Sunday, July 27, 2008

And the answer is...

...donations for a bark park. There seem to be more dogs than people in Provincetown, Cape Cod this year. Not that I'm complaining.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Truth of Wall-e

I'm not sure how the writers got the storyline of Wall-e past the Disney marketing execs. If you haven't seen the movie, I won't spoil too much of it for you.

Here's the premise: One giant superstore has taken over every aspect of life on Earth. Its products result in so much garbage that humans have to be jettisoned into space for what is supposed to be a five-year, supersized, automated luxury cruise while robots at home compress the garbage into neat cubes and stack them up into garbage towers.

It takes the robots a bit longer than expected to clear out all that garbage, though, and the space cruise is still cruising 700 years later. Aboard the ship, humans over the generations stop walking or moving or interacting directly with each other. They become almost boneless, brainless, and blob-shaped. It was starting to remind me of an especially bleak J.G. Ballard or Ray Bradbury story, but Disney-ness, thank God, kicks in eventually and saves the day. That made me feel good.

I came out of the movie theater into a vast parking lot lined with big-box stores. I looked around and noticed that nearly everyone was obese, including the children. They struggled up into their Chevy Trailblazers and Ford Expeditions, panting. Although the endless asphalt glittered with heat, I shivered.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Satire takes a beating when truth is so ridiculous | Freep.c

Not currently in possession of an original thought, I will let Leonard Pitts Jr of the Detroit Free Press speak for me today. He got it SO right...and look at the comments readers made. Irony piled up upon irony.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A woman walked into the

tutoring center today. I was doing some administrative stuff and saw her when I came into the reception area to get a student file.

The woman was old, but not desiccated-old. She was tall (well, anyone over five foot one is tall to me, but she was quite tall) and well-dressed in neat cotton slacks and a summery plaid blouse. Another tutor was giving her directions, drawing a map on a yellow sticky pad. As I passed by, I heard snippets of the conversation: walked to the library...can't remember just exactly...son will kill me if he finds out...

Having recently lost my mother-in-law to dementia, my senses are now more finely tuned to signs of a deteriorating mind. I interrupted and asked the woman if she would like a ride. Oh yes, she said, with delight and relief.

As I drove her home, she told me that she lives with her son and his family. Her daughter-in-law doesn't like her to talk to the neighbors, she told me, because she doesn't know them. This is a strange way of living for her, she explained, because up until her memory started to fail, she'd been a registered nurse. She was used to...she couldn't find the words.

Dealing with the public? I offered.

Yes! Exactly! She exclaimed, pleased.

When we got closer to the street marked on the yellow sticky sitting in my lap, she asked me to drop her at the corner. It sounded more like a plea than a demand. I asked her why.

If someone is home and they find out that I've been...lost, they'll be angry, she said. They'll keep me in. I was reluctant to leave her wandering down a street, but she seemed desperate.

Can I watch you go into your house, just to make sure? I asked.

She shook her head. Please, they might see you.

I stopped the car at the corner of her street. She thanked me quickly, pushed a five dollar bill into my lap, and almost leapt out of the car. I tried to give the money back, but that woman was making tracks. I put my car into reverse and inched back behind a bush, and watched her walk purposefully down the road.

I'll just watch, I told myself. Just to be sure. But she turned around and spied me and made an urgent "go away" gesture with her hand. So I made a K-turn and headed back toward town.

If it were in me, I would pray to have her determination should I face such indignity in the future. But as it is, I can only hope.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Nothing

important happened today
(or words to that effect).

--King George III of England, July 4th, 1776

Ditto.

--Liz Stone Abraham, USA, July 14, 2008

Friday, July 11, 2008

So here's what happened...

One day a few months ago we noticed that the family living in the corner lot on our street was cutting down trees on their property. No big deal, everyone cuts down trees around here. We do it, too. The guy who developed most of the homes on our block back in the late 70s had a penchant for planting oaks and maples right next to each other. Or maybe they planted themselves. In any case, 35 or so years later, those trees vie for sunlight and room to spread their roots and branches.

