Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Philly, we hardly knew ye...

Originally uploaded by michael j nolan.
Our days of loft living in Center City Philadelphia are drawing to a close. At the end of July we'll be briefly living "downashore" in our half-renovated cottage in Villas, NJ. What an odyssey this year has been, and more is to follow soon.

This is a photo of our dining area in the throes of being disassembled. You could say it's a picture of instability at Stable Court.

Today the three of us—mom, dad and son—cabbed over to the Natural History Academy to see an exhibit on dogs. It was a muggy, overcast city day, and it was a reminder of what we're going to miss about urban life: museums, movies, restaurants, cabs, quirky stores and vibrant street life.

But another chapter beckons.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Nuevo California

This has been bouncing around the Internet forever, and when it came my way a second time months after I first saw it, I figured it had a pretty sound half-life. Thanks to my friend Dorothy in Philly for forwarding it:

Dear Red States:

We're ticked off at the way you've treated California, and we've decided we're leaving. We intend to form our own country, and we're taking the other Blue States with us.

In case you aren't aware, that includes Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois and all the Northeast. We believe this split will be beneficial to the nation, and especially to the people of the new country of New California.

To sum up briefly: You get Texas, Oklahoma and all the slave states.
We get stem cell research and the best beaches.
We get Elliot Spitzer. You get Ken Lay.
We get the Statue of Liberty. You get Opry Land.
We get Intel and Microsoft. You get WorldCom.
We get Harvard. You get Ole' Miss.
We get 85 percent of America's venture capital and entrepreneurs. You get Alabama.
We get two-thirds of the tax revenue, you get to make the red states pay their fair share.
Since our aggregate divorce rate is 22 percent lower than the Christian Coalition's, we get a bunch of happy families. You get a bunch of single moms.

Please be aware that Nuevo California will be pro-choice and antiwar, and we're going to want all our citizens back from Iraq at once. If you need people to fight, ask your evangelicals. They have kids they're apparently willing to send to their deaths for no purpose, and they don't care if you don't show pictures of their children's caskets coming home. We do wish you success in Iraq, and hope that the WMDs turn up, but we're not willing to spend our resources in Bush's Quagmire.

With the Blue States in hand, we will have firm control of 80 percent of the country's fresh water, more than 90 percent of the pineapple and lettuce, 92 percent of the nation's fresh fruit, 95 percent of America's quality wines (you can serve French wines at state dinners) 90 percent of all cheese, 90 percent of the high tech industry, most of the U.S. low-sulfur coal, all living redwoods, sequoias and condors, all the Ivy and Seven Sister schools, plus Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Stanford, CalTech and MIT.

With the Red States, on the other hand, you will have to cope with 88 percent of all obese Americans (and their projected health care costs), 92 percent of all U.S. mosquitoes, nearly 100 percent of the tornadoes, 90 percent of the hurricanes, 99 percent of all Southern Baptists, virtually 100 percent of all televangelists, Rush Limbaugh, Bob Jones University, Clemson and the University of Georgia.

We get Hollywood and Yosemite, thank you. Additionally, 38 percent of those in the Red states believe Jonah was actually swallowed by a whale, 62 percent believe life is sacred unless we're discussing the death penalty or gun laws, 44 percent say that evolution is only a theory, 53 percent that Saddam was involved in 9/11 and 61 percent of you crazy bastards believe you are people with higher morals than we lefties.

Author Unknown in New California.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

What the f**k is going on?

The Arizona Republic is one of those newspapers that sets a standard for conservative—nay, right-wing—positions on the issues of the day. It was once owned by the same Pulliam family that controlled the Indianapolis Star. Even these Republican mouthpieces are beginning to recognize and expose the insanity that is Bushco's Iraq.

A story in yesterday's Republic tells how a 45-year old blue-collar dad is buying his Iraq-bound son more than $600 worth of flak vests and other military equipment after the young Marine told him it had been strongly suggested by his commanding officers.

The paper reports, "(John) Tod said his son's call about two weeks ago from the Marine Corps Air Station-Yuma was a sobering reminder that the military is not prepared to equip Pfc. Tod and fellow Marines with the best equipment.

Besides the essential flak jacket with steel 'trauma' plates, the shopping list for the young Marine included a Camelbak (water pouch) special ballistic goggles, knee and elbow pads, a "drop pouch" to hold ammunition magazines and a load-bearing vest."

In a related story, Salon reports that "...the inspector general finds that U.S. Marines assigned to fight in some of the most dangerous parts of Iraq haven't been provided the weapons, communications gear or vehicles they need. The inspector general says that 'all' Marine units currently fighting in Iraq 'require ground equipment that exceeds' what they've got, 'particularly in mobility, engineering, communications and heavy weapons.'"

Salon suggests that Bushco supporters consider these egregious failures by the administration to support our own troops before slapping another red white and blue magnetic ribbon on the back of their SUVs.

