Thursday, June 28, 2007

My Kingdom For A Time Machine

If this dress had existed in 1989, I may have been inspired to go to my Senior Prom.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

To Quote Benjamin Sisko, "I Have Never Left This Place."

Yesterday morning, Julian and I were watching Arthur in bed. Or, to be truthful, Julian was watching while I was trying to squeeze a little more sleep in before the day officially began. At around 7:38, the buzzer of the Emergency Alert system sounded from the television set. I put on my glasses and figured the alert was about a thunder storm heading our way. Not so. The message read as follows:

The emergency action notification network has issued an emergency action notification for the United States from 8:38 am to 8:52 am.


I got up and tried to remain calm as I turned on the clock radio by our bed. Static. Where was NPR? It sounded like I was getting WGN, but that is an AM station, clearly something was wrong with the radio. I told Julian I had to go downstairs to check on something. I turned on the radio downstairs and the same problem was there. So I switched the station from NPR to WXRT, which was playing a song I didn't recognize, but which sounded like something they would play. I went back upstairs and apologized to Julian as I switched to the morning talk shows. They were all in the midst of whatever their regularly scheduled programming for the day had been, seemingly unaware that an emergency action notification (what exactly is that anyway?) had been issued for the whole country (does that include Alaska and Hawaii, or just the contiguous 48 states?) I switched the station back to Arthur.

I called Fred and started freaking out on his voice mail. Because, of course, I assumed something had happened and he was in Washington, DC, so OH MY GOD WHY WOULDN'T HE ANSWER THE PHONE?

He was in a meeting and called me back and had no idea what I was talking about. He told me that he was looking out the window at Washington and everything looked fine, normal. If there had been a terrorist attack, it hadn't happened there.

The radio happened to still be on WXRT and, at that moment, they chose to play REM's It's The End of the World As We Know It.

I soon forgot about the notice as no further information was provided. I told my mom about it and she suggested it was a mistake on the part of the PBS station. I talked to Kristen about it and she confirmed that she had heard the radio thing, but thought something had gone wrong with her receiver. I joked that it may have been a very clever way for our public radio station to remind listeners how much they depend on them and to cough up some dough (and seriously, why aren't you a member?) Later Kristen emailed me the information about what had happened.

FEMA screwed up. It was only a test and it was never intended to go out to the public. Or something like that. You can read more about it all here, here, and here.

As I was leaving Fred the anxiety filled voice mail message, I felt a profound sense of deja vu. Yes, I am in a new house, I have a child, and over half a decade has passed since the last time I woke up to news that the nation was under attack. But, apparently, all it takes is one message for me to snap back to that place.

This time, however, in addition to my feelings of confusion and fear, I felt something which I didn't on the morning of September 11. I felt a small twinge of relief. The follow up terrorist attack which I have been waiting for since that day had finally come. The other shoe had finally dropped. I felt this same twinge when I heard about the attacks in Bali, Madrid, London, and Bombay. The problem is that the tension never goes away. It can't. Because no matter how many plots are foiled and sleeper cells discovered, there will always be more plots, more cells, more underground networks about which our law enforcement agencies know very little. And let's face it, it is hard to have faith in FEMA and Homeland Security when mistakes are made. A few weeks ago, we found out how effective our government was at preventing a biological terrorist from jetting to and from Europe. Now this.

In one of the articles to which I linked, the writer suggested that mistakes like this may lead people to begin to feel complacent. And clearly, that is bad. I mean, a word like "complacent" is rarely used to describe a positive behavior (usually, people use terms like "easygoing" and/or "tolerant" when they want to describe a similar reaction of which they approve.) Complacent is ignoring the dangers and subsequently taking avoidable risks. But since terrorism is a fact of life, how can we not become complacent? And, maybe, a little complacency is not such a bad thing after all. We can't keep stopping in traffic every time we see a plane flying a bit low and it is becoming increasingly obvious that the shoe will never really drop.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Does This Phrase Sound Familiar To You?

