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Thursday, April 28, 2011

out of my comfort zone

Some people go to Africa to get a taste of exotica.

I go to McDonald's!

For the first time in my life I walked into McDonald's on my own and ordered... Actually I didn't know what to order or how to order it. I looked at the menu on the wall and got totally lost. I didn't understand the names of the things or the numbers next to them. Is 6.29 the price of something? I've never seen anything that costs $6.29. What kind of price is that? I know 15.99 or 3.99, but 6.29? I thought maybe it was a code or the number of calories. But why decimals? It just didn't make sense.

So the guy asked me what I wanted to order and I said that I wanted (please forgive me...) chicken nuggets. It was the only thing I knew how to order at McDonald's. When I was pregnant with my daughter we once stopped at a drive thru and got me chicken nuggets. That was the last time I was near a McDonald's. Today she is almost 15. Oh, and I wasn't the one who ordered it. It was her American dad who drove thru, ordered and paid. So I never learned how to do it.

The guy looked me questioningly. I asked how I was supposed to order it. He said I can have a 6-piece, 10-piece or 20-piece order. I said 6 pieces and a coke.

Then I told him I have never ordered anything at McDonald's so I needed a little help. He asked me if I was from around here. Yup, for the last 20 years, I nearly said. But I decided not to say anything and just nodded. When he asked me what kind of sauce, I wanted to kick myself as I heard my own voice uttering "what do you have?"

I sat there and read my book "Songs of blood and sword," a memoir written by Fatima Bhutto, the niece of Benazir Bhutto; not your typical read at a McDonald's I suspect, but there was no other place I could kill an hour while my car was being serviced.

Only after sitting there for half an hour did I realize that I should have ordered fries. That's what people eat at McDonald's. Fries and a big Mac. But at the moment of truth, I forgot and missed my only chance.

When I told my daughter later that evening that I went to McDonald's her immediate reaction was "you're a bad person, Ima."

But I didn't feel that bad. While I was sitting there I saw a sign on the wall declaring that Monterey-Salinas McDonald's offer their employees' health insurance.

I think I'll take my daughter for some fries and ice cream at McDonald's to see that sign. Maybe she will change her mind about me.

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Waste Not Want Not

Today, Easter Sunday, I went to the egg-hunting gathering and memorial for Cynthia Criley Williams. She was 95 when she left this world on January 29, 2011. I was one of the privileged many who frequented her home in Carmel Highland, right off Highway 1, overlooking Bird Rock (photos taken by your humble blogger).

I joined the flock that came to sit at Cynthia's feet, literally, in 2006 when my friend M took me there for dinner one Saturday evening. I didn't expect anything and no one prepared me for the phenomenal institution called "Cynthia."

Dinner was an informal pot luck sort of thing, with some people chopping vegetables and cooking in the open kitchen, some bringing stuff they either prepared or bought somewhere on the way, and some just hanging around the fireplace with a glass of wine. I didn't know anyone but felt quite at home right away.

The thing I liked the most about that dinner was that every plate, every fork, every knife, every glass and cup that stood on the dinner table were of different design, different set, different size. Cynthia's house was and still is the most down to earth, unpretentious, real place one can enter. A simple paper sign hangs up above the door leading to the hallway, reminding wayward thoughts to align themselves with the important stuff: Waste Not Want Not.

There used to be a time in my previous life that I dreamed of being a housewife whose most challenging decision of the day would be choosing which set of China to use for dinner. Cynthia's dinner table and the sign above the door made me remember that dream and wish it had never tainted the pages of my history.

When I was introduced to Cynthia, she immediately started reciting something in Latin. Of course I had no idea what she was saying. It had something to do with France and the Roman empire and the province of Gallia, which I know near to nothing about, apart from my long-ago encounter with the comic book hero Asterix who lived in Gallia.

Since that night, every time I came to Cynthia house she recited something in Latin for me. And then she would get the dictionary and look for a word, without reaching for reading glasses. Yup, 90 years old and doesn't have to use glasses to read from a dictionary.

Today, many people talked about Cynthia's amazing life and I learned quite a few things I didn't know about her, but kind of felt I knew, because certain things don't need to be said in order to be known.

I feel very privileged and lucky to be a part of the crowd that Cynthia accepted into her home. It is one jewel of an experience I totally cherish.

Thank you Cynthia and the Williams girls (Molly, Honey and Bee) for letting me in. I must have done something right to get there. I only wish I knew what it was so I could do it again.

Friday, April 15, 2011

name recognition

It's interesting that the Democrats were able to send an unknown black man to the White House, while the Republicans struggle to outdo themselves. Every few weeks we hear another big name planning an exploratory committee or timidly announcing a lack of interest in running. Yeah, sure. Just to make us wimpy Democrats a little nervous. And in case the name seems a bit wobbly, they just attach it to a TV reality show or a mean-spirited talk radio and hope for the best.

Palin didn't make it with McCain, so they gave her a TV show; Huckabee flunked in the primaries, they gave him a TV show, Limbaugh built his own little nasty empire with a radio talk show; and now Donald Trump who is probably better known for his "you're fired" line is showing signs of joining in. The scary part is that I know this line even though I don't even watch TV.

