Monday, February 26, 2007

No love for the haters.

This makes me physically ill. This man, this elderly man, was on his way home when he was brutally attacked by a man who apparently hated him for being gay. Mr. Anthos died today, after slipping into a coma. He was 72.

What's worse, the American Family Association has spoken out against pending legislation that would allow, among other things, federal law enforcement to assist with local hate crimes investigations. Here's what the lovely folks at the AFA have to say about it:

Here is a partial list of what homosexual activists are trying to force on every American. While HR 254 will not, in and of itself, accomplish these goals, it will open the door to such regulations. Once the elephant gets its trunk under the tent, the way is open for the elephant to move inside and do whatever he wants.

  • Preaching that homosexuality is a sin from the pulpit will result in the preacher being charged with “hate speech.”
  • Churches will have their tax-exempt status revoked if they oppose homosexuality.
  • Homosexual marriage will be legalized and recognized in all states.
  • Polygamy will be legalized.
  • Landlords will be forced to rent to homosexuals.
  • Scouts, and all non-profit organizations, will be required to hire homosexuals as leaders.
  • Biblical language used to define homosexuality will be considered “hate speech.” City officials have already had a billboard removed in Long Island, NY, because it was classified as “hate speech.” The billboard read: “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination.” (Leviticus 20:13)
  • Employees will not be allowed to say anything negative about homosexuality in their workplaces.
  • Classes promoting the homosexual lifestyle will be included in school curricula beginning with the lower grades.
  • Employers will be forced to hire homosexuals.
  • Adoption by homosexuals will be legalized in every state.
Aside from the strange and rather awkward elephant analogy, this sort of rhetoric is downright frightening. I'm not naive; I know these people exist all over the place. And they have a right to speak freely in this country. But to openly oppose hate crimes legislation after such a brutal attack is akin, in my opinion, to committing a hate crime. These people are essentially sanctioning the assault and murder of any person who does not define him or herself as straight.

Join the Human Rights Campaign urging state representatives to beef up current hate crimes legislation. Phallic references aside, let's get our trunks so far under those AFA tents that they won't know what hit them.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Notes from the Neutral Ground

I watched a child fall from a ladder on Sunday night. While standing on the porch of a friend of a friend of a friend (a neurosurgeon whose bookshelves, to my unending glee, contained two rather large--but not as large as you might hope--tomes entitled 'Brain Surgery: Volume 1' and 'Brain Surgery: Volume 2') waiting for Bacchus to roll, I heard a sound, amid the ruckus, like a branch snapping. The child lay on the ground, terrifyingly still, and as the parental figures on the ground gathered around her, I predictably thought of my own child, tucked safely away at Cade's parents' house in Ama. The young girl's mother carried her away from the scene of the accident, and I had a moment of quiet hysteria. What if the child had been seriously hurt (as she clearly had not been, given the histrionic quality of her subsequent tears)? What if we'd had to summon one of the neurosurgeons to come to her aid? What if I'd been forced to break out 'Brain Surgery: Volume 2'? What if that had been Sydney on that ladder? What if...What if...Oh my god what if?

But then I had another beer, and put the what ifs away for the evening. The child was fine, but for the occasional hiccup of leftover misery.

Mardi Gras seemed fraught with peril this year. I was nearly brained by a bag of ice at the Endymion Extravaganza; the woman at the table next to us had her nose bloodied. I witnessed injury after bead-related injury. The riders seemed unusually aggressive, at times almost hostile. That little girl's ladder--identical to all the other ladders lining the parade route, simultaneously annoying and precious--failed her. And I spent the better part of my weekend missing my baby, whose paternal grandparents whisked her away for a weekend in the country, surrounded by chickens and cats and horses and a whole other set of people who believe that she's the most amazing little person to ever wave bye-bye.

