Tuesday, May 30, 2006

As good as it gets

This past weekend, I shot one of my most important assignments ever. Then I had a party and mixed various groups of friends with family with great success. Fred made a guest appearance and was a pretty big hit in his humiliating-for-him but convenient-for-me kitty belly pack. My dog played nicely with a 3-year-old who caught imaginary puppies (two black and white, two tan and one brown) with a butterfly net for me and my friends from high school. The net also came in handy when a soccer ball got kicked onto an inaccessible spot on the cover of my landlords' empty-since-the-80s swimming pool. I learned HDL can open beer bottles with her teeth. I officially live in sin with a boy who came up with the fantastic idea to carve a watermelon jack-o-lantern. And I got to see one of the best damn Mets games in a long time. :)

Saturday, May 27, 2006

My cat's head smells like terrorists.

I'm writing this from, um, Pest Woint. I'm here for commencement. Bush is the keynote speaker, ergo the security for this is higher than usual, and I all but had to give up a DNA sample to get credntialed. Seriously, my boss could open a charge card in my name with all the info he had to get from me to give the service that is secret. They SO totally checked my FBI file. They had to. Which means they know all about me getting arrested for the self-defense keychain in Heathrow Airport. Hell, they probably saw pictures of it in its evidence bag from the U.S. Embassy.

As I went through everything but a full body cavity search this past week, I couldn't help but think that if that little incident would ever come back to bite me in the ass, it would be now. So.

5:00 a.m. Slap alarm clock snooze button.
5:03 a.m. Snap alarm on cell phone shut.
5:09 a.m. Snooze.
5:11 a.m. Second cell phone alarm.
5:12 a.m. Give up, get out of bed.
5:14 a.m. Catch self sleepily staring into space in bathroom.
5:15 a.m. Catch self staring at tile.
5:16 a.m. Shower.
5:21 a.m. Hop around in towel, trying to find which of three alarms is emitting Piercing Beep of Death and Hate.
5:22 a.m. Hop, shake covers, slap phone.
5:30 a.m. Leave house with all articles of clothing on self correctly.
5:37 a.m. McDonald's drive-thru. Bah-da dut dut dah. I'm lovin' it.
5:38 a.m. Well, I will be lovin' it.
5:40 a.m. Am only car in lane.
5:41 a.m. Surely will take order soon.
5:42 a.m. Success!
5:43 a.m. Waiting for food.
5:45 a.m. Waiting.
5:46 a.m. Need to be at security gate 50 miles away in 74 minutes.
5:47 a.m. Watching drive-thru employees refill sugar packets. Will just wait a moment before catching attention.
5:48 a.m. Will wait 'til 5:50 before saying something. Yes.
5:50 a.m. Chirp: "You know I'm here, right?" Meaning: "Give me my damn coffee before I try to snort any remaining caffeine out of that sticky puddle in the ashtray from yesterday's spill!... Please."
5:51 a.m. Have food! Am getting on highway! Happy!
5:52 a.m. Bah-da-dut- dammit! Sous chef at McDonald's has not included frightening but familar pink meat frisbee in Egg McMuffin that took 10 minutes to make. McMuffin is gooey egg discus with two dry sponges around it.
5:53 a.m. MMmm...Hash brown...
6:00 a.m. Foggy driving.
6:17 a.m. Foggy bridge.
6:35 a.m. Driving.
6:42 a.m. First security gate.
6:44 a.m. Second security gate.
6:45 a.m. Trunk check.
6:46 a.m. Media parking.
6:47 a.m. Credential check.
6:48 a.m. Media shuttle bus! Hurrah!
6:53 a.m. Metal detector. Hop on the "faster" line just for media.
6:55 a.m. In line.
6:56 a.m. Gear taken from me for inspection. Feel as though dropping child off at heavily armed kindergarten for first time. Watch $20,000 taken out of my control.
6:57 a.m. Agent drops a lens belonging to another photographer. (Lens costs more than my car.)
7:00 a.m. German- I mean, Liberty- Shepherd sniffs bag. Could be worse. Could be a Freedom Poodle.
7:01 a.m. Shepherd smells laptop bag and SITS. This is bad. It is bad for any kind of drug-sniffing, bomb-detecting, mold-finding, terrorist-catching animal to sit near your belongings while working. Sitting is its way of telling the nice man with the gun, "I smell pot! Or TNT! Or Al-Quaida! Or TOXIC MOLD! Come here! Come here! Here I sit! Here!
7:02 a.m. Probably a coincidence. Small talk with reporter colleague.
7:03 a.m. Talky Talk.
7:06 a.m. I can see my pink wallet getting the most thorough exam imaginable. I hope the agent bought it dinner first, at least.
7:07 a.m. The agents start pulling individual items from my camera bag. The agent puts on rubber gloves before touching my bottle of hand sanitizer. The irony. My heart is starting to pound, because this is starting to feel like Heathrow Airport. It is 1999, and I am scared, and alone, but thin.
7:08 a.m. Deep breathe. Am not in England. Breathing.
7:09 a.m. The Shepherd sits next to my laptop bag. Again. And one more time. Doom. DOOM!
7:09 and one-fourth of a second a.m.:
Me: "That would be me," I say, smiling my most benign, least terrorist-y smile.
7:11 a.m. A second Shepherd is brought out. And.. he sniffs the now completely empty laptop bag.
7:12 a.m. And.... He sits.