Every so often (i.e. at least once a day), Julian develops an attachment to a word, phrase, or song he hears. He says it/sings it for awhile and it either evaporates from his memory or gets put into his repertoire of randomness. I, as his nearly constant companion, usually recognize the origin of the snippet and can generally tell people where it is from. Usually, I find this behavior extremely cute and charming. Usually.

Lately, however, he has been saying a phrase to me, while he is playing, which I can't identify. He will be running around and will come up to me and say, in a very tight, bossy voice:

"You are a not a good mommy. I am going to throw you away and you won't be my mommy again."

While part of me realizes what that looks like in print, it isn't nearly as disturbing when he says this in real life. At first, I'll admit, it threw me for a loop, but now I just go along with it. Sometimes, I point out to him (like the mom in The Runaway Bunny) that I can't actually fit in the garbage can and I wills till be his mommy, whether he likes it or not. Heck, some days, I would love to be able to get out of motherhood so easily. Also, he usually follows up with a gigantic hug and a demand that I play with him, so I am not sure what he thinks he is telling me.

However, I can't help but wondering if he picked this up somewhere and, if so, where? I mean, yes, it is possible that he made this up himself, but it doesn't sound right. It sounds like something he heard, like the phrase "I will eat you up" from Where The Wild Things Are or "I am some kind of genius" from Curious George.

Speaking of brilliant toddlers, who knew they could give IQ tests to toddlers and, more importantly, why would you want to? As far as I am concerned, I don't really want proof that Julian can out-think me because I already feel I am fighting a losing battle most days (and find myself resorting to "because I said so" as a reason more often than I would have ever believed possible).

Question: If I had a t-shirt made that said My Toddler Is In Mensa, do you think people would get the joke? Or do you think they would assume I was serious?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Knight of My Dreams

The anxiety dreams began in college.

Not the usual "showing up naked for a test you haven't studied for in a class you never attended without number two pencils" sort of anxiety dreams which we all have. (Digression: If I went back to get a graduate degree in something, do you think those dreams would stop?)

The dreams were not identical, but the course of events followed the same general path.

In one dream, I was in Chicago and I was trying to get to Metro to see Robyn Hitchcock perform, but then I kept finding myself in different, unconnected parts of the city-the laws of time and space being different in dreams than they are in waking life make it possible to move over great distances in no time whatsoever, as if the space-time continuum folds and unfolds itself in an entirely different shape, taking you along for the ride-and, eventually, I realize I will miss the concert.

In another dream, I was taking a tour through an English country home and I enter a room where Robyn Hitchcock is sitting cross-legged on the floor, playing for a small audience, and he says (just as I realize what is going on), "Well, I have been playing for hours, I really must be going."

In yet another dream, I was hanging out in my dorm room when someone (can't remember who) burst in and asked what I was doing there, the Robyn Hitchcock concert was happening right now.

Do you see a theme here?

I started calling these dreams "Robyn Hitchcock anxiety dreams". At the time, I wondered what the dreams meant. I knew that it couldn't be something so simple as missing a concert, though concerts were, and are, pretty important to me and I was, and am, a huge fan of Robyn Hitchcock. (Digression: I remember a guy once was chatting me up at Reckless and he was wearing a Robyn Hitchcock t-shirt and said something about losing track of the number of times he had seen him in concert, but it was "over ten" and thinking that was impossible to forget how many times you have seen someone you love perform, but here I am 18 years later and realize that I have seen Robyn Hitchcock perform at least ten times, but alas, I too have lost track. Maybe this is why Robyn Hitchcock became the subject of the dreams?) I ended up deciding these dreams were manifestations of my dissatisfaction with my circumstances; I was in college, researching and writing a thesis I loved, but not pursuing my artistic aspirations, I was in an awkward and unfortunate romantic entanglement (I thought I was in love with him, he thought he was in love with someone else who lived thousands of miles away so, of course, she was perfect and I could never compete), I was unhappy. I eventually came to recognize these dreams as manifestations of my fear that the life I wanted was happening somewhere else and I was missing out on it.