Carl, the craggily handsome, chain-smoking arborist, cuts down the less fit trees so that the others may thrive. (He quit smoking for a stretch last year and I discovered that his thick grey hair and mustache was actually vibrant blond. Then he picked up again, and he turned back to grey. But that's another story.)

The family on the corner lot cut down all of the trees. Every single one—30 or so, maybe more. The suddenness of the massacre got peoples' attention. Even the mailman almost ran into me as he craned his neck to stare at the lot while pulling out into the street. Next, a CAT logger appeared on the denuded grounds. The man who lives there drove the CAT around for a few evenings in a row, resulting in several neat stacks of logs piled up at the edge of the property. The logs disappeared, and an excavator replaced the logger.

We all waited and watched as the guy dug a wide, shallow pit across the lot. Oh great, my husband and I said to each other. He's going to put in a hideous 6-car garage. Or maybe they're planning an addition to their workaday cape? Perhaps a great room with cathedral ceilings and Palladian windows? A grand, Victorian-style solarium? Maybe an in-ground pool with a slate patio. Well, whatever he had in mind, it would be on display for all to see now that the trees were gone.

More waiting and watching. As I rounded the corner one day I almost drove off the road. I had to stop the car for a moment to make sure I'd seen it right. Yes, I had. The entire gouged-out spot had been seeded. With grass seed. The man had cut down his forest and built...a lawn.

A lawn? Why, why, why would he want more lawn? Lawns are the scourge of suburban life. To be a good neighbor, you're expected to water, feed, and add insecticide and herbicide to your lawn. And mow and mow and mow until you drop dead. More than half of the people here have tractor mowers. We don't. Nor do we perform most of the other lawn chores that we're supposed to do to be a good neighbor. Lawns—dare I say it out loud in this land of short green grass-worshippers—are stupid.

There, I said it. That was my one brave thing for the day.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Check out this huge

...thing. Challenged by my friend Rowena to do something brave everyday, I decided to pull into the parking lot of this forbidding-looking local quarry and take pictures. I've been wanting to do it for some time, but I was afraid that someone would arrest me for trespassing. Or yell at me—that would be worse. A guy in a big truck gave me a friendly nod as I drove in and he drove out. Other than that, I didn't see anyone. I got out of
my car and wandered around a bit.

The place has a distinct air of disuse. Maybe it's the vegetation climbing all over the equipment, or the rust. I peered around the corner of this boxlike structure at right. What I saw next was a massive contraption that was definitely whirring and humming. So, apparently this quarry is still in operation.

What's weird is how little I could discover about this place online. I found the company website, so I know that the quarry produces "Hot Mix Asphalt." But there were no news stories about this particular plant. I thought that quarries were the object of scorn by environmental groups. Don't they dig up natural resources and leave gaping holes in the landscape when they're through? Don't workers get beheaded operating the machinery and end up as ghosts haunting the plant at night, rattling chains? This place, for all its hulking bulk, barely seems to exist.

And look at the office. Really, does anyone work here?
Maybe that guy in the truck was a ghost. But he did have a head.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Bus stops are good.

I passed this nifty little structure on my way to a student's house. In my own neighborhood, kids don't tend to meet in one place to wait for the bus, so the bus stops every 15 feet or so to take on passengers. If I happen to be stuck behind the bus, I yell at my windshield, c'mon kids, walk! That's what feet are for!

But I'm not being fair, because at least these kids (well, their parents) are taking advantage of public transportation. They don't add to the congestion everywhere within a two mile radius of the schools during drop-off and dismissal.

I won't slide into a rant about SUV Moms cutting people off to get their one and a half children into or out of the school parking lot. Or about the cops stopping traffic to let those SUVs in and out. Because that would be a cliché. Complaining about SUV Moms is so yesterday (not to be confused with regular moms, about whom, in general, I do not complain).

