I’m just a writer. That’s my epitaph: Writer. The New York Times didn’t give me a weekly column, so I post here instead. This is the place where I work stuff out. Sometimes it’s where I rant a little. I often reminisce and ponder and observe and wonder and laugh. I do a lot of laughing. If you choose to read my work, I hope you’ll take it in the spirit in which it is meant. I don’t write to create chaos. I write to find peace. Please leave me your remarks. Or don’t.
“I shouldn’t eat that eggplant Parmesan. I don’t know what it will do to me.”
“Yes, you should probably stick to what you know.”
“I never know how I’m going to react. Last night we went home and got stoned and I had the worst stomach all night.”
“Did you play tennis today?”
“No! Adele cancelled again. I got an email this morning from her that said she was bored last night and decided to go out to the end of the driveway and check her mail about 10 o’clock last night, and she says she stepped on a copperhead – she was sure it was a copperhead – and it bit her, so she decapitated it with a rake, went and got her camera – not her cellphone, but a real camera because she thought she needed high resolution – and took a picture of the decapitated snake, then buried the head because she had heard that her dogs might eat the head and it would poison them, so she buried the head, then she put the body in a Baggie and drove herself to the ER where she sat for 18 hours — of course no one could tell from the picture if it was a copperhead or not, but she was sure it was, so she got treated for the snake bite and then went home and cancelled tennis.”
An insurance salesman just read my essay “Why get (gay) married?” It’s a piece I wrote on the occasion of my first and only legal marriage at the age of 54 to my partner, an Episcopal priest. In it, I conclude that we get married —
Because we want to experience the deep contentment that comes from being harmoniously partnered for life, not only in our hearts, but in the hearts of everyone we know. We want to feel the warmth of inclusion in the collective embrace of our community. We want to know the peace that comes from avowed commitment to one another’s spiritual journey.”
I understand how important people’s religions are to them. My partner is about to be ordained to the Episcopal priesthood. I think religion implemented as a model of inclusivity, cultural guidance, community bond, and philosophical practice can be magnificent.
And I know that each of us receives support and solace from all different kinds of spiritual and corporeal sources throughout our lives. Sometimes we stay connected to them, and sometimes we move on — with gratitude — but on, nonetheless. Just because something or someone helps us at some critical time in our life doesn’t make them perfect in all things for all time and doesn’t indebt us to them forever.
I met Frank when he was 14. I was editor of the Mountain Brook High School “news”paper and as an incoming sophomore, he applied to be my cub reporter. So you might say I gave him his first job in journalism.
We came out to each other after college, and made a minor ritual of attending deb parties together when I came home from New York City for the holidays. We’d steep ourselves in surreptitious sarcasm, making fun of the whole thing — as people tend to do to make themselves feel better when they don’t quite fit in. Years later when I went back to Birmingham for my 30th reunion, I called him and said, “You forgot to remind me how beautiful it is here,” and he said, “Well, we left because we were different, not because we didn’t have good taste.”
I’m writing to you now because it’s almost Thanksgiving, and for all the things that are good in my life today (and there are many), I have you to thank.
A belle born in the New Orleans of 1927, you were a product of your environment and your time: fiscally and socially conservative, but eccentric and open-minded in that odd way that Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil taught us Southern ladies of your ilk could be. A Roman Catholic escapee, you raised me in the Episcopal Church and even attended with me whenever I asked you to. You did the same when I asked to visit a Jewish synagogue and a Buddhist temple and a Baptist church and a Pentecostal revival meeting. You debated Richard Wright, Emerson, Lionel Trilling, William F. Buckley, servitude, socialism, Vietnam, segregation, and the Junior League with me, and sometimes you even won. You took me to every theater production, every ballet, every art opening, you made me try every food once, you sent me on trips hither and yon, you bought me every book you could find and instructed me to never, ever get rid of them. You encouraged me to live in New York City just once before I “settled down.” You showed me in your behavior, if not in your words, that the desire to understand, or at least embrace, human complexity and diversity was the hallmark of an interesting person. Interesting was a trait to aspire to. Boring was failure.
A storm was coming, but it passed, and she was grateful.
A second storm was coming, but it too passed, and she was grateful still.
A third storm was coming and she thought, it won’t come here. But exactly four years ago today, it did, and she had fallen ill and was sorry to be a burden and grateful to have good friends to help her evacuate and offer her shelter at the last minute.
The storm came, and her office was among its first reported casualties, including all the computers and desks and files, and she was grateful that all her team had been out of the building when the waves took it.