Secret Service Agent: Ma'am, do you own animals?
Me: Yes, I do. My cat sleeps on the laptop bag. See... all the white cat hairs on the Velcro? He likes to rub his head against the velcro.
TV anchor from local affiliate: (takes her lipstick back from different agent) That's hilarious.
Secret Service Agent: (to me) You may reclaim all your belongings, ma'am. The media room is the first door on the right.

So the cat made the bag smell like bombs? I thought he was clever when he accidentally called Microsoft in the middle of the night. Twice. This is totally a new skill set for him. Hail to My Weird Little Cat.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Recurring Nightmare Themes

I've always had very vivid dreams and rather creepy, detailed nightmares. Way back in the day, when I first started blogging (cue Conan O'Brien: "in the year 2000..."- actually, I started in 2001, but whatever), we had a group blog of our dreams and nightmares. It was so interesting.

Incidentally, all of Alissa's closest friends are total bitches in her nightmares. It's true. She has, on occasion, dreamed that I, like, screamed at her to hurry up while she was trying to simultaneously change a tire on the side of road and resusitate a kitten or something. I'm making that particular dream scenario up, but we are so *mean* in her subconscious. I'm just saying.

Where was I going with this? Ah, yes. My weird dreams. I dream ALL THE TIME about injured animals. I have this recurring dream where I forget I was supposed to feed, like, an entire barn full of dogs whelping litters of puppies. I remember, like, three days after I was supposed to start caring for them, and I run in and find a bunch of hungry, miserable dogs with newborn puppies in failing health, and IT IS ALL MY FAULT. In every dream, it's almost always just about too late to fix it, but not quite. In last night's dream, there was only one dog, and it gave birth to gerbils. When I didn't show up for two days, the dog hid the baby gerbils in different stalls in the barn, and I could only find two. And of course, the gerbils were in failing health when I got there. I wake up right before I find it if it's okay or not.

The other night I had a really terrible nightmare about a creepy guy hanging around my apartment who hurt Bella. Once again, I showed up right in the nick of time. It was awful.

Overall, it's probably my brain's way of working out anxiety, maybe orrying about responsilibities..? Maybe it's a belated dream about the convict who was living downstairs? I don't know. He's gone now. A middle-aged couple lives there now. They fight a lot, but not loudly. That sounds strange, I know. Every time I'm doing laundry on the second floor- the machine is in a common area outside their door- I hear them fighting in Spanish. They aren't yelling, just speaking contemptuously to each other in above average voices, but seriously, it's every. single. time I'm doing laundry.

Go figure.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


I have this somewhat disconcerting bad habit of thinking about embarrassing things that have happened to me years after they occur. This usually happens while I'm physically engaged in a boring, repetitive activity that doesn't involve much mental stimulation- like scrubbing the bathtub- but I often catch myself blushing deeply and swearing out loud when once of these embarrassing memories bubbles up. My college roommate Jo, though grateful I was cleaning and conquering the Shower Hairball That Ate Manhattan (If Only The Roads Weren't Drifted Shut With All This Damn Lake Effect Snow) used tease me about having Tourette's. Which I don't, at all, but thanks to all the nice comments, I'm feeling philosophical enough about the church incident to think that maybe it won't end up being a catalyst for one of my Retroactive Memory-Induced Outbursts.

So anyway, thank you, commenters, for letting me know you're out there. And... I know this isn't the Academy Awards, but one more thank-you...

