Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ruminations of a Governess

These children are terribly ill-behaved... Now let's see, where did I stick that hat-pin?... Oh heavens, my lumbago... This weather is so dreary, but we must take our walk... Yes, Clarissa, you must eat your prunes... Because I said so, that's why... Dear me, but the kitchen maids must learn to speak to me with a bit more respect for my position... Oh, my ankles, I barely recognized them... tra-la... Could do with a spot of fennel for my indigestion, must ask Cook... time for lessons... No, Jonathan, mustn't scratch yourself in public... Ah, me... Today is Wednesday... I have no identity... I came from nowhere... I exist for other people, not for myself... I have no children of my own... And when I die, nothing will be left of me... except for this hat... now where is that blasted hat-pin?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Because I Have Nothing Better To Do, I'm Gonna Go Ahead And Look Back at 9/11

September 11, 2001 was a Tuesday. I remember this because I was supposed to go to my first appointment ever with a therapist that day, and I was really looking forward to it. The appointment, understandably, ended up getting canceled, along with everything else that was supposed to have transpired on what was probably only like the third or fourth day of actual classes that semester. I woke up to my phone (a landline) ringing. It was my mom. She said, Wake up, they just flew a plane into the World Trade Center. Wait a second – she called to my dad, What? Another one? – they might have just flown another one. I don’t know what’s happening. Turn on the TV. And she hung up.

In my groggy state (come on, it was only like nine a.m.), I was like, Mom, who cares, ugh! I mean after all there had been bombs set off in the World Trade Center before, it didn’t seem like such a big deal. I told Alison and Maisie to turn on the TV, which came on all staticky because we didn’t have cable. So there’s this static split-screen of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and both of them are on fire. But we don’t have any sound. And we’re like, umm... what? And I remember this guy was outside to pick up Maisie to go to a class at Bryn Mawr and Maisie was in her bathrobe and she shouted down to him, Um, don’t you think class might be canceled given that it’s the first day of World War Three? And we were really kind of manic and giddy, and I remember feeling like everything, the whole day, was wrapped in Saran Wrap. Nothing felt like it was really happening.

There was a praying mantis perched on the banister right outside our apartment and I took a picture of it (with a camera, on film). In 2009, in October, on the day when the stock market crashed, I saw another praying mantis. They must just be out at that time of year. But I remembered the one I saw on 9/11 and it was eerie.

So Haverford called a Quaker meeting and the whole school assembled in the gym, I guess to just kind of be together and talk this thing over. Or at least that’s what I thought was going to happen, i.e. I thought the events of the day would be approached with some kind of critical distance that would behoove a student body where 35% of the people were philosophy majors and where the philosphical basis of the entire instution was rooted in pacificism. But boy was I wrong. That student body was just as jingoistic and ready to go to war as everybody else in America, apparently. The first thing that happened, right after the token moment of silence, was this girl jumps up and goes, “My dad’s in the military, and I want to say the Pledge of Allegiance to that flag over there!” She pointed up to behind the basketball net where the American flag hung, along with a number of flags representing Haverford’s primary athletic opponents. I was like, What flag? The Swarthmore flag? But everyone jumped up and started pledging allegiance like some parliament of robots from the future. The only people who didn’t stand up were me and my friend Kevin. Kevin and I went to high school together at a weird hippie progressive private school where we called the teachers by their first names and didn’t get grades and definitely did not say the pledge of allegiance. So we were not into that. Anyway, the hysteria only built from there – some girl grabbed the mike and started crying about how her mom worked by the World Trade Center and she didn’t know where she was (turned out she was fine) and many others cried and I basically was like, um, can we pause for a second and talk about how America is pretty much an evil empire and anyone who pays half a dime’s worth of attention to the geopolitical landscape probably could have seen this one coming? But maybe that was just disgustingly cynical of me. I don’t know. My favorite reaction to 9/11 that happened at Haverford was when I went to the office hours of my African philosophy professor, a little Congolese man named Mutumbo who was visiting from Temple that year, and often wore double denim with white hi-top sneakers, and was generally the coolest dude of all time, and he told me about some German composer who said that the planes crashing into the towers were the greatest aesthetic statement of human history, and then he just started laughing, like really sadly, but also like Jesus Christ, this Western World. Cause meanwhile his country is getting raped for the mineral you need to make cell phones and we’re acting like we’ve never seen a worse tragedy than these two giant office buildings burning down. I mean no offense of course. But – yeah.

I smoked a ton of weed in college and I am also just naturally kind of indignant and reactionary so I have no idea if any of my half-baked ideas about any of this actually are thought through or make any sense. But I guess what I was reacting to was this psycho herd mentality that emerged instantaneously in our country after 9/11, where everybody suddenly felt the need to put flags everywhere and go to war with countries that didn’t have anything to do with it. And in the ten years since we’ve seen what’s come out of that. And we’re still at war. Ten years later. So – I’m not actually going to apologize for anything.

So Bush went on TV and made a speech in front of Congress that said, “You’re either with us, or you’re against us.” Another statement that seemed appropriate for a parliament of militaristic robots from the future. Everything, in short, got very apocalyptic all of a sudden.

I remember one friend of mine was all wound up about Israel. It turns out he was a complete and total Zionist, and I had no idea. I thought it was very, very weird.

I basically just loathed George W. Bush from the hot molten core of my being. He reminded me of any father, teacher, or other authority figure who is rude and condescending because he’s actually threatened by you, and he’s a little nasty bully, and he also would definitely molest you and then deny it and try to make you out to be the crazy one.

I also loathed Hillary Clinton who I listened to one dark night on NPR while sitting in the parking lot of the Acropolis diner in Poughkeepsie alone in my teal-green Ford Tempo (which I later crashed in a head-on collision on Bulls Head Road in Rhinebeck on some black ice, no one was hurt but the car was totaled, another incident from my twenties) making her speech to Congress where she agreed to give Bush war powers “because she hoped that he wouldn’t use them.” Um, Hillary? How about you don’t give him war powers in that case? Barrrffff. Everybody in America was going nuts. Colin Powell gets on TV and shows people a diagram of tubes and that’s literally enough to get people totally psyched to rain down hell on a country we know nothing about. Shock and awe. Barrrffff.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011


I can’t believe I read this when I was twelve.

This book is lurid, misogynistic, violent, and I can’t put it down.

Everything is so nineties—they’re feeding coins into pay phones, freaking out about genetic engineering, hiking.

I wish I had a genius golden retriever.

I really, really wish I had a genius golden retriever, because just think of how great it would be to look into those intelligent doggy eyes.

Except, if your really did engineer a dog to be as smart as a human, and that dog started having smart puppies, would we have to give them rights? What if you wanted to marry your dog? What if a dog wanted to be president? Koontz, there’s a whole can of worms here you didn’t account for, bud.

Is it weird that I want to be a pre-internet pregnant lady wearing floppy sweaters and living in seclusion in the woods like the character Nora? It just seems really peaceful. (Except for the fact that she is being stalked by both a hit man and a genetically engineered monster, who can communicate telepathically with the aforementioned dog).

Reading this book is very much like watching a movie on the USA network in the middle of the day, or looking at the internet for too long, in that you feel kind of damp and disoriented afterwards.

I wish someone would make a movie of this book.