I grew up. I finished the thesis. I moved back to Chicago and began to pursue a career in acting. I fell in love with Fred. But still, I would have these dreams occasionally. Not exactly the same as the ones in college. Sometimes, it was Roddy Frame whose concerts I was missing (which could perhaps be taken literally as I didn't get to see Roddy Frame perform live until September 2001).

I am not sure when the dreams stopped. I am not sure if the dreams have stopped. However, it has been a few years since I had one.

I wouldn't bring it up except I had this dream a couple of weeks ago. I was going to a reading being given at a hotel. I was juggling getting out of the house and having someone take care of Julian (I have no idea where Fred was, but he wasn't around at the time). I got to the place late, and seeing the low turnout, assumed I had missed it. But then someone told me that it hadn't happened yet. Then people started arriving. Then Salman Rushdie walked in, wearing a lavender salwa kameez, and hugged me. He said, "Alison, M.K. was just telling me how proud she is of you." In my dream, I understood that Salman was talking about my poetry, which he had read because M. K. had shared it with him (Digression: M.K. is a friend of Fred's from work and the only poetry of mine she may have read, in real life, would be here, and I am not even sure she reads this blog.) I woke up excited and happy because Salman Rushdie had read my writing and knew my name.

I don't know what to make of this dream yet. I can't quite accept that it may mean I am content with where I am right now in life. Maybe the anxiety aspect of the sleeping dreams is lost when one actually meets the rock star of their daydreams. Maybe my dream is prophetic? Or maybe it is just a chemical reaction in my head, signifying nothing at all.

Regardless of all that, I was still pleased to hear that Salman Rushdie will be receiving a knighthood. Sadly, it seems that there are still allegedly educated people who would suggest that the writer of novels has blood on his hands, as opposed to the people who issued death sentences and encouraged acts of terrorism just because they were offended by a work of art. You can read the timeline of events, but I recommend reading the book itself. Just remember, it is a work of fiction and art.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Capricious Nature of Remembered Numbers

The Yarn Harlot has a post about finding out you aren't the age you believed yourself to be. I read it and found it hard to understand how one could misremember their age and change the rules of math in order to support this mismemory.

Of course, we all have a tendency to grow attached to certain numbers and refuse to accept their change with time. And it is a shock if one is told that numbers they believed to be fixed are, in fact, mutable.

A few years ago, I was at a store, trying on shoes. They didn't have a pair of a certain shoe in my size (7) so I tried on the size they did have (6 1/2). The shoe fit. I was so amazed that I asked to have my foot measured and I found out that, contrary to what I have believed all these years, I should be wearing a size 6 1/2 shoe. It struck me as odd. I mean, I haven't had my foot measured in a long time, but I seem to recall having been measured at some point in the past and being a size 7. Is it possible that the shoe industry has adopted the same sort of vanity sizing that the rest of the fashion world has and is attempting to make every woman feel a little like Cinderella by making shoes larger? Is it possible for one's feet to grow smaller over time?

So while I know my age, I am still a bit unclear about other hard and fast numbers in my life. Here are the lyrics to a song I wrote about the experience of finding out things aren't the way you remember them.

I was buying shoes at Marshall Field's
Walking back and forth in some black high heels
When a pair of tan shoes caught my eye
So I tried them on, then I went to buy.
But then I noticed something strange
Those shoes were not a size in my range
I told the salesgirl my strange tale
She smiled at me as she made the sale

But as I signed the credit card slip she said to me
"You must be shrinking."

I was waiting in line at the bakery
But the baker then helped the lady standing behind me
So I interrupted, right then and there
I knew it was rude but frankly I didn't care
I said "why did you pass me over like that?
Do you think I can't eat your cake? Am I fat?
I was standing, waiting so patiently
Then it's my turn and you completely ignore me."