She began to write and to send messages to her friends and neighbors so that they might share news as it emerged, and her messages went viral. And she was grateful to have the outlet.
My dream home is high above the ground, she said, where the storm surge can’t reach it. When I return, I will provide shelter and a meeting place for those who lost their homes. And she was grateful to have bought her dream home so that she could offer this safe place.
In general terms, the difference between the Far Left and the Far Right is the difference between giving and taking away. Perhaps that’s the starkest philosophical divide that keeps us all from reaching full understanding and compassion. The Far Left doesn’t always get the methodology correct, but their collective heart is in a good place. The Far Right, on the other hand, is so focused on depriving other people of benefits they themselves enjoy that it’s a wonder they don’t muse on their deathbeds, “Damn, I wasted my whole life obsessing on what men I don’t know do in bed and what pills women I don’t know take to avoid having kids I’m not going to be responsible for.”
John Kenneth Galbraith put it this way:
The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”
“The gay community is breaking up,” my friend said. “We are becoming accepted and assimilated to such a degree that we don’t need gay bars and gay neighborhoods. The straight world is gonna have to find someone new to do their gentrification. We’ll be too busy planning our weddings.”
Isn’t that just unbelievably awesome news?!? Gay people are becoming so embraced by straight society that we no longer have to have our own ghettos, our own subculture?
Not so fast, Cowboy. We still have some healing to do.
I’m sick and tired of the “Christian Right” making everything about them. The latest is the public revelation that Chick-Fil-A has been donating millions of dollars for years to anti-gay groups and has no intention of stopping. The LGBT community has been quietly boycotting CFA for a long time. Suddenly the bigotry has gone public and the Christian Right cries out, “Tell those bad gay people to stop picking on us, stop bullying us! We have the right to have our own opinions without them boycotting us.”
Change is hard. I study and teach it for a living, so I know a little more about it than the average bear. That doesn’t make it any easier for me to accept change in my own life, just means I recognize it when it’s happening.
I’ve had lots of change in the past four years. I started a company, lost it and my home to a hundred year hurricane, moved eight times with three pets during the year that followed, gained fifty PTSD pounds, landed in Atlanta, got a job, lost a job, got married, and… oh… lost all that weight.
Let’s talk about that last part. Before 2008, the hardest change I had deliberately, actively undertaken in my life (not just been in the way of) had been when I quit smoking in 2001. I was a two-pack a dayer for twenty-seven years (gulp). With the help of a tremendous program at MD Anderson that matched me with a pre-iPhone handheld computer, I managed to wean myself off the poison in twenty-eight days. It was just me, the computer, and a patch—no shame, no counseling, no fear tactics, no peer pressure, no group hugs—and any success or failure was entirely mine. There was no temptation to cheat because nobody else was playing.
Taking A Stab At Our Infatuation With Guns
By Molly Ivins, Monday, March 15, 1993
AUSTIN – Guns. Everywhere guns.
Let me start this discussion by pointing out that I am not anti-gun. I’m pro-knife. Consider the merits of the knife.
In the first place, you have catch up with someone in order to stab him. A general substitution of knives for guns would promote physical fitness. We’d turn into a whole nation of great runners. Plus, knives don’t ricochet. And people are seldom killed while cleaning their knives.
My best friend nearly shot me in the head with a twenty-two in the seventh grade. It was an accident, but the bullet grazed my skull so that I could feel the burn, and but for the grace of God, if that’s what it was, go I today.
The reason two seventh grade girls were carrying loaded twenty-twos at all was not because we girls liked shooting guns. My step-father thought it was appropriate that all us kids learn how to shoot and hunt, I guess so we could go along with him on the weekends and do what he wanted to do rather than hang out at the pool or play tennis like we wanted to do.
In this bifurcated media world that we live in — where it’s conservative media over here and then space and then everything else, and never the twain shall meet – it is at least worth knowing enough about the latest nonsense right-wing conspiratorial clap-trap going on over there to make fun of it. Because if you haven’t been monitoring the quite literally fantastic stories that conservatives tell each other about the forces arrayed against them in the world, then you have no idea where this stuff is coming from when they actually try to make public policy out of it.” – Rachel Maddow
The Fox News-Michele Bachmann-Glenn Beck-Grover Norquist-Rush Limbaugh-Sarah Palin-Rick Perry-Rick Scott-Allen West ad nauseum multiumvirate have awakened among the lowest uncommon denominator a voice demanding an equal seat at the table, and for reasons as unimaginable to mere mortals as quantum physics, the media has largely invited them. This has given credibility to perspectives so outrageous, indeed so crazy and/or ignorant, that some regular people have slowly been lulled into thinking they have some merit.
