Homeland security

A mayor, a child, a piece of cloth: What makes you feel safe?

By Salon Staff
Published August 13, 2004 3:39PM (EDT)

Private Life

Moments of perfection

Vera Charles - 09:25 pm Pacific Time - Aug 11, 2004 - #558 of 563

I don't know why my house feels most like my home when there's a virtual stranger in it. I don't know how to tell you how badly I have wanted, how hard I have tried, to die. How I failed at this and rejoice at my failure. Why Noah should have a fish.

I met Scott at the end of a midnight sprint across the country, I met Noah the day after his dad proposed to me. I turned 24 and watched Pokemon 2000 and Noah helped me blow out the candles on the cake Scott sneaked proudly into the tiny apartment in Chicago.

We've fought about Noah a lot, about money, custody, responsibility, what he'll eat, what he'll do. Less fought than fretted, really, and fretted like the parts of a guitar, like an instrument that can be tuned and played and learned.

My husband's job is to report on the atmosphere of various nightclubs around town and write up a column for the alt.weekly. Scott is tall, solemn, hilarious, tender, sardonic, teetotaling, twelve years my senior. After half a lifetime of minor rock star status in the prairies of Illinois, he still seems ill at ease in bars, coffeehouses, nightclubs, the kinds of places where people like me used to sit and savor their own darkness.

This does not explain why there are cookies in the oven or why I keep checking in on Noah to be sure he's sleeping (he always is at night, like a rock, like a baby, like a thing that trusts without question). This does not explain why I think we should get Noah a fish before we get him a dresser, despite all my talk of saving and being sensible and treating each other sternly and fairly.

I am trying to tell you that I have wanted to die and now I do not. My raging, beautiful, compassionate mother told me "it's different with your own" and sparkled in my early youth. But Noah isn't "my own," not like I am her own, though we all share a certain kind of throaty laugh and green eyes, and Noah and I are both left-handed.

I did not make a plan, I did not wait a certain amount of time or save a certain amount of money. I threw a challenge in Scott's face on a lukewarm second date: "So, what, you're just going to move down to Texas and bring your seven-year-old son?! I don't want to be the one who moves again, I don't want to quit my job, and I don't want to tear apart your family. This is just not possible." It still doesn't seem possible. It may not be. I should look in on him again.

White House

42% and falling. Can we call him a "failed president" now?

schroeder - 02:10 pm Pacific Time - Aug 11, 2004 - #1113 of 1175

One of the (many) things that really pisses me off is hearing Bush apologists heaping praise onto his speech at Ground Zero. During the DNC, Chris Matthews, who I usually like, sickened me by talking about how Bush "made that speech at Ground Zero and united the country."

Now, maybe that speech played well in Peoria, as they say, but we New Yorkers had a different take on it. When the planes hit, our embattled mayor ran straight to the scene, at one point nearly being killed by a collapsing building, so that he could direct the rescue efforts. Even those of us who had hated Guiliani for eight years loved him after that.

Bush, on the other hand, ran in the opposite direction. If we didn't hate him before that, we certainly did afterwards. Three or four days after 9/11, you started to see flyers up around the WTC site simply reading, "Where's George?"

Then, after a week, he finally showed up to show us some of that famous Bush compassion. At that point, a week after the event, the city was still in shock. Lower Manhattan was still a smoldering ruin. Every telephone pole and subway station was papered over with "missing person" flyers -- placed there by people still hoping against hope that their loved ones had survived. Bodies were still being recovered hourly from the ruins of the Trade Center.

Onto this bleak scene arrives the Crawford Cowboy. Does he make a somber speech about the horrors we had witnessed? The great losses our city had suffered? The importance, in the trying times ahead, to not let our hatred for the terrorists who had perpetrated these acts extend to Arab-Americans, or Muslims in general?

No, again, that was Giuliani. Bush pulled out a bullhorn and, going back to his college days, started cheerleading. "We're gonna go git 'em! We're gonna smoke 'em out of their holes!" He stood on this most somber ground, amid the rubble -- on the bodies of our firefighters for all we knew -- just feet from where the remains of our friends and neighbors were still being dug out of the ground -- and he started bellowing like a Cowboys fan at the Thanksgiving game.