Obviously when the Republicans shoot for name recognition they go for the stars. Before reality TV became big, before Faux News became a nuisance, Hollywood did it for them: Reagan, Schwarzie, the guy from Law and Order who ran in the primaries and lost, whatever his name was.

They will shove their name recognition strategy down our throat until we choke. Maybe another Bush can be added to the list?

Ouch, that would be really trippy.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Fuck Planned Parenthood

Okay, okay, now that I got your attention read this.

Of Course I think Planned Parenthood is totally essential. After all I am a progressive liberal, justice seeker, bla, bla, bla. I believe that everyone, including uninsured women should have health care and all the services that Planned Parenthood provides. I myself donate to Planned Parenthood. So now that I covered my behind, here's my point:

Let the Republicans eliminate Planned Parenthood. After all, who needs the services offered by Planned Parenthood? Poor women, women in reproductive age, and teens.

Now, who does this segment of American society vote for? You guessed. Not Democrat.

We all know that the highest teen pregnancy is in the South. Who do teen girls vote for? You guessed. No one. Who do the parents of the teen girls vote for? Ah ha, you guessed again. The South is mostly red, I hear.

Next: Most poor woman in reproductive age don't vote. Look at the numbers. People under 30 don't vote. Poor people under 30 don't vote. And the poor in the South, do they vote Democrats? I don't think so.

So let the poor eat their Republican stew, and spice it up with Glenn Beck hysterics and Rush Limbaugh foulness (I feel queasy polluting my blog with these names, yuck!!).

I am so tired of seeing poor uneducated people vote against their interests again and again and again. Fill them up with idiotic ideas like fighting same sex marriage or banning abortions for rape victims and drag them to the polls and see them vote... Republican - vote for those who take advantage of people's ignorance, stupidity, narrow mindedness, misguided patriotism, self-righteous religiosity... okay, you see where I'm going with this.

It is time Democrats spill the beans and tell those misguided voters that if they want help they should vote Democrats, because Democrats are their last hope. Because Democrats fight for them out of the stupid goodness of their hearts. Because Democrats believe in social justice and all these ridiculous ideas Tea Partiers and their cohorts sniff at.

Hear me one last time: It is time those most in need of social services stop shooting themselves in the foot, stop sending selfish ideologues to Washington because they ban abortions and same sex marriage. Who gives a damn about that stuff when you can't get basic health care?

Let Planned Parenthood go.

See you next elections.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

the kill team photos scandal

If you didn't see the photos posted by Rolling Stone Magazine (here) it's probably because stories from Afghanistan have long stopped being of any interest to you. I don't blame you. This war has been going for so long, it doesn't feel like a war. It's just one unending same ol' same ol' story.

I can't ignore stories from Afghanistan because two very decent Afghan men sit in my office. We don't talk much about the war. But we do talk about Afghanistan. So I learn all kinds of things I didn't know about this country. For example, Afghanistan's national sport is Buzkashi. I will not explain the rules of the game here, but let's say that if you are an animal rights person, this sport would leave you seriously upset. In short, Afghanistan is not for wimps.

Anyway, I read about the recent photos coming out of Afghanistan but I didn't bother to look for them. I mean, why get all worked up about this lost cause we call Afghanistan? But the other day I heard my office mates talk about the photos. One of them said he was not going to let his wife see them. The other said they were worse than the photos from Abu Ghraib. Their conversation got me curious. So I looked over the shoulder of one of the men as he clicked on each photo. 18 photos. 15 photos more than the three first posted by Der Spiegel on March 21. Some of those photos were seriously gruesome. They were photos taken by American soldiers fighting an asymmetric war: Men in uniform fighting against a hodgepodge of insurgents, Taliban, civilian collaborators, tribal chiefs, and all kinds of bounty seekers. Jihad, I learned from a colleague, was a highly profitable business.

Interestingly, what came to my mind as I was looking at these photos was not indignation. All I could think was, "Wow, these guys need some serious psychiatric help." Not a life spent in prison, like what Jeremy Morlock from Wasilla, Alaska got in return for a plea bargain in which he agreed to testify against his co-conspirators; the guys who planned with him to kill civilians for the sake of killing. (If Wasilla rings a bell, it's because this is where Sarah Palin comes from).

Where I live, I see many guys like Jeremy Morlock. Many of them join the military to escape boredom, to get a shot at a better education, to have a future other than the unpromising one awaiting in the town they grew up in. Many of them had no exposure to the world outside their small town. They only know the video games they like to play, the music they like to listen to, the macho blockbusters that play in the local movie theaters, the junk they eat in the fast food restaurants. If you say "Istanbul" to them, they wouldn't even know it is a name of a city.

And then they learn to kill and are sent to a country they didn't know existed until shortly before they got their orders to pack.

What I am trying to say is that someone of a higher rank should have noticed that these guys went off the deep end before they shot the Afghan civilians, before they posed - smiling next to mutilated bodies; whether these bodies belonged to civilians or not. No one smiles at a bloody severed head because it's funny. One does not have to be a trained psychologist to know that laughing at horror is a type of coping mechanism one develops in order to survive the horror.

Some of these 20-something-year-old guys should not have been sent to Afghanistan. I am sure some higher ups knew that they were sending unfit men to war long before all this mess materialized. They took a big chance when they decided to send these guys to war. They should now take responsibility for their mistake and not bury these guys in prison to hide their own bad judgment.