September 26, 2005

On a hot summer night, would you offer your throat to the wolf with the red roses?

Filed under: IMs — tomemos @ 11:49 am

It’s been too long since I recorded AN IM CONVERSATION BETWEEN TOM AND JULIE, 9/26/05:

T: Good news! There’s a bobcat warning here at Palo Verde!

J: WHOA! That’s awesome!

J: How many bobcats are in your apartment?

T: I’m only in a double, so just three.

J: Hmm. Not bad.

J: I have four tornados in my house.

T: “Do not crouch down or bend over: The bobcat surmises that a human standing is just not the right shape for cat’s prey. On the other hand a person squatting or bending over looks like a four-legged prey animal.”

T: One, can a bobcat really “surmise” anything? Maybe it “deduces”? Two, is it my fault that bobcats are too stupid to recognize a rabbit or whatever?

J: This gets better and better. Yes. I’m going to GET DOWN ON ALL FOURS if I see an animal that wants to bite me.

T: “I will learn from the bobcats! Live among them and be their brother!”


September 20, 2005

There’s something wrong in the heart of man

Filed under: General Me — tomemos @ 3:53 pm

So a couple weeks ago I was feeling pretty good about money. I had just won $15 in poker, and with that burning a hole in my pocket I decided it was time to pay my credit card bill. I went over the statement one more time to make sure I knew what all the charges were, then went to my bank’s website to check my account. There, I found that there were seven dollars in my checking account, rather than the the more than two thousand that should have been there.

Well, I felt a little bit like I’d been kicked in the stomach. I looked at the transaction record, and saw that all of my money had, mostly on that very day, been withdrawn from ATMs in hotels and stores in Las Vegas. I wasn’t in Las Vegas, so I lunged for my wallet to see if my card had been stolen. It was still there, but they had gotten at my money anyway. I had, in the words of the teller who would help me file the dispute, gotten scammed, dude.

Luckily, my bank was very helpful, and the whole thing got resolved and my money restored about a week later. The interval was pretty unpleasant, though. At times, I found it difficult to process what had happened. Two thousand dollars is by a wide margin the most that’s ever been stolen from me–second place is probably my killer Magic: The Gathering deck that was stolen in 8th grade. So the sheer scale of it, plus the ethereal nature of the crime, which amounted to numbers magically changing on a webpage, sometimes made me pretty numb to the consequences.

Most of the time, though, I was able to process what had happened–I had been suddenly made broke–and it freaked me out. I had a little money left in my savings account, plus credit left on my credit card, so I wasn’t going to starve. But I couldn’t buy anything, even dinner, without feeling like I was spending money I didn’t have (which was true), and where I usually don’t keep track of credits and debits I found myself paralyzed by them. It was an unpleasant reminder of the last time I was utterly broke, at the end of my year in Oxford, through every fault of my own.

When people lose or are temporarily separated from their belongings, they often realize how inessential those belongings are to happiness. I’ve felt that myself: I sent my books and music home a week or so before I was to leave England, and for that week I felt lighter and more free. But what applies to belongings doesn’t apply to money, at least not for me. With money, I feel comfortable and breezy; without it, I’m tense and nervous all the time. I’d love to have learned that money isn’t everything, but what getting cleaned out actually reminded me is that being broke is miserable and must be avoided at all costs.

(Yes, I know my last entry was a plea for compassion to the truly poor. I should be less dependent on money, but I may not be able to pass through the eye of that needle just yet.)

September 5, 2005

Not a shack to pray in or an alley to sing the blues

Filed under: Laws and Sausages — tomemos @ 5:03 pm

There’s been some great, powerful, important writing done on the Katrina tragedy in the last week. This piece is an excellent summary of Bush’s gross incompetence and his absurd request that we not “politicize” the disaster. (Governments are meant to keep us and our infrastructure safe; that’s just about the only thing they’re for. How in the hell is a gross failure to do that not a political issue?)

This is an article from the Miami Herald about the prior experience of FEMA head Michael Brown…which is to say, none. He was previously an administrator for horse shows, a job he was fired from. He was previously an administrator for horse shows, a job he was fired from. No, it didn’t make any more sense the second time I typed it.

(You have to sign in to read the Herald article, but here’s the best part: “‘He’s done a hell of a job, because I’m not aware of any Arabian horses being killed in this storm,” said Kate Hale, former Miami-Dade emergency management chief who oversaw emergency response during Hurricane Andrew in 1992. ‘The world that this man operated in and the focus of this work does not in any way translate to this. He does not have the experience.'”)

There’s plenty more, about the attempt to blame the victims, and then the attempt (still in effect) to blame local government; about the way that evacuees who were trapped at the Hilton got to cut in line in front of those trapped at the Superdome. But for sheer poignancy, for sheer, devastating illustration of what life is like for the poor–not only during a disaster, but every day–you can’t do any better than this CNN report from reporter Drew Griffin.

“I am stunned by an interview I conducted with New Orleans Detective Lawrence Dupree. He told me they were trying to rescue people with a helicopter and the people were so poor they were afraid it would cost too much to get a ride and they had no money for a ‘ticket.’ Dupree was shaken telling us the story. He just couldn’t believe these people were afraid they’d be charged for a rescue.”

Our country is always like this. Our poor are always being starved and diseased and murdered and bled to death. This is just the only time we get to see it on the news.

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