No. This post is about bus stops. My childhood bus stop was just a corner; not even a sign indicated that anything special might happen if you waited there. Everyone just knew where it was. My little sister Amy and I lived three blocks from it, which wasn't bad. Unfortunately, the last block was a steep hill. Amy had a strangely charming laziness about her that translated into, among many other quirks, an inability to get herself up that last hill to the bus stop. Every morning, weighed down with textbook-filled backpacks (those books are online now), we trudged up the hill. Amy would start to fall back, and I'd grab her hand and pull her. We'd see the bus rolling into the stop, which meant we had about 90 seconds, if we were lucky, to catch that bus. So I'd take Amy's backpack and swing it onto my back on top of my own, and with my right hand I would push that kid up the hill.

If we missed the bus, we walked—which stunk. But at least we could walk, and what a stinkin' luxury that was.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A strip mall with a view

Like many rural suburban U.S. towns, mine—at its core—is a tangle of strip malls coalescing around a center. Surrounding that is a cat's cradle of wooded dirt roads dotted with 19th century farmhouses and cottages, and paved roads lined with 20th century capes and raised ranches. Fused to these are sparkling subdivisions named Dogwood Bridge Acres and Cedar Circle Woods, more than a few of which will soon devolve into Sub-Prime Mortgage Meadows and Foreclosure Sunset Farms (bringing the rest us down with them, thank you so much).

The center of our town is marked by a 100-foot flagpole, erected in 1876. Sidewalks lead in four directions from the pole. The sidewalks remind me of Shel Silverstein's Where the Sidewalk Ends. At age six or so, I remember thinking: what a funny and absurd notion--a sidewalk, ending? Sidewalks don't end! The Earth is round!

They end in my town. They pick up again, anemically, at various points in the Commercial District. But they don't lead anywhere in particular (I don't count the banks, nail salons, or the CVS). People feel sorry for pedestrians here. Look at that guy! Why is he walking? Should we call it in? Maybe he's stranded.

Even in my car, I sometimes feel stranded. Yet, I've grown accustomed to this life. It's comfortable. The truth is that when I visit my home city, I often can't wait to get back. What does that say about the suburbs? About me? Hm.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

An old coal silo in Beacon, NY








From the looks of things, people are starting to use coal again.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

I'm too distracted by the post on

Emily Magazine to write anything worthwhile. Jeeezus.

Instead, tonight's entertainment here on Kidless will be provided by Koko. If we could all just be that happy. Or bored.




Wednesday, July 2, 2008

This is the center of my town.

Does it look like a parking lot to you? Yeah, to me too. But it’s what the local teenagers refer to as “The Center.” I tutor for a living, so I meet a lot of teenagers. For a while I thought that they were talking about the intersection on Main Street, which sports a whopping big flagpole. There’s a bucolic little general store just down the road from it where you can get sodas and ice cream. But now that I think of it, I’ve rarely seen kids hanging out there. Then I thought that they must be referring to the teen center run by the town. But I’m not that far into adulthood (okay, yes I am but) to believe that any self-respecting teen would set an Old Skool Vans-encased foot into a place created for kids by adults.

My boss finally explained it to me. The Center is the CVS parking lot. Riiiight, of course! I always have to watch my rear view mirror with extra vigilance when pulling out of the CVS lot to make sure that I don’t hit any of those…kids. What are they doing there? They can’t drink or do drugs or even make out—what with all those adults milling about, shopping. They can smoke, however, because apparently while one must be 18 in my state to purchase cigarettes, the law permits people to smoke at the age of 16...as long as someone else buys them. One of my students told me that. Okay, so they can smoke at the CVS. What else? There’s a Big Y next door (that’s a supermarket around these parts), with a much bigger parking lot. But they don’t congregate there. Is CVS cooler than the Big Y?

I grew up in Brooklyn and spent most of my free time wandering the streets of Manhattan. Yeah, I’m showing off, being superior. But when I mention this to my students, they look at me with awe. It’s like saying that I was the batboy for the Yankees, or went to high school with Jennifer Aniston (actually, I did—she was a year ahead of me. But telling people that would be plain obnoxious).