I posted this piece on Facebook today:
The son of a high school friend quickly replied: “So I’m a racist, sexist, intolerant person???”
Failure is an inside job. So is success. If you want to achieve, you have to win the war in your thinking first.” — John Maxwell
I’m smarting from an interview I had last week. It was the fifth conversation in a series of six for a place on a team of change management consultants; that is, people who help people adapt to change in the workplace, largely through application of (allegedly) exceptionally well-honed communications skills.
The conversation went something like this — although I’m pretty sure some of the sassier comments stayed in my head:
Alliterative, isn’t it?
But here’s the thing: I’m fifty-four and I woke up one day last November and realized I was going to have to buy more new pants to fit around my burgeoning belly. (I like the word “belly,” don’t you? Sounds so much cuter than “big fat stomach.”) My feet hurt, my knees clicked when I climbed the stairs, I was tired all the time, and I was feeling decidedly unsexy. When I sat on the sofa and folded my arms, they rested up around my chest, not on my lap, if you know what I mean. Yuck.
I bought scales instead of the new pants, and discovered I had gained thirty pounds since I last weighed three years earlier. There were all kinds of reasons for it — surviving a hundred-year hurricane, loss, depression, unemployment, a big move — but excuses didn’t make it all right. And, to be clear, eating and drinking too much didn’t cure the excuses either.
“I maintain two Facebook profiles, one private for friends and family and one public for everybody else.”
“Two? Why in the world…?”
“I know, it’s crazy, right? But some people can and will take away things I cherish if I let them. I was reminded of that last week.
I became a part of something much greater than myself last weekend.
Sixty-something family and friends left their lives, spending their time and money to travel to Atlanta to lift us up. It was every bit an Episcopal wedding, a full service complete with processional and Eucharist. Everyone sang the hymns molto voce, with inspired enthusiasm. The vows and everything about the service were nearly the same as any other church wedding, except the priest did not pronounce us “man and wife” because we are both women. “Close enough for government work,” as I like to say. This was a blessing by our priest in our church of the legal marriage we had made in New York the week before.
Jody and I got married last Friday.
We were lifted up in joy by her parents, her twin sister and sister-in-law, and my three closest friends from the good ol’ days–ma familia–Andy, Jonathan, and Gary.
After a limo drive from midtown Manhattan to the New York City Clerk’s office, we navigated the completely unromantic environment of marriage bureaucracy, took a number à la Baskin Robbins, and waited our turn to enter the “Wedding Chapel,” a purple shellacked, not-so-hallowed hall that made us all laugh out loud.
Getting married — at any age I expect, but especially for the first time after fifty — causes massive rushes of retrospection. I’ve come to believe that anyone who says they have no regrets about anything in their life fell off a different turnip truck than I did.
As a single woman, I have felt the stress throughout the years of having to make my own living, pay for my own healthcare, support myself alone without a safety net. I have often thought the role of a married woman who doesn’t work outside the home – who is financially supported – is an enormously privileged one. Yes, raising kids is a difficult and honorable path. I would have loved it. But I also understand what Hilary Rosen was trying to say. If a woman has never had to worry about making the rent, so to speak, she hasn’t experienced the difficulties so many women have and isn’t representative of them. Don’t let them hijack the real message. Again.
Politics is a spiritual practice that unites all religions and non-religions. If with our votes we do not choose to do what is best for the weakest among us, it doesn’t matter how many times we go to church or how many bake sales we hold. In the voting booth, as in the confessional booth, there is only you and your God. Do the right thing. Change the world. Pass it on. https://www.facebook.com/liberalsforpeace
I hear it all the time: “Why do you (people) insist on getting married? It’s not real marriage, you know. Civil unions are good enough.”
I know what you mean. Who in their right mind would want to engage in a ritual that has a failure rate in some demographics of up to seventy-three percent?
I asked for a new purple ’74 Gremlin automatic and Baked Alaska (because I’d never had it), and I expected a relatively quiet family thing because I was rehearsing late for my first musical role — Louisa in The Fantasticks.
Not including the Westboro Baptist gang and their sadly misguided ilk, who I’m fairly certain wouldn’t be reading my blog anyway, is there anyone in the U.S. today who doesn’t know and love at least one gay person — friend, colleague, parent, child, cousin, neighbor? Do you?
Please hold that person close in your heart and mind as you read this short essay.
