Archive | June, 2011

Dear New York

27 Jun

Dear New York,

Congratulations! I am terribly, extremely happy for you.

I’d like to take this moment to think of all those who finally have been given rights that were long due. I would like to take this day to extend my heartfelt congratulations and good wishes to everyone who chooses to exercise the right to get married and also to everyone who can now choose not to get married, whatever their reasons may be.

And I would like to take this exact moment on a Monday, of all days, 9:25 Pacific Time, 12:35 Eastern Time, to think of the courthouse clerks, judges, and other employees, who a month from now will be staring down the long lines and feeling their stomachs growl and wishing for their usual lunch break. I hope the smiles are directed your way. I hope you feel blessed to be a part of this. And I hope somebody remembers to give you a piece of wedding cake.

I hold all of you in my heart today. The married, the unmarried, and those facing a difficult but rewarding Monday.

If the hot dog vendors have any sense, they will abandon their usual posts and line up outside the courthouses. Can’t you just see them, waiting in a line? Can’t you just see the wedding dresses and tuxes and vests and hipster pegged pants and hats? The bicycles, the town cars, the high heels making their way down the street? The cameras snapping pictures, the bored faces, the people making friends, the rows of hard wooden benches? Don’t you wish you could be there? 45,000 gay couples live in New York State. There’s no telling how many will decide to get married, or how many of those will decide to get married on the first day…but I bet it will be enough for a party.




Dear Judicial Bias

15 Jun

Dear Judicial Bias,

Yesterday’s news item that won the prize for trying the hardest to make my head explode (and no, it’s not the Republication debate!):

Prop 8 advocates appealed the ruling last year that Prop 8 was unconstitutional. Their main argument? That the judge (Judge Vaughn Walker) who presided over the case was biased because he’s in a long-term relationship with a same-sex partner. And therefore stands to gain if gay marriage is legal. And therefore is unfit to judge the case. Because he’s biased. Because he’s gay.

In the end, the judge who heard the appeal (U.S. Chief District Judge James Ware) upheld Walker’s ruling, saying that bias can not be presumed (Seattle Times “Chief judge upholds ruling in same-sex-marriage case” A2 6/15/2011) (I would link to the online article but the headline is wrong and it’s just confusing):

The presumption that Judge Walker, by virtue of being in a same-sex relationship, had a desire to be married that rendered him incapable of making an impartial decision, is as warrantless as the presumption that a female judge is incapable of being impartial in a case in which women seek legal relief. On the contrary, it is reasonable to presume that a female judge or a judge in a same-sex relationship is capable of rising above any personal predisposition and deciding such a case on the merits.” —Judge Ware

Well, yes. Hard to argue with, in my mind.

On the other hand, Ware could have gone for the even closer comparison— the question no one seems to be asking…. which is that, hypothetically, if all gay judges are biased, then aren’t all heterosexual judges biased too? All those straight judges who have ruled against gay marriage across the United States— shouldn’t we be questioning their motives as well? (No, we should not.)

I am not saying I think this is true. I do not advocate bringing judges’ personal lives (or sexual orientation) into the courtroom. I’m just saying– slippery slope, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, back that appeals truck up, etc, etc.

And dear god, people, I don’t necessarily think the Enlightenment is the end-all be-all, but some elements of its advocacy of reason and rational thought sure could use a dusting off in the sphere of American public debate.



Dear Plant Owners in Seattle

15 Jun

Dear Plant Owners in Seattle,

As in, all of you, because there are plants everywhere here…Maybe don’t water your plants? Since it rains every 3-4 days here?

And I keep hearing things about precious freshwater resources and stuff?

Yeah. Just a thought.



PS— it’s really pretty here.

Dear Flies

10 Jun

Dear Flies,

If you’re so evolved — and by that I mean clearly you will survive the apocalypse and you have an uncanny ability to escape our attempts to capture you or keep you from landing on our food–


Can’t you smell or see or something that would allow you to find fresh air?

