The Malmo of the Southeast…

April 15, 2007

“How do you like Savannah?” Sara asked Dana Cody, who’d moved there since they’d last seen each other.

“It’s the Malmo of the Southeast!” she responded — if one considered a prepared slogan an answer. “Tom feels especially at home because it’s where his mother grew up.”

Gina reflected on what an achievement it had been for her mother to leave her hometown. Her father, who’d moved from Pennsylvania to work for Coca-Cola, met Ellen Payton at a Christmas party in Savannah. Within a year, she was Mrs. Thomas Cody of Atlanta.

“The Paytons go back in Savannah to 1753,” Dana continued. “That’s why we were all so shocked when Regina moved to such a widdle baby city like Seattle.” She frowned in solemn reflection. “It still hasn’t really grown up, has it?”

Gina blew lightly on her no-longer hot tea.

“Goodness gracious,” she said with a Payton’s polite scorn.

“Who am I offending?” demanded Dana, reacting fiercely to Gina’s tone of voice. She swept the room with the back of her hand, and in truth, only Gina and Teresa seemed put off by her comments. “Everyone here’s as much from Seattle as you are. It’s like New York. Except Seattle’s a very soggy city… and I don’t mean the weather, not just.”

“What do you mean?” Sara asked.

“It’s like a town became a city and no one told it. There’s no rhythm, no pulse, and no drive. We were in Greenwood yesterday. Tom and I went with Matt to look at a spot he was considering for his next restaurant.” As if everyone was hanging on the thinnest rope of suspense, she added, “We advised him not to take it.” Gina flinched, offended on Sara’s behalf, although Dana’s words had breezed past Sara like wind along rock. “Anyway, on 85th, there’s a stop light where literally no one goes anywhere for like five minutes. Whoever heard of a light where no one can walk? And everyone’s standing there waiting!” She took down the rest of her drink in a triumphant gulp. “How you get anything done here is beyond me.”

“Seattle is more of a driving city,” Gina said shortly.

“Well, I agree with Tom: if a city isn’t a walking city, it’s not really a city. In Savannah, anywhere worth going is within walking distance of our home.”

Pulling her fingers from a thatch of red hair, Cindy Prior redirected the turbulent flow of conversation to herself or as close as she ever came.

“My sister is thinking about taking some time off in the fall and spending a few months away from Portland. She was considering Boulder or Austin.”

Gina almost laughed but stopped herself at a broad smile.

“Is the hustle and bustle of Foster-Powell getting to Mindy?” Gina asked, expressing her talent for effectively cloaking sarcasm with just a curl of a consonant.

“If she’s looking for a college town vibe, she ought to come down to Savannah.” Dana rubbed the dry twigs of her fingers together as if starting a fire. “And not just for a change of pace. She might be happier there long term. With all respect, the Portland thing’s not gonna last.”

“Why do you think it won’t last?” Sara asked. “There’s been steady economic growth in such industries as…”

“No, no, I mean last as a destination. The Times will eventually tire of it.” She added, “I mean the New York Times.”

“We know,” Teresa said coldly.

“You’ve been to New York?”

“I lived there for a year after college.”

“Oh, you did?” Dana remarked, as if New York’s collective bouncer had wandered off and Teresa had slipped past the velvet rope when he wasn’t looking.

“Teresa graduated from Stanford and left for a good job in the city.” Gina’s shoulders bopped to the tune her words unconsciously triggered in her head. Whenever Gina attempted to speak well of her husband’s sister, she focused on her academic credentials and brief pre-motherhood career in New York because those were the only things Teresa had done that made any sense to her.

Dana pointed her champagne glass at Jane Hind.

“You’re in Portland, too, right?”

“Yeah, Northeast. I actually wanted to live here on Capitol Hill, but it was impossible to find anything.”

“It’s really expensive,” Wiggles added, flicking off crumbs from her polo shirt onto the rug. “I mean, this is a cool house,” she noted approvingly to Sara, “but it probably went for a million or so.”

“1.6 million,” Sara replied — her precision for numbers obviating any pretense of modesty or impulse to boast.

A sharp whistle broke free of Wiggles’s wide nostrils.

“That’s why I think you’d really dig Savannah,” Dana told Jane. “The real estate market’s so much better than Portland or Seattle.”

Jane cocked her head.

“It is closer to my folks in Connecticut but still far enough away for peace of mind.”

The blue dots on opposite sides of Jane’s tiny nose recessed further into her cratered face, to the point of vanishing. She was actually considering Dana’s suggestion, which disappointed but didn’t surprise Gina. Jane was often ungrateful, taking for granted much of what Gina did for her.

“Does Georgia have reciprocity with Oregon? Or is there some strange form of law I’d have to learn?”

“I think you’re referring to the Napoleonic code,” Sara said. “That’s in Louisiana.”

“No, I don’t wanna do hurricane law,” Jane remarked, “I have enough trouble with underwater mortgages.”