Specifically anybody who by today’s standards considers themselves any combination of ultra-conservative, Tea Party, far right-wing, neocon, fundamentalist, religious right, and also my friend. I’m writing to you.
I’m confused. Are you what you say or what you do?
You aren’t a racist. I know that because you have friends and colleagues of other races and I’ve seen you be loving and charming and delightful to them.
You don’t support profit for profit’s sake and you’re not an anti-environmentalist. I know that because you’re appalled by the BP oil leak nightmare in the Gulf and what it is doing to the places where you and your family love to vacation and have made so many memories.
My earlier essay, An open letter to my conservative friends, got a few people asking, “Will I still have any friends if I repost THAT?”
I want to be really, really clear. In An open letter…, I was asking my friends who frequently quote the most extreme of the conservative pundits (Beck, Limbaugh, and Palin) and the recent Republican contenders (Gingrich, Santorum, Bachmann, Perry, Paul, and Romney) whether they do so because they think those people are funny or because they agree with their positions. And if it’s the latter, do they agree with just one or two of their positions or their entire philosophy? And I said I was asking because those same friends’ behavior belies the sorts of negative characteristics those oft-quoted pundits lead with. All I wanted to know was who my friends authentically are and what they authentically believe.
If you don’t want to be happy, warning: This essay is not for you.
A year ago, I was dead broke. I’d lost everything but my clothes and furniture to real estate investments and a brokerage that went belly-up after a 100-year hurricane washed it all away. No home, no car, no 401K, no money. I was a real estate agent, but with nothing in escrow, I was effectively unemployed. I had no resources, no apparent possibilities, and no way to pay the rent that was due two weeks later. I was about to turn 53 and I’d been fighting this losing battle for two and a half years. I was plum tuckered out.
I took a sabbatical from the real world in 2006. I called it a “real estate career.”
I was bored with my corporate job, burned out and tired of the travel. Surely there was a more exciting way to live life and make a living, too?
I planned my exit well. Having been in the same industry and with the same employer for the better part of fifteen years, I saved my money, maxed out my 401(k) employer match, invested in a couple of idiot-proof pieces of property, got my real estate license, moved to the beach, took a voluntary layoff package from my employer, became a “top producer,” acquired a failing real estate franchise, became a broker, board member, trainer, and real estate consultant to the media and local community leadership.
The Casey Anthony verdict is shocking, but not unique.
I knew an actress named Marcia Brushingham, 47, murdered by her brother David, 64, who stuffed her body in a plywood box he built and dropped at a bus stop at Lincoln Center in NYC in 1990. In the media, the case was known as “The Fox in the Box Case.”
David’s life had been colored by tragedy for over twenty years. His 5-month old son mysteriously suffocated in his crib. His business colleague died while they were out on the town together, and David married his young widow a few weeks later. His 5-year old daughter drowned in the ocean near his home while in his custody. His 35-year old stepson vanished without a trace the night before he was set to testify against him. His wife died shortly after leaving him. His elderly landlady died of sepsis, leaving everything she had to her tenant in a handwritten will. His best friend died under mysterious circumstances and David found the body.
We’re all free in this country — every one of us. We’re free to get up every morning and go to (or look for) the job of our choice in a field we alone select. We’re free to partake of a multitude of educational and training opportunities, eat as much of our favorite food as we like, visit with friends no matter what persuasion, and live wherever and with whomever we choose this side of prison bars. We can opt to be solitary, slovenly, communal, or activist. We can complain, teach, change, and create. We can regurgitate the drivel of whatever radio nimrod we enjoy listening to and wear t-shirts emblazoned with any idiotic slogan we pick. Freedom is not an issue for us in this country.
But independence… ahhhh, there’s a concept for you.
What shall I write about? I asked. The smell of rain. Thirty minutes in your journal, someone said. Haven’t journaled in a long, long time, I thought. Not since I accidentally on purpose left my diary in my mother’s room and she read it and got her feelings hurt, which was predictable because I was really mad at her at the time and wrote about that, but I wasn’t really mad at her, just frustrated because I was twenty-four and trying to get her to tell me about who my birthmother was and she was taking that all personally and poor-poor pitiful me, plus I had my first girlfriend and really wanted to tell my mother, but had no clue how to do that, and when I wrote down my feelings, it all sounded a lot like me being mad at her, especially since I accidentally on purpose left it for her to find, I guess. And she read it all. And then she died, so I decided it was the journal’s fault – that it had killed my young fifty-six year old mother sure as taking a sledgehammer to her heart and breaking it in a million bits. I wrote my last secret words in 1982 because secret words kill people.
