Saturday, April 22, 2006

Your Mileage May Vary

--Samantha Black Crow, in American Gods, Neil Gaiman, 2001.

"I can believe things that are true and I can believe things that aren't true and I can believe things where nobody knows if they're true or not. I can believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and Marilyn Monroe and the Beatles and Elvis and Mister Ed. Listen--I believe that people are perfectible, that knowledge is infinite, that the world is run by secret banking cartels and is visited by aliens on a regular basis, nice ones that look like wrinkledly lemurs and bad ones who mutilate cattle and want our water and our women. I believe that the future sucks and I believe that the future rocks and I believe that one day White Buffalo Woman is going to come back and kick everyone's ass. I believe that all men are just overgrown boys with deep problems communicating and that the decline of good sex in America is coincident with the decline in drive-in movie theaters from state to state. I believe that all politicians are unprincipled crooks and I still believe that they are better than the alternative. I believe that California is going to sink into the sea when the big one comes, while Florida is going to dissolve into madness and alligators and toxic waste. I believe that antibacterial soap is destroying our resistance to dirt and disease so that one day we'll all be wiped out by the common cold like the Martians in War of the Worlds. I believe that the greatest poets of the last century were Edith Sitwell and Don Marquis, that jade is dried dragon sperm, and that thousands of years ago in a former life I was a one-armed Siberian shaman. I believe that mankind's destiny lies in the stars. I believe that candy really did taste better when I was a kid, that it's aerodynamically impossible for a bumblebee to fly, that light is a wave and a particle, that there's a cat in a box somewhere who's alive and dead at the same time (although if they don't ever open the box to feed it it'll eventually just be two different kinds of dead), and that there are stars in the universe billions of years older than the universe itself. I believe in a personal god who cares about me and worries and oversees everything I do. I believe in an impersonal god who set the universe in motion and went off to hang with her girlfriends and doesn't even know that I'm alive. I believe in an empty and godless universe of causal chaos, background noise, and sheer blind luck. I believe that anyone who says that sex is overrated just hasn't done it properly. I believe that anyone who claims to know what's going on will lie about the little things too. I believe in absolute honesty and sensible social lies. I believe in a woman's right to choose, a baby's right to live, that while all human life is sacred there's nothing wrong with the death penalty if you can trust the legal system implicity, and that no one but a moron would ever trust the legal system. I believe that life is a game, that life is a cruel joke, and that life is what happens when you're alive and that you might as well lie back and enjoy it"

As the Red Queen pointed out to Alice, if you practice, you can believe seven impossible things before breakfast. Unfortunately, many Americans do just that. Your mileage may vary.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Crazy Love

My kids drive me crazy. But I love them like crazy. They are both bright, witty, kind, rather cute (people tell me so), but in so many ways so TOTALLY unlike me that I wonder if we really know who their mother was. They wear me out. There is a reason that at a Certain Age, boys want to leave home, and magically, it's about the same time that you want to say "I love you very much. Go away." They never asked for much. There were no TVs and computers in their rooms, no new cars (Number One Son: "I have the second ugliest car in the entire school. It's embarassing." Mom: "Are you glad you don't have to ride the bus as a senior?") Number Two Son, I am convinced, lies awake at night trying to find ways to torture me. Wait, that would require EFFORT on his part. It must just come naturally to him. When I accused Boy One of being spoiled, he answered - Mom, I realize that I am privileged, but I don't think I am spoiled.

I want to wail about my youngest, but I realize that it could be much much worse. He's law abiding, kind, and he does have brains, they just have not quite jelled into an actual structure yet. Today, he told me that he doesn't want to do anything to give up his 'individuality'. That might sound impressive, if he didn't dress, talk, and groom himself as a clone of about two dozens of the kids that wander in and out of our home. I hate that eye-rolling thing they do when you speak English to them...

The pictures are from our Blood and Guts tour of France. The Catacombs, Versailles. Naw, they're not spoiled.

Wednesday, April 5, 2006

A tired little girl...

I received this picture, along with a card, in the mail today. It read:

"This little girl was born Aug. 30, 1937. I figure she's about 4 yrs old, so it was probably taken in 1941 - in Electra, Tx.

Her mom always made her and her big sister wear a bonnet while outside. She looks awfully tired and is probably resting. Can you guess who she is?"

(From my mom....)

Happy 72, Daddy. Thanks for being there for me and my boys all these years.

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Je pense...

I love history, and as the comedian Eddie Izzard says "I'm from Europe. That's where history comes from." While I don't think too much of the French people as a group, I've met wonderful individuals, and they have a beautiful country (ditto that thought on Colorado and its natives.) European history is largely a precursor of U S history. I know, I know, we have people and influence from all over the world. But American culture and our form of government are primarily of Western European descent, so even if you're immigrated from Bangladesh or Greater Mongolia, you've chosen to live in a culture predominated by western European philosophies, languages, government, religions, et al. You can add your own seasonings, but this is the dish that's on the menu.

With all that: look at a map of Europe, and France is this big ol' chunk in the middle. Whether you were marching up from Rome, headed towards the ocean from Germany, spreading Islam north from Spain, or looking for wine-growing weather from England, it's right there in the middle. The French were actually important on the world stage for a short time (as history goes), but their time has passed. But there is still two thousand years of post-Axial Age stuff to see. From the pre-Christian era ruins at Glanum, to Omaha Beach, it's all there.

Reaction from friends and family, on my two (so far) visits: "You're going to France? FRANCE? But, but, it's full of French people! And they hate us!" Yea, yea, well, I'm just going over there to exploit them. I want to see the cathedrals, climb the ruins that previous conquerors left, taste the food, smell the air. I want to shed tears on the tiny piece of land that belongs to the U.S., where we buried our dead, during one of the two times we kept the German language from being taught in the schools. I am just using them to enrich my own personal history. Last week, President Chirac stormed out of a meeting of the European Community because the speaker, a native French, announced he would use English since 'it is the international language of business." Let them pout. (Aside: when I visited Norway 10 years ago, I apologized to someone for not being able to speak any Norwegian. He said "why should you learn it? There are only four million of us in the world.") The time of French as an international language, or as the court language of Europe, is long gone. Get over it. Passe moi le bouillabaisse.

A view from my balcony in the Latin Quarter; my son and I at the Louvre. 2004

Sunday, April 2, 2006

Chaco Canyon

Chaco Canyon, near Farmington, NM. During a work trip to the area, I made a stop at the national monument here. You come upon the location suddenly, unexpectedly. The area to the east of Farmington is stereotypical New Mexico: flat, endless, dry, deserted. Like Hollywood views Texas. As you drive south from the highway, you slowly approach a great river canyon, but this canyon has been empty for a thousand years.

Anyone so interested can go to various web sites and look up the history of the place. When Europeans were building cathedrals, bridges, roads, water wheels, ships that sailed around the Horn of Africa, when the Chinese were peering through telescopes and recording the heavens, the people here gathered stones together and built a rabbit's-warren of dwellings and ceremonial rooms. Many of the hundreds of sites were reburied after excavating, to preserve them from looting and from the elements. Many were destroyed during exploration, such as when a National Geographic survey about 80 years ago used wood beams from the construction for cooking fires (this, according to the park ranger). Visited 2-2006.