Seriously. I mean, seriously.


Dear Guy in the Coffeeshop

8 Jun

Dear Guy in the Coffeeshop,

It’s super sweet that you like Russian literature. I can imagine that it’s not often you overhear it being discussed in a coffeeshop (although, since you’re in Seattle, visit enough coffeeshops and you’ll run into enough graduate students and literati and you’re bound to find some Cossackophiles* in the pile).

And yes, I sometimes wish that coffeeshops actually were the community centers that we claim them to be. Perhaps they were friendly public spaces prior to the days of laptops and personal listening devices, good for meeting new friends and potential dates. And really, obviously I am asking for someone to start a conversation if I’m going to haul out Nabokov’s Selected Letters and flash it around like some sort of merit badge of intelligenstia. (God I’m making myself sick to my stomach right now, it really is for a research project, I promise.)

And often, I really am so happy to talk about the book that I’m reading, or the book that you’re reading, or the books that we both ought to be reading.

BUT. UMMM….if I am with a friend, and we’ve been chatting, then when you talk to me, you BREAK THE ILLUSION that no one can hear my embarrassing (but highly amusing!) stories that I am telling to said friend.

If you can hear me talking about Russian literature, then you also just heard me mangle the pronunciation of “lyre” and you heard my friend tell a joke about a class she took once which culminated in a middle-aged woman shouting PENIS, which, while an accurate identification of the literary symbol found in the text, was not the rather more gentle answer of “phallic symbol” that the professor was looking for.

None of which is PARTICULARLY a problem, but only because I got lucky. That is tame compared to the things I sometimes say in public and the personal problems I sometimes discuss with friends over coffee. You don’t even want to know what happens when I talk about the time I had whooping cough (I do an impression of myself coughing while naked that would make Jerry Seinfeld want to curl up and die), or hear me analyze what I consider to be the political and social implications of hair removal, and yes, sometimes friends talk about their sexual mishaps over lattes, it happens (have you ever thrown up on a guy’s dick? It turns out, one friend tells me this story about a friend of hers, I tell another friend, she has a friend of a friend who…. everyone knows someone! It’s like six degrees of sexual upchuck! I’m thinking about starting an anthology. It’ll be called, You Really Don’t Want to Do That After I’ve Had a Full Meal and a Few Glasses of Beer).**

And look, I’m a rational person, I know I’m in a public place, I can see how close your table is to mine, but I would like to pretend you can’t hear me, okay? It’s like when you go for a gynecology exam and they give you a gown and a towel. So that your belly button will stay modest? I don’t even know. If you’re going to have your hands in my business, I don’t really care if you see my stomach or exposed elbows. And yet– somehow, that stupid-ass gown (or stupid ass-gown) does help you feel protected, hanging out for an interminable amount of time waiting for the doctor pretending that you always read US Weekly naked as a bluejay while sitting on paper, as if you’re some sort of deranged hyper-intelligent puppy (smart enough to read and yet still being potty-trained. Sigh).

So yes, while I know you can hear me, it’s quite another thing to be confronted with it, and dear god, surely it’s not interesting to hear me go on about whether to cut my hair a few inches shorter (I’m going to), but it’s still none of your damn business whether I actually completed my fifteen minute run this morning (I did not, thankyouverymuch).

And no, I don’t have a favorite Tolstoy short story. But I can tell you that Russian scholars will just as often translate it as Tolstoi, and Mandelstam preferred the transliteration of his name without the “h” that you so commonly see it with (Mandelshtam) and that Gorky made up most of the encounters found in his Literary Portraits. (Academia is a special kind of useless trivia hell and won’t someone invite me to a cocktail party? I can tell you all about Nabokov’s synesthesia.)

And I’ll thank you kindly to forget that one other thing I said about that thing, if you know what I mean.



*Cossackophiles: what sort of definition would you come up with if that word appeared in Balderdash? DIRTY, RIGHT?

**NOT ME. Mom, just avert your eyes and pretend you never read that.

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