I once got thanked in a public way for inspiring someone to take off his pants in front of a live audience, but I'm not sure I ever said, "You're welcome." Do check out comment #8 in the entry below. It made my day (especially when the angels say "douchebag" and God uses the word "Me-fearing.") I'm glad you're part of the conversation. So thank you. And you are welcome.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Here We Go

Chunky Photojournalist Barbie arrives early at a Catholic Church to photograph a First Communion mass. She checks in with Father Ken, who is, upon first impression, seemingly easygoing, young, and handsome. She introduces herself, runs through the usual questions about protocol (same as always), using a flash during mass (please don't; no problem! especially with amazing new camera), then asks where the children are lining up for mass or their procession (downstairs in the social hall.) Great!

CPBarbie shoots almost an entire 512 MB digital card of adorable and possibly portfolio-worthy shots of children about to receive first communion. She knows the ones of them, nervous, lining up just outside the sanctuary, hands folded, in bright light streaming in from the open doors and stained glass windows will be great for A1 next week.

Mass. The usual. Stand up. Sing. Sit down, etc. Chunky Photojournalist Barbie sings quietly along to one of her old favorites because it's really just a beautiful song.

"This is the day that the Lord has made./ Let us rejoice and be glad in it./ This is the day,This is the day...."

Nonetheless, CPB is not participating in the service, because even if this was still her chosen faith community, she is here as an observer. She wouldn't kneel or get in line for communion, even if she were still a genuflectin,' sign-of-the-cross makin,' sacrament takin' king of girl. Which she's not anyway.

The church, like most Catholic Churches, has a long aisle with pews on either side of it. At the of the aisle, there are four or five few steps up to the altar where the priest stands. On one side of the center aisle, these is a lower platform, with two or three steps, where there is usually a statue of Mary, a line of candles, a kneeler. In this church, there is an unadorned platform on the other side. This particular church comes in extra-wide variety, with side aisles and more pews up against large stained glass windows in the wings.

Because this is a Saturday mass just for Skipper and her friends taking first communion, only the pews adjacent to the center aisles are full. So Chunky Photojournalist Barbie places her camera bag and other things on one of the outer pews and stays off to the side (the unadorned platform side) with her telephoto lens, a good 50 feet from any parishioners. She sits occasionally, but mostly stands around quietly to, you know, work.

She checks her watch, because even though she is here to take photos of first communion, she needs to get to the marina on the other side of town where a different priest is blessing the local fleet, starting in... eek! 18 minutes.

The digital card of great images is now full. Around the time of the Sign of Peace, CPB puts in a new digital card. The sign of peace is one of the best parts of the Catholic Mass, hands down. Everyone stops to shake hands, hug, introduce themselves. It's really just lovely. She fires off a few frames, watching a little girl squeeze her mom's hand, and thinks about how she used to like to run her fingertips over her own mother's perfectly smooth, always painted fingernails in church. She thinks about her friend, the one coming to the end of his battle with a terminal illness, who always used to flash her a peace sign in church during the Sign of Peace, when they were 12 and 10 and their families were in the habit of going out for breakfast after mass.

The priest begins blessing the communion wafers and wine. Everyone kneels. This has got to be the last shot, even though there won't be photos of Skipper and Friends actually receiving their first communion. Still, it will be communion-y enough to round out the story.

She is standing off in the wing, right by the unadorned platform, still 35 feet from the nearest parishioner. Instinctively, Chunky Photojournalist Barbie steps up onto the bottom step of the low, side platform, to get just a little higher angle. She's looking through her telephoto lens at a child kneeling in the front pew.

The rest of this story happens really fast. She hears a loud noise over the church's public address system, but it doesn't register. BANG! Father Ken smacks his body mic. She looks up, and he is POINTING right at her! He yells,"GET!"

Get? She freezes.


Wha? Oh, God. The step to the unadorned platform. "NOW!"

Bright red, CPB gets off the step. The parents' video cameras continue to roll. A CCD teacher mutters an apology. She grabs her things from the side pew. She flees.

Mortified, she cries in the parking lot. It's really just humiliating more than anything. She starts to drive to the marina for the Blessing of the Fleet. It's a rabbit's warren of streets around here, and seven minutes later, she's still crying, reaching for the map, when she sees children in First Communion clothes running down come steps. She smiles, thinking what a nice shot that would have been if she'd been assigned to THAT parish, when she sees SKIPPER.