The baker turned red, claimed he made a mistake, he said to me

"You must be shrinking"

I was at the doctors for my pap smear,
Yeah, I follow the rules and get one every year,
But this time around as I stood on the scale,
The nurse said something that made me go pale,
She measured me and told me my height
Except the numbers she told me simply weren't right.
I'm a whole inch taller than that, check again
I know my own height, it's been the same since I was ten.

The nurse ignored me, but as she left the room, she said to me
"You must be shrinking"

I was getting into my favorite dress
But as I buttoned it up I saw I was a mess
The shoulders were baggy, the darts wouldn't line
It looked like the dress had never been mine
This dress in which I had once been all that
Now was too big, made my chest look so flat
So I asked the mirror to explain my fate
Where was the outfit which made me look great?

My looking glass lazily surveyed my reflection. It said to me

"You must be shrinking."

I was hanging around with a boy I once knew
And as the night progressed my attraction regrew
So we took a short walk down memory lane
But I'm sorry to say it just wasn't the same
He was still really cute, though a bit of a toff
I tried not to let on that I didn't get off
Still he wanted to know why I wasn't smiling
What could I tell him which wouldn't be lying?

I looked into the eyes of this boy I once loved. I said to him

"You must be shrinking."

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


"It is shameful that Christians would rally around the physical needs of the poor and ignore the deaths of untold millions of babies."

Got that? Ministering to the poor, providing safe and affordable prenatal care to all women, and making sure women can feed their babies once they are no longer inside their bodies is not as important as making sure that every fertilized embryo remains within the uterus in which it has implanted.

I have a lot of mixed feelings on the issue of abortion. Yes, I used to volunteer my time phone banking for NARAL and escorted women through Operation Rescue crazies attempting to blockade clinics. However, there are some people I love who are the result of accidental pregnancies and my life has been positively changed by their mothers' choice to have their babies. The operative word in my last sentence was CHOICE. I have been pregnant, by choice. It has always seemed to me that in spite of all the concern for the unborn, the anti-choice movement is, at heart, more interested in punishing women for being sexually active. The above press release confirms all my suspicions that a mean spirited lack of concern for the living actually drives the so-called pro-life movement.

I once read an article which listed the circumstances in which most people would consider it necessary to have abortion available. Those reasons are:

1. Rape or incest
2. Harm to mother
3. Me

Because, as this article detailing the experiences of abortion providers illustrates, the procedure is only wrong when other people need one. When it is your body, your future, your reputation at stake, it is an entirely different story.

If Jesus were to return today, would any of these people who claim to follow him even let him in the doors of their houses of worship? Because, apparently, ministering to the poor is shameful. I can only imagine what they think re: touching lepers.

Casting: Law & Order: Special White House Unit

We all have loved Law & Order in one or all of its incarnations at some point in our lives. Maybe it was because of the special chemistry that existed between Jerry Orbach and Chris Noth/Benjamin Bratt/Jesse L. Martin as they tracked down the killers in the original. Maybe it was the knowledge that Mariska Hargitay is every bit as cool in real life as her character Olivia Benson is on the show. Maybe it felt like the whole first season of Criminal Intent was scripted by a Tennessee Williams wannabe so it felt like Vincent D'Onofrio was channeling Blanche DuBois to solve crimes. Maybe it was because, for at least the past ten years, one could turn on the television at any time of day or night and find at least one episode of the original, SVU, or Criminal Intent broadcast on basic cable (we don't acknowledge those odd, one season forays because, let's be clear here, for it to be Law & Order, it has to be in syndication).

