in spring. Now piles of oak and box elder leaves wait to be raked up, but will have to wait for the weekend, now that the daylight is nearly gone when we get home after work.

I'm really enjoying my literary journalism class this semester. Lots of great writing to read and good writing to write. I've copied my first essay on this blog already (got an A-), and will put the next one here once I get it back with edits. I will do the final essay about Wain, his life as a musician and fixture in the Minneapolis music cultural scene and kidney transplant candidate.

If this horoscope from Rob Brezsny isn't license for wild abandon, I don't know what is:

SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): A drunk dominatrix sidled up to me at a party
and said, "Reverend, please absolve me of my sins." I'm not officially a
priest, but in the spirit of fun and games I replied, "Why, my dear? Have
you seen the error of your ways?" She spread her arms wide as she
bowed, hissing like a serpent through a toothy smile. "Not at all,
Reverend," she said. "I just want to clear the docket so I can go out and
commit a slew of fresh, new sins with crazy abandon." I sprinkled a few
drops of her Heineken on her head and channeled William Blake: "You'll
never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough.
The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom. If the fool would
persist in her folly she would become wise." And now, Scorpio, I'm
channeling the same blessing for you.

Friday, October 12, 2007

It's official

It's officially fall. The temps were in the mid-80s on Saturday and Sunday, then plunged to mid-50s on Monday. The sky is low and gray. I have hauled in my tropical plants - hibiscus, mandavilla, bouganvillea - from the deck. The rest of the scraggly potted flowers will be left to defend themselves against the windchill; I can never bring myself to rip them out of their soil and toss them onto the compost pile while any blooms remain. I've jammed my shorts back into the plastic storage container I keep under my bed and moved my winter pants back into my bedroom closet. I got a cute new fall jacket, a woolly A-line mid-thigh length with a big houndstooth pattern. I'm wearing socks again. Still, there are hold outs, stubborn campus denizens who continue wearing flip flops or sandals, capri pants, short-sleeved shirts, and go out without a jacket.

Yesterday on my run I spotted a small bird pecking around a boulevard garden near a busy corner. He didn't seem at all fazed as I approached, giving me the idea that he might be hurt. I reached under the plant he was rooting in and picked him up with on hand, then made a closed cup with both my hands while I studied him. He had the coloring of a female goldfinch, but with more of a green tinge, but he was not at all the same shape, being round like a golf ball instead of bullet-shaped, and he had a skinny sharp beak. Because of the red spot he had on the back of his head I thought he might have been injured, but the red was a real red, like a fire engine, not blood red. I set him down in the neighboring yard to see if he would run for cover in this safer spot away from the dangers of the street and he flew up into a tree. When I consulted my Audubon Society Birds of North America I found out he was a ruby-crested kinglet. The book said he probably is stopping off during his migration. I sure hope he finds some friends to hang out and eat with, because he sure was a tiny little bird, all alone in the big world.

That is not my hand, that guy needs a manicure!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Dear Nancy

Dear Speaker Pelosi,

Evidence of impeachable offenses has existed for years and has even been confessed to by President Bush himself, yet you continue to stonewall the effort to bring this renegade administration to justice. For the love of God and country, become familiar with the constitution of the United States and take a step toward restoring our democratic processes. Join Kucinich and others in initiating impeachment proceedings against George Bush and Dick Cheney.

Ten Reasons to Impeach George Bush and Dick Cheney

I ask Congress to impeach President Bush and Vice President Cheney for the following reasons:
1. Violating the United Nations Charter by launching an illegal "War of Aggression" against Iraq without cause, using fraud to sell the war to Congress and the public, misusing government funds to begin bombing without Congressional authorization, and subjecting our military personnel to unnecessary harm, debilitating injuries, and deaths.
2. Violating U.S. and international law by authorizing the torture of thousands of captives, resulting in dozens of deaths, and keeping prisoners hidden from the International Committee of the Red Cross.
3. Violating the Constitution by arbitrarily detaining Americans, legal residents, and non-Americans, without due process, without charge, and without access to counsel.
4. Violating the Geneva Conventions by targeting civilians, journalists, hospitals, and ambulances, and using illegal weapons, including white phosphorous, depleted uranium, and a new type of napalm.
5. Violating U.S. law and the Constitution through widespread wiretapping of the phone calls and emails of Americans without a warrant.
6. Violating the Constitution by using "signing statements" to defy hundreds of laws passed by Congress.
7. Violating U.S. and state law by obstructing honest elections in 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2006.
8. Violating U.S. law by using paid propaganda and disinformation, selectively and misleadingly leaking classified information, and exposing the identity of a covert CIA operative working on sensitive WMD proliferation for political retribution.
9. Subverting the Constitution and abusing Presidential power by asserting a "Unitary Executive Theory" giving unlimited powers to the President, by obstructing efforts by Congress and the Courts to review and restrict Presidential actions, and by promoting and signing legislation negating the Bill of Rights and the Writ of Habeas Corpus.
10. Gross negligence in failing to assist New Orleans residents after Hurricane Katrina, in ignoring urgent warnings of an Al Qaeda attack prior to Sept. 11, 2001, and in increasing air pollution causing global warming.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Letter to my Senators


I am writing to thank you for voting to enhance the SCHIP program.

