For my own personal history

Memarie Lane has a great post today about how most of us are bit players (if not Kleenex-disposable extras) in the big scheme of life. That’s why (because I agree, not because of her post) I wasn’t going to write some grandiose “Where were you?” post about September 11th. Wasn’t going to say that we were living in New York City in 2001. That we were proud of Rudy Guiliani,and also the democrats, and that we were scared when we thought there were seven planes hijacked. But we calculated that Columbia’s Low Library must be pretty low on a terrorist’s list of targets.

I wasn’t going to admit that I was excited that we got to order in (free) lunch from that deli on Broadway because we were all so upset and of course I couldn’t even think of eating at a time like that. I think I ate a spinach salad, with bacon and hard-boiled eggs, and a vinegary-sweet dressing. (This is not a comment to trivialize but to confess how my appetite is never, ever ruined. A post for another day.)

Earlier that morning my shoulder dislocated while I was using the thera-band from my physical therapist. Wasn’t the first time, or the worst time, but, oh! did I feel sorry for myself as I rode the subway to work. As I took the 1/9 to 116th and Broadway and walked through the quad at Columbia University.

Someone had a TV on in the lobby of the SIPA (School of International and Public Affairs) Building, and the rest of the day was a Kafka-like nightmare of helpless surrealism. We sat around the Economics Department with the lights half-on. We made plans to give blood, and then we heard that no blood was needed.

I wondered if Tom was okay and if I’d be able to make it home to The Bronx, if the bridges and tunnels and subways would be reopened soon. He was home with one-year-old Avery back then. Every day at four he dropped her off before going to class, and I took her home after she’d gotten lots of attention from Angela and Sharon and Leslie, and polite disinterest from Laura.

I had visited the World Trade Center for the first and only time two weeks before the attacks. My brother was visiting from Utah and wanted to see everything. I’ve got pictures of us with Avery in her MacLaren stroller. We have pictures of her, a little older, in the same stroller, in front of the photo and ribbon-festooned plywood barricades that ringed Ground Zero (and probably still do, for all I know).

I felt so stupid that day, for feeling sorry for myself about my dumb shoulder. Even stupider when reports of the bravery and desperation of the “Let’s Roll” people came out of Pennsylvania.

It was probably only weeks or days before I felt sorry for myself again, over something even dumber, like too many poopy diapers in a twenty-four hour period. Or a husband who liked to play basketball in the evenings instead of rushing home to be with us.

And then I’d remember to be glad, and immeasurably grateful, that he would be coming home at all.


Because Tiananmen Square isn’t the best place to protest


The Olympics are always a time to bask in the collective glow of human aspiration and achievement (or wallow in the self-pity of lazy, unfocused giver-up-ish-ness). You can get teary-eyed about the Chinese gymnast who broke his ankle, performed terribly four years ago, and then worked the parallel bars for a 10 (or close enough, now that it’s all confusing).

And you can wonder why some people keep going against all odds (Dara Torres), or seemingly against no odds (Michael Phelps), when I can hardly get myself to the gym four times a week.

But Dick and I have noticed a few new things this time around. Last night as we watched ‘the American’ win his first gold medal (of these Games), Dick remembered the first time he realized that America is not in every game/match/heat at every sporting event. He said as a kid he thought America was really, really dominant, and I argued that, as far as medal counts go, “we” are definitely contenders. But Dick’s point was that, once we were in a foreign country during the Olympics or Tour de France or something, and the commentators and cameras were all trained on some foreign-sounding athletes. Huh? Who ARE these guys?

So this morning I was watching the America – China mens basketball game, and two things struck me as really unfair. Someone should write a letter. First, the Chinese men’s jerseys say “China” on them, at the Beijing Olympics. I’m not an international affairs student, but I think I heard somewhere that they speak a language other than English in China. Like, one with characters or something? And I’m guessing that they have some characters for their country’s name that don’t look like C-H-I-N-A. 

Also, the NBC commentators were very impressed by China’s good start here at the Games. Because their basketball team only lost to the Americans by 31 points. I don’t know. Somehow saying that it was a really good game for you because you only lost by 31 points sounds just a bit, um, patronizing. But seriously, I want to know why Yao Ming is playing on the Chinese team. Isn’t he an American? I swear I saw him on TV last year.

Things That Must Go is an iTunes giveaway this week. Deadline midnight Wednesday. Go enter!