She has driven in a big circle. Father Ken is right there on the sidewalk. CPB takes deep breathes, fumbles with a tissue, approaches him to apologize.

CPB: Look, I just (hic) wanted to apologize. I was just going to go, but I really wanted to say I'm sorry.
CPB: I'm sorry, I didn't know...
FK: You need to THINK! You need to respect people's RELIGIONS! Would they let you up stand on a step to a platform with your camera at your SYNAGOGUE?!?!
CPB: (Bewildered and weeping) My...syn-? I'm sorry?
FK: What on EARTH would you STAND during the Eucharistic prayer?
CPB: Well, I wasn't *participating*, I was standing way off to the side, behind that pillar... and
FK: You were totally distracting the entire time! I tried to catch your eye a few times.

**** If this is true, then the Sign of Peace would have been the perfect time to quietly and discreetly approach Chunky Photojournalist Barbie, when everyone is shaking hands and hugging.*****

CPB: (tears really flowing now) Look, I didn't know. I'm just here to say I'm sorry. I'm not sure what I could have done differently other than- (His eyes widen with anger; CPB steers away from that one FAST)- For you to have stopped the children's mass on their special day to shout at me, what I did must have been really terrible and-
FK: It WAS! We welcomed you into our church, and you disrespected it! Would you do that in a synagogue?!?
CPB: Wait, I'm not.. I don't know what you're talking about...
FK: Were you raised CATHOLIC?
CPB: I'm not here to discuss my religion with you. I'm only here to apologize, sincerely. (His faces softens.) I'm absolutely mortified.
FK: (At that, he just gets a look on his face that can only be described as "Really Pissed Off.") Yeah, well...
CPB: So I'm sorry. That's all. (makes a movement to leave)
FK: (shrugs) You cooked your own goose.
CPB: (over shoulder, walking away, murmurs) Humiliating...

The worst part is, in her haste to flee, CPB left the full digital card, the one will the gorgeous, portfolio-worthy, A1 deserving shots on the pew. Numerous phone calls and a stealthy trip back to the church when Father Ken was tucked away in the confessional have, to date, unearthed nothing.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


I will write about the sobbing-in-front-of-the-heartless-priest thing as soon as I find a way to tell it from third person, like, tomorrow. Thanks for humoring me with the commenting, though.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


Mean people make me cry. It's true.

(You know what else makes me cry? The fact that there is essentially no one out there reading and commenting- (THANK YOU Alissa and Cindy; my heart runneth over; your comments make me want to lie down in green pastures) makes me wonder what I have to do to generate the comments. Damn, I read all these blogs these days- cancer blogs and Mommyblogs and Dadblogs- AND THERE ARE SO MANY FREAKIN' COMMENTS. I almost- ALMOST- want to fake a pregnancy so that people can harass me about attachment parenting and breast-feeding and whether or not I should take charitable donations for high dental bills. At least I would know someone is out there. I could post a picture of someone else's baby's toes and see what happens.

Ready? Here we go!

Can't you hear the stampeding hords of Internet trolls coming to make me question my self-worth? HELLOOOO Blogworld. I posted a photo of baby toes. I will now say the words FERBER SLEEP METHOD and FORMULA and DAY CARE and see what happens. If you aren't following all the MommyWars on the Internet, well... Good for you. Except that right now, you're probably all, "Huh? Wha? Can't you just post something about your interesting job?"

OKAY! So yeah, on Saturday, a priest made me cry. He actually SHOUTED at me over a LOUDSPEAKER during a mass in front of two dozen overdressed second graders and their families. Afterward, as I apologized profusely for something I did completely by accident which wasn't even all that offensive, HE CONTINUED TO PUBLICLY BERATE ME as I sobbed horrible hiccupy sobs in public. Also? He referred to me as being Jewish? And... It wasn't a compliment?

I'm pretty sure in that moment that the last piece of my Catholic identity broke off in my hand.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Teach Your Children Well

So... I feel like I haven't posted a "real" entry in a while. I don't know. I've been working A LOT, and since I try to avoid talking about work.... not much to say. Except that I found out that the homeless couple I spoke of here once before, the one I wanted to do a long project with, are using again. They're back on crack. I'm so sad for them.