The rain smells a lot like that.
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands.” – e.e.cummings
P.S. Never put in writing anything you don’t want to see on the front page of The New York Times.
When I started buying real estate in 2003, I developed an unusual compulsion. I was a FICOmaniac. I joined one of those services that keeps track of your credit scores from the three major bureaus, and checked it nearly daily. I charted the ups and downs like a stock broker, kept spreadsheets, and analyzed every tick. Yes, not unlike today’s fascination with Facebook, I was addicted to FICOisGod.com and happily paid $6.95 a month for the privilege.
Just last weekend, many of us recognized Easter and Passover, and meditated on the blessings of cleansing, renewal, and rebirth or freedom from the past, both literal and metaphoric. Some of us considered the practical application in our modern lives, and the idea that sometimes we make deliberate choices to separate from what has gone before, and sometimes those choices are foisted upon us.
In the days that followed those holiest of remembrances, tornadoes unexpectedly ravished the Southeast — leveling towns and neighborhoods and taking over three hundred lives. I was riveted to the television and computer, much as I had been thirty-one months ago as the sun came up on what had been my home in Galveston, Texas, the morning after Hurricane Ike roared ashore.
Dateline: Birmingham, Alabama, 1975. The all-girl production of Oliver closed as scheduled after a half-dozen sold-out performances. I had understudied Nancy and played the Strawberry Seller and Noah Claypole nightly while standing at the ready in case the star couldn’t go on. With just six performances, I knew the opportunity was scant, and I really didn’t care. I was in love with my life. Junior year was ending with huge opportunities looming for seniorhood — editor of this and performer of that — but first, one last summer at a sailing camp where I’d been summering since I was twelve. This year I’d be a counselor, a privilege I would happily have met for free, but which nonetheless paid $135 gross for the twelve weeks I would spend away from home — more than enough to cover the round trip in my 1966 Mercedes 200D at 36 cents a gallon.
All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. — Edmund Burke
“Who inspires you?” she asked. “Courageous people,” I said. “To me, courage is what we uniquely bring to the party as an authentic expression of our heart, soul, and spirit. Courage is what raises us up. And it’s about the hardest thing there is to be true to in this life.”
I surprised myself with that answer, and had to think about why. Not too long ago, I got a written and verbal lashing from a group of people who happened to think differently about a subject than I did. Their response was not to call and visit with me about our respective views, or to write a thoughtful treatise on their position to seek understanding and compromise, but was to disparage me in the press and online with accusatory fabrications of their own imaginations of who and what a terrible person I must be to hold the opinions they attributed to me. In so doing, they frightened me. Their ill-considered words threatened me, and things got bad enough that my friends suggested I beef up my home security system.
Curiously, I reacted to all that negative attention with a total flight response. I couldn’t get away from the fight fast enough. It scared me, angered me, confused me, and I wanted nothing to do with it. And in that fear, I met my inner cowardice. Maybe the issue wasn’t important enough to me to pay the price of courage. But some things are.
The Mother of the Bride walks into The Main Attorney’s office and says, “I’ve been wronged and I need help.”
“Come in,” says The Main Attorney, “and tell me your story.”
“Well,” she says, “Last year, my daughter was getting married and I needed a Mother of the Bride hat for the wedding. I went to the local hat shop, and there was a delivery of new hats just arriving. As The Hat Delivery Driver was unloading the hats, right away I spotted one that would be perfect with my Mother of the Bride dress, but it lacked the pink pearls it needed. I told The Hat Saleslady that I needed a hat that could have pink pearls added, and she assured me that would be no problem. As the hat was quite expensive for my budget, I called my Long-time Seamstress and asked her to come over and look at the hat before I bought it. She said right away that the hat could not be beaded because of something to do with the material of the hat. I don’t know about those things, so, of course, I have to rely on the experts.
But sometimes we get comfortable in our lives, in our boxes, in our cages. Sometimes we become convinced that how things are is how they must always be. And sometimes the Universe jumps out from behind that tree and hollers, “NEXT!”
In some languages, that sounds remarkably like, “Gotcha!”
And some of us say, “Great! Bring it on!” and others say, “Do I have to?” And sometimes people say, “No, I won’t.” That’s when it gets messy.
The reality is, we need to talk about it.
When Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot a few days ago, fingers started wagging and defenses went up. At first, the conversation (is that the right word?) was about the use and misuse of language, especially by people in power (i.e., those who should know better), and as a writer and professional strategic communicator, I absolutely salute the dominion of words and recognize their deliberate incendiary choice when I hear them. And, yes, shame on all you public influencers who misuse the privilege of language.
