October 05, 2004

Strange dreams. Last night, I beat Ken Jennings at Jeopardy and he was so distraught, I wished I'd answered wrong. The previous night, I was at a private party at an overstylized estate, scarfing hors d'oeuvres, when, from the back of the couch poured insects, larger and larger, in torrents, until, like a morphing cartoon, large rats were pouring from behind the walls, up the stairs, and the rest of the dream was classic Hollywood horror; isolated pockets of people barricading themselves in rooms against the rats, all communication cut off, is anyone else left alive? is this tunnel or passageway safe, or a trap? are the rats in the main city or just here on the grounds?

Short essay: Is William Safire irrelevant? Yes, he is. He should stick to grammar and etymology.

It didn't take hard-hitting investigative journalism to know that the Prime Minister of Iraq was coached by the Bush team. His interview with Jim Lehrer on the News Hour was positively surreal. Every response was a Bush administrative talking point, couched in their favorite catchphrases, and he was such an eager proselytizer that, the few times that he forgot the full flowery phraseology, he went back and repeated the catechism in full, replacing, for example, "American forces" with "coalition troops," etc. He also said, like three times, "I am the Prime Minister of Iraq, I was just there, I know what's going on," as if that gave lie to the day's news, replete with bombings, beheadings, chaos, and mayhem. He sounded exactly like the old Iraqi Minister of Information, but apparently to dispute his fairy tale of Iraqi freedom, democracy, and pro-American sentiment is to, surprise, surprise, give aid and comfort to the terrorists.

Bush campaign crib sheet:

They're going to kill your unborn children.

They're going to turn your kids gay.

They're going to take your guns away.

They're going to take your hard-earned money away.

They're going to let the French dictate American security.

They're going to make you give up your SUV.

They're going to treat insects and trees better than children.

They're going to open our borders to terrorists.

They're going to throw a big welcome party for the terrorists.

When the terrorists attack, they're going to ask France if it's okay to be real mad.

What part of vote for Bush don't you understand?

April 16, 2004

Yesterday was one of those good news/bad news days.

I was phenomenally organized for meeting Emil, the accountant, in midtown.

I had backup data, I had extra forms printed from the IRS and NYS tax sites, I had mailing envelopes, large and small, I had scissors and a stapler and tape and a checkbook and ID and cash. I had a scarf should it get chilly and a book should I get bored. I had my trash and recycling ready to take down and I secured the strap that had torn off my bag with a safety pin. I had a metro card. All systems go. I had time to take a shower and then, as I opened the medicine cabinet for baby powder, the mirror flew free of its tab moorings and sailed into the bathtub. Where it smashed and splintered into many small bits. Trying not to think it was bad luck, I picked the bits up and put them in the trash, left the apartment, and reached destination Starbucks.

Emil had everything all organized and photocopied. I asked him if I could hire him for some other matters, and he said it was policy not to charge clients and that he priovides follow-up to all years thay prepare should there be an audit or further dealings with the IRS. I asked him if he does personal financial planning (I'd like to start a retirement account and also find out how to get insurance and what's the best option for a low-income freelancer/artist.) He doesn't but will have a friend get in touch. I was so pleased that I wanted to hug him, but settled for thanking him profusely.

If you're low-income and live in New York, please, avail yourself of this fine organization. They also are happy for donations, since the IRS is being nonsupportive and prefering to steer people to their VITA program (the VITA people are not necessarily acountants, and only e-file a basic 1040 with W-2s, no supplemental forms or self-employed).

So then I head down, on a gorgeous, sunny spring day lunch hour, to the main Post Office. I've never been there before on their famous tax day and am looking forward to the experience. There are tons of police. What they call a significant "police presence." Are taxpayers known for rioting? Are large groups of obedient, law-abiding Americans a terrorist target? Or is it fun and overtime? Judging from the vibe, I'd say the latter. In fact, everyone in Starbucks was doing their taxes, including a couple of uniformed police, which was somehow cute.

So everyone is out on the street. Clatches of smokers. And I'm walking behind two young women. And every, I mean every, guy we pass is tracking the woman on the right with their eyes. Some lasciviously, some covertly, but none briefly. It's like some bad commercial, conversations stop dead, the guys, as if by some alien force, are compelled to watch the woman for the entire time she's in their field of vision. I can't see her face; from behind she's got long, flowing dark hair and tight jeans. And I feel this wave of... pity. And then I'm surprised at its authenticity and I realize I've gotten older.

Before, I think the circuit would have been: notice men Pavlovianly slavering over woman, feel brief envy of her youth and beauty, instantly self-correct that those are not my values but society's, internalized, and that all of my truly stunning women friends over the years have had real problems interacting and in relationships because of the skewed way the world (men, especially) treats them. But this time, I didn't experience those thoughts; I just felt pure empathy for her and for the amount of energy coming at her that she must continually ignore, deflect, or choose how to repond to. Now this was a crowded, sunny street. Imagine what she has to deal with alone or at night.

The Post Office is gorgeous, all marble and clean. I am so equipped. I fill out a certified mail form, I show a few other taxpayers the addreses to send their federal and state taxes, I am filmed by a cameraman looking for "last-minute taxpayer" footage as I address and seal my envelopes.