Anyway, Shannon was talking on her blog last week about how Gaby married two of her Barbies during imaginary play. She was speaking generally about teaching tolerance and raising her daughter to be conscious of social issues. She's said before that talking about difference in terms of skin color is pretty easy for them because they're a biracial family, but sexual orientation is a tougher topic for a preschooler. So where do you start?

I posted this long comment over there, but I'm thinking you might like it, too.

"I have a very clear memory of an outing with my dad to the local Sportsmen's Club where he occasionally shoots targets and gallon jugs of water with his Civil War era rifles for fun.

I was about 5, wearing big blue headphones to muffle the noise of the gun shots. I was sitting behind him, playing with the stones around the place where the people with guns stand while they're shooting. There were a lot of metal casings on the ground from the various different kinds of bullets people use.

I was entertaining myself by sorting them into little piles and making up words for the different kinds. I was kind of babbling to myself, calling them things like "jigger" and "pigger" and "migger." My dad finished his round and pulled off both of our headphones.

We were going to go look at the cows in the stream by the Amish farm next to the Sportmen's Club before heading back to the car. I told him all about my little piles of metal casings and what I had named them- the jiggers, et al- and I had named one pile "the N-words." I had NO idea what that word meant. I had never heard it before. It was just a logical progression for me alphabetically. He swooped down to my level and told me in NO uncertain terms that I was NEVER to use that word, EVER. I started to cry, actually, so he took me out for ice cream and tried to explain it all in terms of vanilla, chocolate and soft serve swirl ice cream.

We talked about the Civil War, and the guns my dad collects, and why people fought to end slavery. And we ate ice cream.

As I got older, my parents also took my sister and I to a unity rally when the KKK marched through our town. We stopped at Civil Rights landmarks like Ebenezer Baptist Church and MLK's birthplace. We went to Stone Mountain in Georgia so we would know what Dr. King was referring to in the I have a Dream speech. (Also, we rode the cable car.)

As for teaching kids about LGBT issues, you could buy a copy of "Heather Has Two Mommies," a children's book by Leslea Newman, but it's also probably about waiting for the teachable moments. I had a friend in college who came out to his parents right before he left for his freshman year. The first thing they said was, "You know, you can experiment with same-sex relationships and not be gay" (meaning, "We know your best guy friend is your boyfriend.") And he said, "Nope, I'm really gay."

His parents looked at each other and said, "We will always love you, and frankly, we've known since you were four." As it turned out, he had asked his mom when he was 4 if it was okay to love the male teenage star of an 80s family sitcom. In that moment, his mom (not expecting what was coming from her pre-schooler) said, "It's okay to really admire someone and want to be like them when you grow up." And he said, "No, I love Male 80s Sitcom Star like you love Daddy." His mom became extremely flustered. After that, he apparently refused to watch the show or see this actor's movies. His mom felt guilty about it until he came out at age 18, and now- 9 years since his emergence from the closet- it's one of their favorite family stories."

So, in the interest of generating comments, (because LO do I love thee, comments, and YE I checked my blog and the COMMENTS, they runneth over), what do you remember about your parents teaching you about race, class, gender, sexual orientation? Do you remember learning about the "N-word?" The first time you saw a homeless person? Did someone help you understand something in a "teachable moment" that's stuck with you your whole life? Have you ever taught someone something about tolerance and saw them have an AHA! moment when what you said made sense?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Spring Cleaning

It's 2 a.m., and I'm too tired to sleep. I know that sounds weird, but it's true. Sometimes when I take on a big project or go on a trip, I get caught up in the momentum and then I lay in bed, completely pooped but awake. It's like, HELLO! The SOLUTION to the tiredness is RIGHT HERE. I'm LAYING right on top of the solution to the exhaustion.

I spent my entire day off today cleaning my apartment. Joel's allergies have been pretty bad lately, and the pets are in the middle of their pledge campaign for their spring fundraiser. Oh, wait. That's NPR. Seriously, the pets are shedding like crazy. I could outfit many a hairless dog and cat, should I choose to do so, with the furballs roaming the apartment.

Every surface in this apartment has been dusted, scrubbed, vacuumed. Every piece of furniture was moved so I could vacuum underneath it. The curtains are all washed. The throw rugs beaten. The Big Closet has been returned to state of semi-organization. My winter clothes are put away, my summer clothes and shorts are neatly organized. Every comforter is washed, dried. Every room de-cluttered.

Sleep... sleep now..zzzz

Thursday, May 04, 2006