I put out a call for subject matter last night. I was looking for one good worm to go fishing with this morning. Within minutes, I caught some really big rocks: follow your bliss, friendship, and the meaning of life.
Well, I did ask.
But before I had time to clip on my caribiner and start chiseling at one of them, I got a message from a (younger than me) friend saying she’d been diagnosed with breast cancer, and suddenly that begged all three questions in one. I remembered what Rose Nyland said when she found herself telling two St. Olaf stories at once, “I’d like to see if I can handle it!” So cover me, kids. I’m going in…
On Sunday I closed in a play that was my first full production in thirty-one years. I had performed and studied and auditioned and teched and all that fun stuff for about ten years, well into my twenties, but no full production start to finish with ticket sales and a run lasting more than one performance since 1979. By the mid-‘80s, I had met someone, gotten a job, and let my theatrical wheels go off in a ditch. I rationalized it as “growing up.” This is the follow your bliss part of the story because today I feel like I’ve turned back the clock on my dreams. I’ve been granted, and have accepted, a second chance at my first love. If anyone ever tells you it’s too late to do something you can’t stop thinking about, show them the door out of your life. Doing the business of your dreams is as life-affirming a pursuit as there is in this world. If you haven’t started yet, right now would be the very best time. You can finish reading this essay later. (Clue: It’s not about the money.)
My deeply Southern mother, the love-child of Edith Bunker and Scarlett O’Hara, with a little Lucy Ricardo thrown in for time and place, taught me that the worst adjectives anybody could ever use to describe a person were cute and nice. As a result, I have lived a life surrounded by interesting people, rarely cute and occasionally nice.
What nice in the venacular doesn’t require, though, is polite. And polite is something we all are, being from the South, even when casting the darkest aspersions. You know what I mean, “She eats with a fork even though she’s from The North, bless her heart…” or “Sure he reads! He takes the same newspapers as Sarah Palin, bless his heart.”
What if everything that’s important to you today had never happened?
Because you were forbidden by law to marry your spouse. So you never had your community, family or church’s endorsement of your union. And you never had a marital home or a family of in-laws.
Your children were never born.
What if everything in your life was temporary because society said it didn’t need to be permanent? And what if even though you never had a wedding, a pregnancy, or an extended family, even though you have nobody to take care of you when you’re sick, nobody to grow old with, no next of kin of your choosing — not legally — even though you are so alone in the universe while everyone else is united in the eyes of the world, what if you pulled up your big kid panties anyway and dealt with it all the best you could, chin up, patiently accepting of reality?
And what if your friends said, “Why are you still talking about being gay when everybody you know loves you anyway?”
What if one day in November, an election was held and, around the country, judges and legislators were targeted for removal because they believed you should be able to marry the person you loved and set up a marital home and family like every single other demographic in the whole world…?
And still your friends said, “What’s the big deal? It’s just politics?”
How would you feel?
But enough about you.
February 19, 2009, I wrote a piece called Face it, Galveston’s been Raped about my friend Alex’s Ike experience. It was awful — he lost his business and ultimately his home because the lender wouldn’t defer three months of payments during the Ike months, and wouldn’t restructure the loan because Alex was self-employed in a business that didn’t bounce right back. In March 2009, the bank foreclosed and Alex lost his dream home.
He moved on and found a new place and made peace with the fact that he’d probably be a renter for a long time, if not forever.
Today the Texas Attorney General called for a moratorium on foreclosures and sales of foreclosed properties, so Alex looked up his loft to see if it had closed yet. Turns out it closed a month ago.
Here’s the kicker. Alex owed $307,000 on the loft, and was happy to continue paying on it at that price, but the lender refused all attempts at compromise. But a month ago they sold it for $92,500.
If anybody has any insight into what’s fair, smart, or even decent business about that, please comment below.
Meanwhile, Alex is throwing up in the bathroom and asked me to send his apologies.
I was adopted when I was four days old by two of the smartest, coolest, funniest, did I say smartest?, people on Earth. In almost every way.
I still miss them all the time.
My father died in 1977 at the age of 56. I was 19. My mother died in 1983 at the age of 56. I was 25.
