Wednesday, September 29, 2004

I was working at the computer today and I had a gingerbeer nearby because I have a strangulating cough that I'm trying to get rid of. So the gingerbeer was on my right because the desk was crowded and as I was reading I reached out with my left hand (because I'm left-handed) and took up the can and had a swig. Several things were wrong with that gingerbeer:

1) It contained real sugar
2) It was warm and flat
3) It had a live spider in it

The spider was in my mouth in a mouthful of soda. It's legs wriggled on my tongue. I spewed the soda and spider all over the carpet and there it was! A 1/4" spider running in wobbly ellipses by my feet.

I smushed it. I rarely kill spiders but this one had been in my mouth and I had to find out if it was poisonous. It was not, to my knowledge, poisonous and it didn't bite me or spew anything that I could tell - that is a particularly gross thought.

I broke into the other book I was reading when In the Shadow of No Towers arrived in the mail. This book of only 42 pages, including 10 double page comix style, took me two hours to read. After each page I had to take a break...go do some dishes or make a cup of tea.

I've talked about my experiences on 9/11/2001 many times. The first few monthes every get together seemed to make its way to what happened and what we did and what we saw. I was living in Maryland, just inside the Beltway, and my family and friends in DC and Virginia, well, we all were horrified and scared, and grieving. I had friends who were in Manhattan that day and their focus on detail of what they did helped distance the horror and yet made it even more clear. There were also the media reports of what happened; tv and radio reports in first and 3rd voice giving details and emotions. It all trickled away with followup stories on "where are they now" and the stories aren't told much anymore except on the anniversaries or when the gathering is the first since the attacks. In the Shadow of No Towers is that person-to-person telling of sequence and feeling magnified by Art Spiegelman's graphics.

In The Shadow of No Towers deals not only with the actual happenings of 9/11/2001 but with the domino effect of discrimination, Homeland Security, laws, paranoia, and politics that followed. The pressure to either appear extra-patriotic or seem a traitor was something I remember well and still feel on occasion.

I haven't read a wide range of Art Spiegelman's work; I've only read Maus I and II but they are masterpieces. They, like In The Shadow of No Towers, are intensely personal yet speak globally. They also speak specifically about Spiegelman's parents experiences in Auschwitz but the story is applicable to prejudice, hatred, and genocide worldwide.

I think this book is not one to recommend. If asked, then I would talk about it and recommend it (and would certainly lend it) but readiness is something personal that I could not gauge for someone else.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Listen nephews. When your Auntie tells you stories about how it is at our house, remember what I am telling you. This is not a haven of peace and quiet where everyone behaves and things work smoothly. We do not sit every evening after dinner and play educational games and everyone is a good sport. Our bedtimes are not always early and embraced. Your cousins do not fall into bed and to sleep right away with prayer still on their lips. It may have seemed that way to Auntie but she only saw us for a few days.

Our house is much like yours. Some nights I do not have dinner ready until some children should have already been asleep. Sometimes your cousins cry or stamp their feet when they are losing at cards. We spend many more evenings struggling over homework, baths, and cleaning up the messy playroom than we do playing

Auntie was our guest. We set aside time for her, we planned activities that all of us could do with her.

We are more like you than she realizes.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

We were at the farm today picking tomatoes and the girls asked me how I know which tomatoes to pick. "Picking tomatoes is like picking men", I said, "I avoid those with big visible rotten spots". What could those be on men, they wondered. "Big rotten buggy spots like ripe track marks and fresh beer breath at 11am." I paint an ugly picture. There is more to choosing than looks, "unless he is eager to leap to my hand, I don't want him. On the other hand, I don't want any that falls to the ground just because I walk nearby."