Things That Must Go

Independence Day is one of my favorite holidays. I first flew outside the United States when I was nineteen, and since then I’ve taken every opportunity to see more of the world. My greatest dream (besides happy, healthy children, blah blah blah) is to see everything else.

BUT. I gotta say that I love the United States. I’m guest posting next week at Politics for Mom, so I’ll save the rest of that spiel for then. I just want you to know that I’m happy to be an American, and that I have never pretended to be a Canadian, even when that seemed a more diplomatic option. (And even though I would love to be the same nationality as L.M. Montgomery).

One of the great things about America is the freedom we enjoy on the internet. Freedom from government censors. Who knows? Maybe the government is censoring things left and right; maybe “they” have taken down a website that would tell me how to build a cluster bomb in my garage. Maybe I should be picketing some agency about that and about the Patriot Act. Of course I don’t know everything the government does (and if I did, I’d probably be upset).

BUT, I do know that I have more internet freedom than the people in Egypt and China (for example), and for that I am grateful.

Also, I have the freedom to write whatever I want, which is why this post is now going to segue quite abruptly into Things That Must Go.

Things That Must Go

1. Tight black jeans and emo hair cuts. Just stop. Please.

2. The Fight The Ugly ads that are supposed to be anti-smoking. I can’t find an image online to save my life (Aaack, the internet has failed me!). Have you seen these? They have the word “Allure” or “Lover” or “Charm” and then an image of a cigarette positioned in the middle of the word. Do “allure” and “lover” have negative connotations that I am unaware of that somehow make this ad convey the message that cigarettes are bad?

3. Cheating, lying, and hypocrisy. Nobody’s perfect. I get that. I am very, very far from perfect. Still. Just don’t go there.

I’m sorry to say there’s no giveaway this week. To be honest, I’ve spent a lot of time and emotion in the past couple days on something that has left me with a very sour taste in my mouth about blogging, and especially about viewing blogging as a business. I don’t ever want to be in a position where making money or increasing my blog’s traffic or promoting my blog is more important to me than sharing my thoughts and experiences with anyone kind enough to read.

So I hope you’ll share your Things That Must Go this weekend, but only if you really want to. Not because there’s a prize to win (there isn’t) or because it’ll make you famous or rich (it won’t), but because you just want to share what’s been bugging you in a way that’ll maybe make us laugh or make us think.

Proud to be

david cook american idolI am not ashamed to say that I cried tonight, and not because Sally and Susan refused to go to bed before American Idol was over.

Honestly, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that American Idol represents all that is good about America today. And I know, yadda, yadda, there’s a lot wrong with America. The streets are not paved with gold, or cheese, and I am not a gazilionaire, award-winning author.

What is right with AmericaN IDOL

Friendship: Though they might never have met in real life (I picture David A ordering a sarsaparilla at David C’s place of work), David C and David A seem to genuinely like each other.

Facing up to Mistakes: When Simon apologized to David C tonight, my heart overflowethed: Simon, God loves you very much, and he is SO proud of you tonight.

Good Sportsmanship: I might not have appreciated rocker-chick Amanda Overmyer’s style, but at least she never skulked around with a tire iron.

Democratic, Free Elections: With a simple nominating system that takes a mere 19 weeks rather than seventeen years, and a vote-counting method that rewards enthusiasm and participation, there’s no need for the Supreme Court to step in. Amendment #28?

Element of Surprise: Fireworks on the 4th of July, A 4th Indiana Jones movie, children being solidly potty-trained by age 4: These things are all quintessentially American, but not necessarily surprising. David Cook winning by 12 million votes after auditioning by accident, never playing it safe, getting trashed by judges and almost shown up in the final contest: Surprising.

Youth! Energy! Hard Work! (Truth! Beauty! Love! Freedom!). Amen.


P.S. My dad was embarrassed to tell me that he wanted to watch the show last night (I hope they caught tonight’s, because most of it was fantastic). He said he’d even told his parents about it. My grandparents are lovely, conservative, white-bread, middle-Americans (in a good way) who still watch Lawrence Welk on public television. And I have to say that I think American Idol, as a variety-talent-feel-good show is the Lawrence Welk of the 21st century. Also in a good way.

P.P.S. American Idol bringing out that crazy Renaldo guy singing “You are My Brother” was The.Most.Awesome.Thing.Ever. God bless America!

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