Come on America; wake up! These are your sons and daughters Bushco is sacrificing. Do you think you should be buying armor for them out of your own pockets while Halliburton pockets hundreds of billions of dollars from this war? And remember, this is a debt your grandchildren (if you're lucky enough to have any) will be saddled with.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

The war on terror and my Swiss Army knife

Last week I flew to Chicago for the HOW Design Conference. Due to the confusion caused by US Airways locations in two different terminals in Philadelphia—F and C—I had the misfortune to have to go through security twice. And as if that wasn't bad enough, I got pulled aside into the line where they've spotted something troubling in one of your bags. I knew I was innocent, not carrying explosives, heroin, or illicit cash. But still I sweated a little as the agent dug around in my suitcase. He finally found what he was looking for and triumphantly pulled out my Swiss Army knife.

This Swiss Army knife had been with me for more than 25 years. It was one of the first gifts my wife gave me, early in our relationship. It's been on camping trips, to Italy, and its handy corkscrew has opened many a bottle of wine. But now I had to say goodbye to it because it might enable me to hijack an airplane.

I was so relieved that I wasn't going to be strip-searched I thanked the security agent and told him that their discovery of my Swiss Army knife made me feel good about the effectiveness of all this screening. And, I did feel momentarily safer as I boarded my plane, knowing that it was unlikely anybody could have smuggled a gun aboard.

When I got to Chicago, I came across a column in the Tribune by Charles M. Madigan—their op-ed editor. In it he details his progression from being a liberal to being a pragmatist. "I may have been liberal a long time ago, back when blue jeans had bell-bottoms, people spoke about what fun pot smoking was, women broke the bonds of fashion, loosely embracing nature, and sensitive men said they wept sad tears at 'Love Story' instead of gagging, the more natural response... so liberal? No, that's wrong. Pragmatist is what I am."

"Come up with a health-care program that works, that provides benefits for all Americans and I'm on board. Develop a realistic foreign policy that isn't going to drag people we love and cherish into war, and I'm with you."

"Protect us realistically and effectively. It's not too much to ask."

"Somehow, that has been translated into taking Swiss Army knives and other pointy things from folks at airports. We get cut to the very heart by terrorists and the government concludes Swiss Army knives are the problem."

After reading Madigan's words, I no longer felt patriotic about the loss of my Swiss Army knife. I felt stupid, used, exploited. We create thousands of new terrorists each day with our national blunder in Iraq, Osama bin Laden goes free as a bird, and the skies are safe from the likes of me.

Please let me wake up from this national nightmare someday soon and find myself back in the America I used to love.

Monday, June 06, 2005

The village that raised our child

Everyone thinks it's a cliche. They attribute the idea to Hillary Clinton, a vaguely disreputable proponent of socialistic thinking. It's the old, "takes a village to raise a child" sentiment.

But it's not a cliche. It's true. And I realized it in spades this past week when my wife and I returned to Indianapolis for our son's high school graduation.

For those who don't know the story, we left our only son behind in Indianapolis last year when we moved to Philadelphia for my wife's new job. At seventeen and entering his senior year, he was completely opposed to accompanying us to the East Coast before graduation. Hey, we're enlightened parents, and we decided his arguments made sense. He could stay behind to finish school with the same classmates he'd had since kindergarten.

Well, it wouldn't have happened without my sister Jan and her husband Dennis. They had just become empty-nesters, and in spite of their desire for some privacy, they agreed to take our son in for the first semester. He lived with them for weeks, and as an angst-ridden 17-year-old, changed their lives as you can imagine. Still, they stuck by him, met his friends, went to his soccer games, and waited up late nights when he didn't come home on time. They provided the skittles and microwave popcorn and macaroni & cheese dinners a teenager requires. They gave him just enough rope—but not too much.

And his other two aunts—and grandma—were always just around the corner to offer an invite to a barbecue or some family function to provide some grounding when necessary.

After Christmas, things got a little looser. He wanted to be closer to his urban public high school, so he moved in with a family we knew—but just barely. We had met these folks years ago when we were all public school advocates determined to take over the school board running the Indianapolis Public Schools. The fact that they had eight kids and had sent most of them off to college gave us a sense that they probably knew how to handle teenagers. The fact that we succeeded in taking over the school board all those years ago gave us all camaraderie.

Then there was the school itself. Broad Ripple High School is a challenged, urban public school, but like many such schools, is underestimated and dismissed by many people who don't know better. The low point was our son's Sophomore year when five of his fellow students were killed (none at school, all in the community overwhelmed by drugs and homelessness and single parenting and unemployment and all the other negative factors afoot these days.) After that, things got better—marginally. With grants from Bill & Melinda Gates and a whole lot of humor, Broad Ripple soldiers on. During this year the dedicated teachers and staff knew our son was on his own, that his parents were 650 miles away on the East Coast. And they helped him out. (I forgive them for letting him claim he was homeless so he could get free and reduced lunch in the cafeteria, They must have fallen for his considerable charm.)

Everybody came through for us, and more importantly, for him, As I sat proudly watching the commencement exercises, I realized he had 1.) not been arrested; 2.) not gotten into a car wreck; 3.) was graduating from high school, and 4.) had been accepted into college. And his entire year had been without parents! The village guided him to success.

What a village it is! The northside of Indianapolis is a community-builder's wet dream, one of the sweetest places on the face of the earth. It's liberal and traditional at the same time and it came through for us. Maybe Hillary has something there.