– from The Wrong Questions

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Posted by on July 24, 2014 in Uncategorized




Superhero comics now “TV-ize” their own characters in their own books. It’s like giving yourself a wedgie in junior high. I thought this was a spoof — a parody of what happens to optioned characters. “Well, we don’t have the rights to Batman, and Robin is too young. Let’s age Dick Grayson to about 25 or 26 — great for the CW audience. Remember ‘no tights/no flights’ on Smallville? We’ll go with ‘no capes/no masks’ — yeah, I know it doesn’t rhyme, I haven’t had my morning shot of cocaine yet. By the way, where is my assistant with my morning shot of cocaine? Oh, and yeah, I know Batman and Robin were all about ‘no guns,’ but that tests too San Francisco to appeal to Kansas viewers. And let’s never use the name ‘Dick’ unless it’s a broadcast-approved way to say ‘penis.’ And the name of the series will be… wait for it… GRAYSON! And seriously now, where’s my morning shot of cocaine?”

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Posted by on July 24, 2014 in Pop Life


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James Garner

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Posted by on July 20, 2014 in Pop Life


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More Gun Deaths…

The Utah shooting is yet another in the number of routine killings in the U.S. these days. Gun advocates tell us these incidents are rare, which is why they receive media attention, and we slowly become accustomed to a climate of sweltering violence, to the point that many take up arms in fear of that violence spreading to them. Swell.

(The shooter) is reported to have sent a series of unanswered text messages to Mackenzie Madden before he kicked down the door of her apartment two blocks from Utah State University shortly after midnight.

He then fired an assault rifle multiple times at Madden and a 25-year-old man, both people he knew, police said.

Madden, 19, was a sociology major at the university in Logan, a city of about 48,000 people 80 miles north of Salt Lake City. Officers responding to 911 calls found her and Johnathon Jacob Sadler dead inside the unit.

Let’s not also ignore the misogyny at the root of this specific act of violence. Men in this country are raised to believe they are entitled to the female body, and their ease of access is how they measure their self-worth. They then rage at the unfortunate women who have “diminished” them, denied them their Y-chromosome-given rights, by daring to say “no.”

The word “no” should not end in death but too often it does. And it has to stop.


Posted by on July 15, 2014 in Social Commentary


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Another entry in the “not an Onion article” series:

Jeremiah Heaton was playing with his daughter in their Abingdon, Va., home last winter when she asked whether she could be a real princess.

Heaton, a father of three who works in the mining industry, didn’t want to make any false promises to Emily, then 6, who was “big on being a princess.” But he still said yes.

“As a parent you sometimes go down paths you never thought you would,” Heaton said.

Within months, Heaton was journeying through the desolate southern stretches of Egypt and into an unclaimed 800-square-mile patch of arid desert. There, on June 16 — Emily’s seventh birthday — he planted a blue flag with four stars and a crown on a rocky hill. The area, a sandy expanse sitting along the Sudanese border, morphed from what locals call Bir Tawil into what Heaton and his family call the “Kingdom of North Sudan.”

Kee-rist. When your goofy, spoiled kid asks if she can be a princess, a sane person should say, “No.” She is a citizen of a country that has no monarchy. Why is that fantasy still acceptable after all the trouble your ancestors went through to fight a revolution, make hypocritical statements about democracy, and displace the indigenous population? I guess tea and taxes are the only things Americans won’t forgive.

Why not go all out and marry her off, without her consultation, to the in-bred future ruler of some other country as an act of diplomacy? That’s what being a princess was all about, after all.

And, young men of the future, whatever you do, no matter how initially tempted, do not under any circumstance date a woman whose father made her a “real” princess when she was a seven. She will never let that go, and she will never carry her own luggage or shopping bags, or take out garbage or even comprehend the concept of waste products. Move on. Find a nice serf. Those wenches know how to party.

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Posted by on July 14, 2014 in Social Commentary



The best “Transformers” review… no, the best review of all time…

A quirky young woman with an English accent (who apparently plays pajamas in her pajamas, which I can respect) reviews Transformers: Age of Extinction. It is as if Morrissey had a teenage daughter with access to YouTube and a fascination for transforming robots.

“I am not gonna sugarcoat it: This film was really, really, really, really, really bad… It was worse than Transformers 3, which was really bad in itself. If possible, I’d want to completely erase it from my mind, along with the disappointment and bitterness I am currently experiencing after the letdown that this film was. Not just as a Transformers fan and along with my childhood that has been completely destroyed… like my memories for what the actual Transformers are and what they stand for and the franchise as a whole, but just as a moviegoer, this film really sucked!”



Posted by on June 25, 2014 in Pop Life


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Scene from a baby shower…

April 15, 2007

The women gathered in Sara and Matt’s living room where waves of “oohs” and “awes” crashed and settled around the furniture as the presents were opened. Dana and Gina perched regally in identical high-backed wing chairs separated by the wood-burning fireplace. Sara had pulled a club chair next to Gina, and she jotted down in a legal pad pressed against her thigh a description of each gift and the guest responsible for it. Cindy’s handwriting was easier to read, but Sara was more detailed-oriented and didn’t punctuate her sentences with smiley faces, so Gina had delegated the administrative task to her.