We got her back on Lundi Gras. The next morning, the three of us headed out to the parades, where we spent the day taking in the costumes and the music and the brilliant colors and smells and sounds of a city in full-on catharsis. Sydney had a blast, and I was content to sit back and watch our beautiful child take in this beautiful city--from the sidewalk, of course. The ladder Cade built will have to wait.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Train in the Distance

I was awakened early this morning--around 3 a.m.--by an unnerving cacophony. A distant roar, lights flashing everywhere, the heart-sinking pop of a nearby transformer. Then darkness. I went to the window, anxious, wondering whether or not to grab the baby and duck into the master bathroom, but as the moments passed the noise grew fainter and it seemed as though the worst had passed.

This morning we cranked up the hand-powered radio (courtesy of WWOZ) and discovered the extent of the damage done by this storm. What a mess. We remain powerless (so many interpretations there) and Syd's school is closed until further notice. Some of the people whose houses were damaged or destroyed this morning had just finished repairs from Katrina. In the words of one councilperson, "We just can't get a break."

This morning, as I made french toast in the dark (thank goodness for gas stoves), I was struck by how dependent we are on this electricity business. We are, quite literally, powerless. Helpless. Makes you think.

Monday, February 12, 2007

An Introvert Goes Parading

I will admit to a profound and profoundly anxiety-provoking ambivalence about Carnival season. I do like the spectacle, the sights and sounds and the sense of community that can only come from standing in line, year after year, next to the same people in front of the same 3 portable toilets (do they ever clean them?). I like to watch, to observe; I like to think about what all these people do with the rest of their lives, the normal lives, the 50 weeks out of the year in which we at least pretend like we're regular, productive human beings. Take, for instance, the guy with the swarm of stuffed animals stapled to his pants: what does he do for a living? Or the matronly woman who nearly knocked down my toddler in order to catch a string of shiny, but nonetheless worthless, beads?

People let loose at Carnival. I like to see that.

But most of me would rather stay home. I hate admitting that, but its true. I can finally read again, I finally have a few moments in the day to stick my nerdy nose in a book, and I am currently enthralled with a novel entitled Case Histories and Cade teases me for this but its all I want to do lately. I don't want to stand outside in the cold and be social, for pete's sake. I don't want to fight for beads, I don't want to make small talk with the matronly woman who nearly stampeded my child. I love Carnival, I really do, but these days there's not enough of me to go around. These days, there's just enough of me left to find out whodunnit.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007


Lately we (Sydney and I) have taken to foraging. In the fleeting moments between daycare and dusk, we take to the streets, gathering treasures, stuffing our pockets and fists--and sometimes, when one of us (ahem) isn't looking, our mouths--with stones and acorns and rose petals from the neighbor's yard. Sydney is at her most intent during these walks, toddling purposefully toward some gleaming speck, turning it over and over in her tiny hands, inspecting every surface before moving on to the next discovery. It is one of the small, private joys of parenthood: trailing along after this brand new person, this life you created, this amazed and amazing little girl, whose sole job is to explore, to hunt, to gather as much as possible from the world before night falls at last.

I've been feeling sort of off lately, empty in a way, for no discernible reason. I have all the trappings of a happy life, and I am happy, mostly. And yet.

After Sydney was born I remember saying to someone--Jill, I think--that becoming a parent sobers you, makes you more cautious. Sydney, newly delivered and so fragile, so helpless, slept open-mouthed on my shoulder as I talked into the phone, overcome with a sorrow I had not anticipated. I had a healthy baby, a flawless birth, I was with my family in Florida, our home in New Orleans had survived. But I was terribly somber, overwhelmed by the force of it all. And I don't think that it was really the responsibility for another life that bowled me over, but the realization that my gathering days were over, it was no longer my turn, that it was now time for me to start giving away all that I had collected.

There's a line in a John Mayer song that goes something like So scared of getting older/I'm only good at being young and it's so true, so painfully true, and not because I want to quit my job and play all day but because I'm not ready to start giving it all away, these pieces of me that I've spent a lifetime collecting. I'm not a gardener; I don't have the patience, the faith required to bury seeds in the earth and wait for spring. I'm more inclined to scatter my wares to the wind, as many as possible, hoping that some of them take root, that some of them survive. The problem with this tactic, of course, is that one has no way of knowing where to look come spring.

I know now that this whole growing up thing involves a series of small offerings, the gradual but not always methodical scattering of self. The trick, I guess, is to keep track of where you put the pieces.