The line is orderly and fast; such a contrast to the 14th St. Post Office, which is grungy, tedious, and slow. This must be the creme de la creme New York postal assignment. The woman notices I'm sending my 2000 taxes certified (last day to get a refund for that year; learned that thanks to Emil) and we have a chat about that. I forget to send the video I'd carefully cued and packaged, so it just goes for a long walk with me (and it's headed not far from that Post Office). Choose a long walk home in the sunshine rather than the subway. Feel adult, New Yorkish, hopeful.

Get home and look over my copy of the returns and see that...Emil has checked "Yes, I want $3 to go to the Presidential Election campain fund."

I can't believe it! I just sent $3 to George Bush! I should have looked the stuff over carefully, but I really didn't have time to redo the return anyway. Does Emil assume everyone shares his politics, or is this some kind of superstition to ward off an audit? Now I have to send $5 to Kerry to even the playing field on my account.

But it got me thinking: When did this practice start? Where does the money come from? (Your taxes are not increased by $3; so the money is tranferred from where?) How many people check the box inadvertently or because they hope a small gift to the Powers That Be will protect them? How much money does Bush get (with his war chest already perhaps tens of millions greater than Kerry's) from this instantaneous transfusion? Is this not fair?

Some answers

"During each of the last five years, approximately 33 million taxpayers have checked the "yes" box. Every four years, the federal government distributes dollars from the Fund (sometimes called public funds or federal funds) to qualified Presidential candidates and national party committees for use in the Presidential elections. Whatever money is left over at the end of the Presidential election remains in the fund and is used in the next election, four years later."

Ah, so it's money available to both candidates. Okay.

Fixing the funding program.

A plea to participate.

Lack of support hurting public campaign funding

Well, maybe people think, as I did, that it goes just to the sitting President.

Rest of day.

Good news: nap
Bad news: hunger
Good news: Survivor
Bad news: snarky boyfriend making snide comments about Survivor
Good news: send boyfriend out for Indian food
Bad news: have to give boyfriend last dollars in house for food
Good news: excellent Frontline about John O'Neill
Bad news: boyfriend, money, and food AWOL
Good news: food at 10 pm
Bad news: so ravenous I eat too fast, both spilling food on clean chinos I'd just donned and giving self stomachache. also Indian place uses styrofoam. Environmental guilt-fest.
Good news: bed and books
Bad news: snarky boyfriend making fun of titles of books, all of which do, in fact, promise "7 Steps to financial security" or take the form "Smart Women, Foolish Money." Give up trying to read when boyfriend has riffed on every book by bed despite putting pillow over his face, poking him, and saying "you can stop now."

Good news: fantastic yoga class. spring sale at Puerto Rico coffee place. e-mail from long lost friend from Berlin.
Bad news: haven't heard from either Michal, my cybering web hosting guy, about how I can access my control panel (password not working) to tweak the site, which has long languished and which I mentioned on my application for
American Candidate.
And the really bad news is I haven't heard from them.
Good news: Hope springs eternal.

January 18, 2004

Fat fluffy flakes of snow outside, Sinatra on the radio, brunch plans soon.

How I'd love to be on top of things. A redesign of this site. A cheaper ISP than AOL. A functional date and address book. Clothes mended and shipshape. Multiple lists dovetailed. Income flow steady and growing. Laughter and love and all that. Delicious, nutritious food, dance class and bodywork. No smoking! No procrastinating! No struggling and striving and lying in bed overwhelmed by the quotidian.

Yesterday I went to return some books to the library, walked west on 10th toward the bank, coming back considered schlepping a pretty nice desk on the street home; it looked heavy and was embedded in a snowbank; stopped in at ray's for tobacco, glanced at the Post. "Horror on 11th Street" the cover screamed. The story was that Friday night at 6:30 a woman was walking her dogs, right in front of Veniero's on 11th and First. The dogs began shrieking and howling and fighting and the woman was trying to separate them and shouting for help and then she stepped on what they had, a metal stormdrain on the street, and was electrocuted. People ran toward her, some touching her and receiving secondary shocks, but no one either figured out what was happening or had the presence of mind to move her with a nonconductive object, like a piece of wood. And so she died. She was 30, a doctoral student, lived with her boyfriend and was known as fun and hospitable, bright and exceptional. The dogs are alive, being treated for severe burns. Speculation is that salt put on the street for the snow had eated through electrical cable insulation.

I walked to the grocery, noticing all the metal covers and cellar doors and framing bits on the sidewalks. The same paper greeted me at the entrance to the store. I was a bit freaked out and upset. I looked the incident up in the New York Times, but there was nothing.

If this were a small town, the entire community would be talking about this, upset, calling for answers and repairs and editorializing and talking in low voices and sad. But this is New York, and someone can be electrocuted while walking their dogs several blocks away and, hours later, crowds of latte-seekers and errand-runners will swarm the area, oblivious, unaffected, as though the blinking out of one light amd so many millions, however atrociously and randomly and abruptly and arbitrarily, is nothing. Like a horrible highway wreck on a busy interstate; clear the wreckage and minutes later cars are zooming by, people on their ways, in their lives, and no pause, no hallowed ground.

This is so purely tragic, such a metaphor, so real. Wake up! I told myself. Wake up! What are you waiting for? When your house is clean and your ducks are lined up, then you will live? Fool! Wake up!

The Times had it today.