Call me an idealist, but I don’t think it’s good that the CVS parking lot will figure so heavily in these kids’ memories of childhood. Here’s the question: how does a semi-rural suburban town create something for the kids to do, a place for them to go, without adultifying it and thereby making it uncool and verboten? Even if the town council put together a team of teenagers to come up with something, the very fact that adults had initiated it would probably have the same chilling effect.

Anyone?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Emily Gould is to me as

Liz Phair is to Emily Gould. Sort of. In her June 26th post in Emily Magazine, Emily wrote that she loves Liz Phair. She mused that it's a strange and embarrassing thing to love someone who doesn't know her. Well, let's not go crazy, I can hear my husband saying. Okay, fine. Maybe love is a strong word to describe how I feel about Emily. But I have my reasons. And she has hers for loving Liz Phair.

About eight months ago I started this blog out of desperation. I didn't really understand the blog world, with its nuances and idiosyncrasies. Or, really, why people blogged. I was in a downward spiral and needed to talk to someone. But I couldn't talk. So I started to write in this blog. At the time, I called it "My Anomie." I wrote for a short while, a week or so, about my deepening sense of isolation and lack of place in the world. Things got worse, and then everything stopped.

Zoom forward to Emily's article "Exposed," which came out in the May 25th issue of The New York Times Magazine, with the subhead, "What I gained — and lost — by writing about my intimate life online." I read it without stopping. It was so insightful, and honest, and unpretentious. Instead of a sensational self-exposé, I found in her story an explanation of Emily's specific cross-section of the internet generation. Of the personal blog that eventually led to her very public vilification, she wrote,

"I’m willing to let that blog exist now as a sort of memorial to a time in my life when I thought my discoveries about myself and what I loved were special enough to merit sharing with the world immediately.”

The blog Emily refers to, which I won't name here but is easy enough to find, still exists. However, its infamous archives are closed to the public. She learned the very hard way what not to do in the blogosphere—overshare (as she put it), and what to do—think (for at least a minute) before hitting "publish." I learned the easy way—from reading her article.

Emily is still blogging away in Emily Magazine, fiercely and humorously but not foolishly. And so, I believe, am I here in Kidless. It's fun and uniquely satisfying to share my thoughts and images with whoever might be out there. I thank Emily for explaining this new world to me.

And that's why I love her.

Think.

Publish.

I want the world to know


that I submitted a story to a contest last night. I checked my log and discovered that the last time I submitted anything was December '07. My rejection slip folder must be getting dusty. Contest results will be announced August 31st. I won't say which magazine it is because I don't want anyone who might stumble upon this post to get any ideas about adding to the competition. I have sunk that low.

Desk, Bookcase, and the Kitchen Beyond


Desk, Bookcase, and the Kitchen Beyond Originally uploaded by Telstar Logistics


This is a shot of the inside of Jay Shafter's home. It's 100 square feet. My palace will be 2.5 times bigger. Imagine the possibilities...

According to Tumbleweed, the Loring actually has 400 square feet of usuable living space, once you include the loft (which isn't considered inhabitable because of the low ceiling but can certainly hold a bunch of my stuff). And the cost? Jay says that the price to build comes in between $100-200 per square foot. Let's split it and say $150, so...it'll cost approximately $37,650. Not sure if I have to count the loft footage but this is my fantasy, so I'll say no to that.

It will be like Walden, only not in the woods.

I'm pale green at best, but

I love the idea of having this simple, low-impact, low-cost life. My (future) tiny house sits on a tenth of an acre in a cool little town. With the house only covering 251 square feet, I have room for a front walk and backyard garden. The garden provides me with tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, basil, and catmint (for Katie). The property is small enough that it's not overwhelming to tend it. While I'm fantasizing, let's put one of Solar Lab's solar-powered rickshaws in a pint-sized car port along side the house. The drawing above is from an article in Inhabitat, TRANSPORTATION TUES: Solar-Power Rickshaws for London by Mahesh Basantani.

Solar-Power Rickshaws for London

And once I get my tiny house, this will be my transportation.

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