It’s not an affair; it’s a relationship. September 13th is our 2-year anniversary, and we’re in it for the long-haul. We were instantly and irrevocably enmeshed the moment we met. He swept into my life unannounced and immediately changed its course. I dropped absolutely everything for him. He touched me emotionally, psychologically, financially, socially, and physically. All my senses were aroused, and for most of the past two years, I’ve thought of him almost constantly. Because of him, I have felt my highest highs and my lowest lows. He has changed the way my friends see me and the choices I make about how I spend my time and who I spend it with. I have altered my job, moved my home, taken on new activities, rewritten my future, given him all my money and time. Some people have said I spend too much time on the things he’s introduced me to, but I don’t have a choice. In fact, he has in many ways shown me who my real friends are. He has put his handprint on my life and changed me… for good. I’m grateful to him, and in spite of it all and whatever happens, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Happy Anniversary, Ike. You sonofabitch.
Copyright © 2010 Alice Melott
The great weapon of smokers is their absolute dedication to their faulty logic. It’s sad, really, because anybody who has been-there-done-that knows that addicts will do anything to rationalize continued use of their drug of choice and will with righteous indignation say anything to manipulate the rest of us into letting them. Specious arguments, flat-out denial, delusions, guilt, and the blame game make them difficult to combat – which is why we have all been complicit – enablers, actually – they just plain wear us out.
I heard this story today.
In 1215 A.D., King John signed the Magna Carta, decreeing that no man is above the law, not even the king. Law shall be determined by the little people.
The little people of Galveston have decreed that nobody shall harbor (i.e., own or keep around) more than four dogs, four cats, or a four-course combination platter of the two. Animal lovers might find this discriminatory. Animal haters might find it excessive.
And therein lies a lawsuit.
As published in the August 2010 issue of The Islander Magazine.
My name is Rebekah Boyle. I was born March 3, 1918, and my family moved to Galveston, Texas, when I was just five years old. My father left us soon after, and my mother found work as an upstairs maid for a prominent Galveston family. As it seemed she would be quite busy with her duties, it was arranged for me and my younger brother, Jamie, to stay at the Lasker Home for Homeless Children. My older half-brother, George, went to live with his father’s grandparents. I never saw him again and have always wondered what became of him.
Jamie and I were picked up from our mother and brought to the Lasker Home by a stern but kindly lady named Mrs. Frenkel and a strange looking gentleman with a long beard, funny hat, dressed all in black called Rabbi Cohen. It was Thanksgiving Day in 1923, and before we could even unpack our small grips, the home became the scene of a wonderful dinner with turkey and all the trimmings, the likes of which Jamie and I had never seen. The meal was followed by a musical fairy playlet that betokened much thought and care and was played with great charm by the children, who seemed happy, and who we would come to know as our friends and siblings. The costumes, made of paper in the pastel and autumn shades, were unusually beautiful. They were designed by the matron, and made by the older girls. There were about a hundred people present that night, all having a festive spirit about them and treating us children like members of an especially large family, and I did think that maybe this place would not be at all an unpleasant place to be for a while.
I can tell how balanced my life is by looking at the diverse responses my closest friends give me in a crisis.
Me: A horrible thing has happened to me.
T: That happened to me once and this is how I handled it.
D: Yea! Another opportunity to balance some karma!
F: Can you write them a check?
J: That’s not fair. You have to just tell them that’s not fair!
C1: Fair, schmair. What are you going to DO about it?
C2: No worries. We have people for that.
Crisis averted. I love my friends.
As published in the July 2010 issue of The Islander Magazine.
Sitting stately for the past century and a half on the corner of Market and 15th streets, The Austin House, with its double galleries and dual entries, pays homage to the at-one-time-equally important thoroughfares it faces. It is one of those iconic structures where tourists and residents alike stop to point and shoot every day. The home was already over 30 years old when Ida Smith Austin came to live in it and became its loving steward through the turn of the century and the Great Depression.
The Islander: Good afternoon Mrs. Austin. Thank you so much for meeting with me today. I’d like to start by asking you about your background. How did you come to Galveston?
Ida Smith Austin: I was born in 1858 in Lexington, Virginia, and educated at Mary Baldwin College in Staunton. At thirty-three, I came to Texas and began teaching Sunday school at First Presbyterian Church. Four years later, I married Valery E. Austin, a prominent real estate dealer and city commissioner.
It’s a rude awakening. You get invited to an adult party and with those adults you ride a bus to the places that you frequent for lunch and whatnot during the day, but as you navigate the tight nighttime crowd, you hear snippets of high-pitched conversation and brush up against unblemished shoulders and look into the cloudless eyes of babes, and you realize that through no fault of your own, and no matter how much you might want to commune with these delightful striplings, you’ve simply crossed over, that the cool kids are still ten years older than you are, and that makes them 60-something, and those clear-skinned droids filling the evening venues are, as a generation, completely abstract to you (and/or you to them), and for the first horrifying time, you realize why Florida exists.