However, I disagree with your vote to authorize additional, unconditional money for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. What accountability do the American people have for this expenditure? Where is this money coming from? Obviously not from the pockets of hyper-wealthy Americans, those this administration and the republican party represent, whose worth continues to grow in inverse proportion to the wealth of the plodding masses. No, it's going to be paid for with the sweat and tears and blood of ordinary working Americans and their children. The one percent of you who will be shielded from the war and from the overburden of property taxes and expensive health care and high energy costs will never feel a thing, and your children will never know what it's like to feel insecure and on your own and high and dry in this so-called rising tide of prosperity.

Can't any of you get a grip?

We're all still kickin'

This is an assignment we had in my current journalism class on literary non-fiction. Some of the more well-known practitioners of literary journalism are Truman Capote, Tom Wolfe, Jack London, Susan Orlean, Joan Didion. It's the kind of in-depth profiling they do in the New Yorker. Anyway, we were asked to do our first assignment using interior perspective, such as Capote used in "In Cold Blood."

The headline on page one read “The green, green grass of home.” A color photo featured a beaming National Guard lieutenant in sunglasses and army fatigues, reclining on a patch of grass, smiling up at the sky. The photo was taken on the first stop on the journey home after a 17-month deployment in Iraq. Joe Hazelton called his parents in northern Minnesota to tell them his sister, 1st Lieutenant Nicole Siegler, and her brigade, the Red Bulls, was on the front page of the July 11 Star Tribune and that he had saved several copies for them. Joe and his family had been anxiously awaiting Nicole’s return after her year-long tour was extended as part of the military “surge” designed by the White House to provide some tangible signs of success in an increasingly unpopular war. She was safe on U.S. soil and they would be together within a week.

It had been an excruciating few months since the family learned that Nicole’s March homecoming would be pushed back. Joe followed the news stories about the frequent and often random violence against U.S. troops and shared his frustration with coworkers, friends and family. Although proud of his sister’s work as part of a preventive medical group in Talil, he was against the invasion of Iraq from the start and didn’t believe the U.S. should still be there four years later. He often voiced his anti-war and anti-administration views at the family table when he joined them for Sunday night dinners. Joe’s brother is a staunch conservative and the brothers often butted heads on civil liberties issues provoked by the 9/11 attack and the so-called war on terror. Joe often felt like the lone voice of reason, but with Nicole in Iraq, their mom took any dissent against the war or the government as a personal attack on Nicole.

In Nicole’s correspondence and phone conversations to the family she tried to distract from the fact that she was in a war zone, instead steering the conversation toward family's daily goings on in Minnesota. But she shared more of the realities of her situation in private emails with Joe, whom she felt would not overreact. In one email she wrote: “Things have gotten a little crazy around here, lots of rocket attacks (please don’t tell mom, you know how the smothering nature of her would freak out). It’s a weird experience, a rocket attack, but we’re all still kickin’. I’m ready to come home, too bad I’ve got to wait through the hot summer.” Joe kept a level head for his parents’ sake and did not share these details with them, yet he worried about what the waiting and worrying was effecting them.

Joe’s mom had become involved with a family readiness group, assembling care packages and networking with other guard parents, even as she tried to insulate herself from the war news. His dad was more stoic and rarely shared his opinions about the war. During the planning for the reunion, Nicole insisted they take only “one day to make a big deal,” then things would have to go back to normal. They would have to treat her like everyone else.

On the day of the reunion, two tourist-style buses shuttled the troops on a roughly three-and-a-half-hour drive from Ft. McCoy in Wisconsin dto the Cottage Grove Armory, where the brigade would be dismissed. A few of the Red Bulls on the bus kept waiting families updated on their journey via cell phone. The Patriot Guard Riders – a group of motorcycle riders, many ex-veterans, who shield mourners at military funerals from protestors – met the buses at a nearby rest stop and joined their procession toward the armory. These were met at the city limits by local police, fire and other emergency vehicles which lead the way onto the base. The two hundred or so family members in the anxious crowd were waving small paper flags, and neighbors near the base came out onto their lawns and stood on front porches to witness the homecoming. When the buses pulled up, music from loudspeakers swelled with the opening strings of Neil Diamond’s “America.” The only lyrics Joe would hear before the flurry of welcoming embraces and greetings would drown out the music were the first two stanzas:

We've been traveling far
Without a home
But not without a star

Only want to be free
We huddle close
Hang on to a dream

The platoon spilled off the bus and lined up in front of their commanding officer, who saluted and bellowed “dismissed” to screams and laughter from the troops and the waiting crowd.