Dana Cody retrieved a digital camera from her bag and handed it to Cindy, who sat on the four-cushioned sofa opposite her with Abby, Brenda, Margaret, and Jane.

“Could you please take a quick photo of me and my baby sister?” she asked, as if suddenly remembering to have her parking validated.

Wiping her hands on a pink napkin, Cindy put down her plate of food and accepted the assignment graciously.

Dana draped a threadbare arm around Gina, and they posed with her shower gift: A pink onesie with the image of an American flag, of which Gina approved, and a blue-tinted donkey with the words “Tiny Democrat” smeared underneath. Gina’s pert nose scrunched up at the sight, as if her unborn child had already soiled herself while wearing it. The sour expression became instantly cordial with a click of the camera, but her posture remained stiff and formal, like a celebrity posing with a slightly repellent fan at a convention.

“Thank you, Dana,” Gina said, handing off the onesie to Sara with the tip of her fingers. “Not on the registry,” she whispered.

Gina considered the Afghan Whigs tee-shirt Tom and Dana gave her two year old benign enough for one polite photo before being banished to the attic. This onesie, however, would never come in contact with her child. The socialism might seep into the skin.

Dana patted her sister-in-law on her trousered knee.

“Regina doesn’t mind if Tom and I put our liberal stamp on our nieces, right?” She then said, with brittle laughter, to the rest of the group, “We used to call Regina ‘Alexis P. Keaton’.”

Gina moved a strand of wavy blonde hair from one end of her forehead to the other. As a child, she’d developed this habit as a polite replacement for eye rolling.

“Why?” Sara asked.

Attributing Sara’s lack of recognition to their seven-year age difference, Dana kindly explained to her the premise of the TV series Family Ties.

“Progressive politics runs in my family,” she continued. “I’m related to Rebecca Felton on my mother’s side.”

The other women were more familiar with Alex Keaton, so Dana proudly declared, “She was the first woman senator.”

Sara reached for the sterling silver tea service, a gift for the occasion from Matt’s mother, and started to pour herself a cup of Darjeeling.

“She served for just one day.”

“Oh, you’ve heard of her?”

“Yes,” Sara replied as she diverted a stream of her cool blonde hair from the path of hot tea. “She was a slave owner and white supremacist who supported the lynching of Sam Hose in 1899. He was dismembered and burned alive. His knuckles were sold at Atlanta grocery stores.”

Jane Hind slowly and dramatically lowered her dish containing an untouched lady finger onto the coffee table.

“Well, we don’t talk about that,” Dana said with a rhetorical sweep of the matter under the nearest afghan. “We focus on the positive. She did a lot for the woman’s suffrage movement. That’s how history remembers her. Not the other stuff. She’s a Georgia woman of achievement. Her papers are at Athens.”

Teresa Bryan, sloshing out of a slipper chair, asked, “Greece?”

“No,” Gina clarified, “the University of Georgia. In the South, Athens means UGA and UPS means packages.”

“I dated a black guy once,” Jane announced, straightening up in her seat as though addressing the Nobel committee. The ladies’ heads snapped back from the force of the non-sequitur.

“African-American,” Brenda corrected in a nervous whisper, as if speaking louder might summon one to tea.

“Oh, she’s entitled,” Gina wryly insisted, “she gives to Save the Children.”

Wiggles sat cross-legged in rolled-up yoga pants on the floor where she wrapped a piece of smoked salmon around a cinnamon-raisin scone. Gina turned away from the sight and asked Jane, “Would you like to share with the congregation?”

“It was fine for a while, but… ” Jane had retrieved her lady finger and now wiped off crumbs from her own french-tipped fingers. “Whenever we were around babies — my friends’ kids; he never met my family — they would freak out or just stare oddly at him. It was impossible to know if it was because of… you know…” She completed the thought with a twirl of her hand. “Or if they just sensed something off about him.”

“What did you do?” Brenda asked.

“I couldn’t take any chances, you see. Five years ago, it might have been edgy, but there are more parents and kids in my social circle now. It’s like a real thing.”

Wiggles’s broad flat nose trembled in agreement.

“And he was really obsessed with race, which is kinda unfortunate in this day and age. For instance, it bothered him that I believe Michael Jackson’s a child molester but Woody Allen isn’t. I don’t even see race, but he made a big deal about it.”

“Really?” Margaret wondered. “Why? There’s like zero racism out here.”

“Yeah, it’s not like it’s the South,” Abby said, and upon the twin glare from the Cody sisters, quickly added, “You know, like, Alabama.”

– from The Wrong Questions

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Posted by on June 22, 2014 in The Wrong Questions


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