Copyright © 2010 Alice Melott
When it comes to toenails, blue is the new red.
Here’s my thinking: There’s nothing any more natural or unnatural about nails being painted blue (or green or purple) than being the traditional red (or pink or orange). It’s paint. There’s nothing natural about it. We’re just used to red.
But I recognize that this is a generational fashion statement, and like white shoes after Labor Day and blonde hair after 60, it might take some getting used to for some people. I had this lightbulb moment while spending time with a woman of my mother’s generation, 80-ish, who looked at my purple toenails and remarked, “My, your nails are purple!” I don’t think that meant she liked them; only that she had noticed.
When I moved to Galveston in 2003, I learned to my amusement that there was a feud of sorts — certainly a rivalry — between residents of the East End and residents of the West End of the island. I stress the word “island” because that’s what this little spit of sandbar is — a barrier island. Its two distinct social/cultural ends — where people on the West won’t go (10-15 miles) “to town” and people on the East have never been past the end of the Seawall — is the stuff of Garrison Keillor’s “Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.” I wonder if he means the East side or the West side of the lake…
I was a typical first-time homebuyer. I looked at everything in town — all price ranges, all styles and sizes, all neighborhoods. Usually I used the same agent for all this, but sometimes I would call the listing agent directly or call on FSBOs (For Sale by Owner). I actually looked for about two years and had contracts on five different properties before I made my final commitment. In the end, I got mad and fired that agent who had showed me no fewer than two hundred homes, and closed without her.
Boy, have I got bad real estate agent karma.
First published on February 19, 2009, five months after Hurricane Ike.
It’s taken me a while to figure out how to talk about this. I didn’t want to distract from the impact of the actual event…but now that the storm is pretty much behind us, we all need to face a really big problem that it uncovered. There are as many stories as there are people on the island, but I’ve picked one to serve as metaphor for all of us. Once you hear it, I trust you’ll share your own here. If we put in a little effort, maybe we can make some changes for the next victims. Read the rest of this entry »
“You are a character actor trapped in the body of an ingénue. You won’t be ready to work in this business for thirty years.”
With those words, my acting teacher, Elizabeth Dillon, whom I adored, dropped the curtain on my dream. It was an ordinary Tuesday night in the windowless basement room that we called rehearsal space in HB Studios on Bank Street in Manhattan’s West Village. It was March 1980, I’d been acting for seven years, and I had just turned twenty-two.
Then she turned to the whole class and said, “If there is anything else in the world that you are interested in, please do it. To be an actor, you must be obsessed. You mustn’t be able to think of anything else. It is too hard to do if you aren’t completely focused. Totally, completely focused.”
I just unearthed this article I wrote with Frank Billingsley for The Islander Magazine in 2006. I think it’s a vivid reminder of how much modern building codes and technology (and a kick-@ss seawall) have done to protect us.
Indianola is a ghost town on Matagorda Bay. But in 1875, it was a major port and the county seat of Calhoun County. In September that year, a big storm struck, killing between one hundred-fifty and three hundred of its five thousand residents, practically decimating the town. Its plucky citizens rebuilt it.
By the turn of the Century, nearly thirty-eight thousand people called Galveston home. It was the second richest urban area per capita in the country. Mansions adorned 25th Street and Broadway, punctuated by amenities befitting the first Texas city to use telephones and electricity.
In most relatively evolved places — Houston and Galveston among them — being gay simply isn’t a good reason to whine anymore. Acceptance has replaced tolerance in most social situations. We still have tentativeness in some of our places of worship and privately-owned workplaces, and we still need to tackle that marriage thing (which is tied back to those other two), but there are some “next steps” that we can start working on while those things are being sorted out. Because, make no mistake, we are on the cusp of monumental change.
Brooke got up Wednesday morning in a particularly good mood. She was going to show property all day to a couple who had just three weeks to buy, which meant they were serious and would probably make a quick decision. She had emailed them listings to consider in advance, and they had told her which ones they wanted to see. She had a List B, just in case none of those worked out.
Once upon a time on the planet Myrth, in the proud State of Secksas, the largest and loudest of all the States of The Union, the freest country on Myrth, in the city of Bootson, the third largest city in The Union and the home of many of the leaders of all of Myrth, there was born and raised a girl whose deepest desire was to serve God as an ordained priest of the church that nurtured her. Her name was Humility.