Compassion? In a situation that required compassion maybe more than any other in his life -- in any of our lives, he showed none. I would have thought the reaction of anyone with a soul upon hearing the WTC had been destroyed would be to fear for the lives of the people inside. In Bush's own words, his first thought was "we are at war." And he never broke from those thoughts of war to think of the casualties that were already lying dead at his feet. Is it any surprise that he doesn't stop to think about the soldiers he's sent off to die? About the innocent civilians he's tortured and killed? If he doesn't care about 3,000 dead New Yorkers, why would he care about 1,000 dead GIs, much less 30,000 dead Iraqis?

And that's the most galling thing about his performance at Ground Zero. The one thing he did do, was swear to get the people behind the attacks. And then six months later, in a televised but little-seen press conference (I happened to be flipping by C-SPAN at that moment), he announced that "catching bin Laden's not really a priority" and that "he's not really a threat anymore." "He's probably off hiding in a cave somewhere." Where the hell was he hiding when he planned the attacks, the Waldorf-Astoria?

It's bad enough that he started an unprovoked war against Iraq. But what's a thousand times worse is that he abandoned the provoked war, against the people who actually did attack us. He's never given a moment's attention to what we suffered on 9/11, and he very quickly lost interest in destroying Al Qaeda so that they can't attack us again. For him, it's all about protecting his oil interests, scaring people into voting, and going after "the guy who tried to kill my dad."


The Liars' Club: The Lying Liars lay one on ya

Laurel Hood - 09:14 pm Pacific Time - Aug 8, 2004 - #629 of 660

I LOVE to talk about hair. I have some, and my poodle has some, and all of my friends have some, and (well, you probably get the drift) talking about it gives me frizzles of delight.

Since we may be talking about GOP hair, I can tell you what they use to keep it so big and tall. It is pure gall. Applied in giant latherings that may resemble mousse (not a moue) and then reapplied frequently during the day and on into the evening when one's hair has to be out of the way in order to look down the nose at others. Gall is not bought -- you cannot find it in any store. You have to know people who have it and who have so much of it that it rubs off and you capture it for your own use later -- which shows a lot of gall to begin with.

Gall is found all over. Those people in the third row of the theater taking calls on their cell-phones. Sit behind them with a BUCKET! People in the express line at the grocery store with 27 items (well 10 of them are all the same, so isn't that okay?!) have a lot of it. Always carry a quart jar in your pocket to be ready to get you some.

Salon Central

The Boring Thread

C Sue - 01:00 am Pacific Time - Aug 9, 2004 - #5182 of 5194

This is my dad's motto. "You never know when a bandana will come in handy." He still carries a handkerchief daily, and anytime he leaves the city limits he brings at least one bandana with him. We kids used to tease him about it when we were teenagers and he was the embarrassing dad always whipping out the trusty bandana (usually to wear it Springsteen-style in the era of Nirvana). We'd joke among ourselves that Douglas Adams owed Dad reparations because he obviously stole the idea of the hitchhiker's towel from Dad's bandana.

Every now and then when I see bandanas for sale, I'll buy a package, mostly for the nostalgia value. But new bandanas always seem stiff and scratchy and garishly bright. I don't use them often so they tend to stay rather stiff, and I never have a good place to put them, so I lose them and then I'll see some while I'm out shopping and think "Oh, bandanas!" and buy them and the cycle begins again. I know right now that in the past year I've bought at least one green and one purple bandana, and I'm pretty sure I got a set of red and blue, too. But I don't know where they are.

My parents were just here for three weeks. The first weekend they were here, they went off to do touristy things and I went off for some alone time and sat at outdoor table at a cafe. For two hours. With my hair off my neck and my back to the lovely warm sun.

There was no hiding the sunburn when they came back to my house that evening. I was wearing my shirt inside-out so that the seams and tag didn't touch my raging sunburn, tugging on it as the aloe alternately felt clammy and itchy-dry.

Dad took one look and said, "You need a bandana!" He pulled one out of his suitcase, faded and whisper-soft and exactly what I needed. I wore it tucked under the neckline of my shirts for most of the next two weeks.

I kept it when they left, and when it comes out of the dryer tomorrow, I will fold it and put it straight into my sock drawer. Because you never know when a bandana will come in handy.

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