So now Fred Thompson will probably be running for president. I don't agree with his politics, but I have loved watching him in James Bond films and on the small screen, and I must admit, this article in the New York Times gave me a giggle. They asked casting directors to cast the White House using characters/actors from the Law & Order world. Then they asked the readers to play along. I have read through all the comments and here is my list:

President: Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay)
Vice-President: Anita Van Buren (S. Epatha Merkerson)
Secretary of State: Nora Lewin (Dianne Wiest)
Secretary of Treasury: Ed Green (Jesse L. Martin)
Secretary of Defense: Arthur Branch (Fred Thompson)
Attorney General: Jack McCoy (Sam Waterson)
Secretary of Interior: John Munch (Richard Belzer)
Secretary of Agriculture: Ron Carver (Courtney B. Vance)
Secretary of Commerce: Alexandra Cabot (Stephanie March)
Secretary of Labor: Lennie Briscoe (Jerry Orbach)
Secretary of Health and Human Services: Melinda Warner (Tamara Tunie)
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development: Odafin Tutuola (Ice T)
Secretary of Transportation: Claire Kinkaid (Jill Hennessey)
Secretary of Energy: Alexandra Eames (Katherine Erbe)
Secretary of Education: George Huang (B.D. Wong)
Secretary of Veteran's Affairs: Elliot Stabler (Chris Meloni)
Homeland Security: Donald Cragen (Dann Florek)
Press Secretary: Serena Southerlyn (Elisabeth Rohm)
National Security Advisor: Robert Goren (Vincent D'Onofrio)
Chief of Staff: Abbie Carmichael (Angie Harmon)

So, who would you cast? I'll admit, I am not 100% sure of some of my appointments (some positions were easier to cast than others).

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Lies, All Lies

So last night, I found myself at a gathering where we were asked to introduce ourselves, just in case everyone didn't know everyone else. In addition to our name, rank, and serial numbers, we were asked to tell everyone what drink we would be, if we were a drink. And since we were a roomful of writers and performers, we all were trying to come up with the perfect drink along with the witty bon mot to describe why we were said drink (at least, I was. It is possible that most of the others are more secure than I am. But, as I said, we were a roomful of writers and performers so this is just a possibility).

So what did I say?

Decaf Jasmine Green Tea.

I don't know if I could have come up with a less truthful description of myself if I had tried. I mean, decaf? Um, yeah, tell that to the insomnia which plagues me every night. Clearly, I was suffering from some form of temporary delusion. Perhaps brought on by my excessive insecurity and need to be liked, or maybe I was already feeling the effects of the red wine I was drinking. Dude, I get more accurate answers from random blog quizes, quizes which weren't written by someone who lives inside my head and knows me from the inside. What was I thinking?

And then, today, I received an evite to an alumni gathering which asked the following questions:

1. Which Homeric figure do you most closely identify with?
2. New "Reality" show called Hum 110 Authors...who gets kicked off first?
3. Who will win the Cubs- White Sox series this year?

And I replied:

1. Clytemnestra (though I cannot recall if she actually makes an appearance in either The Iliad or The Odyssey...but she was Helen's sister, so she totally counts.)
2. St. Augustine
3. Cubs

While I am more prepared to defend my reasons for these responses, I must admit, I feel only slightly less ambivalent and awkward about them as I did my beverage reply.

But honestly, these aren't easy questions. They aren't "important" questions, but they are asking one to be specific about who one is. And, in truth, we aren't specific, or rather, we are terribly specific, but in so many contradictory ways the lines between the edges of all the little details which makes one an individual become blurred. We are the sum of parts which change and mutate with every moment, rendering a different result with each passing second.

I identify with Clytemnestra, Helen, Achilleus, and the rest. But I am talking about people who may or may not be fictional and, if they were real, lived 10,000 years ago. I can identify, but only from the context of my own life and experiences which, let's face it, are not one's which easily identify with the hybrid children of gods and men.

So, last night, I inexplicably I was a decaf jasmine green tea. But today, I think I am a smoothie, a blend of fruits into one amalgamated whole.

But there are blog quizes for almost everything these days. Yeah, I probably would have said Patroclus if I were limited to just the men.

Which Greek Warrior From The Iliad Are You?

Patroclus: Nice guy. Yes, we all know you and Achilles are just *friends*.
Take this quiz!