Thursday, October 31, 2013

Cheney For Senate?

Let me start by saying that I am not from Wyoming, though I do go there once in a while during family visits to neighboring Montana. If you add up the number of days I have spent in Wyoming as an adult, you might get to 60. This total would most certainly NOT qualify me for a resident fishing license. According to Wyoming Fish and Game regulations, a person must live in the state for a year to qualify for the lower-cost resident license.

Surprisingly (to her), Liz Cheney also did not qualify for a resident fishing license in Wyoming. When she applied for permission to fish in Wyoming’s trout-filled steams and rivers, she said she had lived in the state for a decade. (Actually, she had only lived in the state for 72 days.) Cheney says the clerk who took her application must have made a mistake. Whoever made the mistake, it was a costly one to Cheney. She ended up posting a $220.00 bond for the high misdemeanor of swearing a false oath. 

It may be the most expensive $220.00 fine ever paid. It may cost Liz Cheney a Senate seat.

Like Montanans, Wyomingites do not cotton to liars. Or carpetbaggers. And Ms. Cheney certainly seems to be both. She and her husband bought a house in Jackson Hole in 2012 and shortly after, she announced that she would run in the Republican Senate primary in 2014. This has struck many observers as an interesting choice. Wyoming already has a Republican Senator in that seat. His name is Mike Enzi. I can certainly understand why Tea Party-types are “primary-ing” Mitch McConnell in Kentucky. They think he is not pure enough in his conservatism. Same for Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire, Susan Collins in Maine, Orrin Hatch in Utah, Lindsay Graham In South Carolina, and Lamar Alexander in Tennessee—all of whom voted to re-open the government after 16 days of self-inflicted economic damage had been done to the country.

But Mike Enzi did not vote to reopen the government, even though Wyoming is home to several amazingly beautiful national parks that had to shut down. In fact, Mike Enzi voted to continue the shutdown, even in the face of looming economic disaster. In his three terms as Republican Senator from Wyoming, Mike Enzi has earned the following ratings and scores from various interest groups:

Rated A+ by NRA
Rated 100% by National Right to Life Committee
Rated 0% by the American Public Health Association
Rated 100% by US Border Control—a private anti-immigration group
Rated 0% by Citizens for Tax Justice

In addition to these ratings, Senator Enzi has shown where he stands by voting no on limiting farm subsidies to those making under $750,000 a year, voting no on extending unemployment benefits from 39 weeks to 59 weeks, voting with the Republican Party well over 90% of the time, and voting no on increasing the tax rate on those earning over $1 million. 

Why on Earth does Liz Cheney feel the need to run against this man? Does she feel the voters of Wyoming need someone more in line with their values? Is Mike Enzi too liberal for Wyoming? I can think of only two reasons why Liz Cheney would move to Wyoming and try to unseat Mike Enzi: ego and love of power. 

The voters of Wyoming are smart enough to see right through Ms. Cheney. By now, she may have earned her resident fishing license, but she surely has not earned the votes of the people of Wyoming.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Sprinkle Plants of East Haven

When Isabel was 4 we lived in East Haven, CT. Our house was an 80-year old place that had been bought and updated by two guys who reminded me a lot of Tom and Ray Magliozzi from Car Talk. The hard wood floors had all been stripped and polished, the washer, dryer, fridge, and dishwasher were all new, the wooden accents around all the windows and doors had been taken down and refinished and rehung, it had central air conditioning, a new super-efficient furnace in the basement, and multi-zone control of the temperature for maximum energy savings. It was a beautiful house.

Only one thing was wrong with it—it was in East Haven, CT.

You may have heard of East Haven—it has been in the news a few times in the last couple of years. Four of its police officers have been charged with federal civil rights abuses; some of the charges stemming from a falsified police report about the arrest of a Catholic priest as he filmed two East Haven cops harassing a shopkeeper. Others of the charges are the result of one officer’s assault on the owner of an Ecuadorian restaurant who tried to photograph the officer harassing his customers in the parking lot.

Or perhaps you heard of East Haven when its mayor, Joe Maturo, was asked what he intended to do to help Latinos in his town feel better about his leadership. In all seriousness, the mayor said he might go home that night and have a taco for dinner. And then he could not understand why this answer might actually be offensive, or just the wrong thing to say. Or, if you didn’t hear about the mayor’s taco comment, perhaps you heard about the hilarious response to his taco comment from some in his community.

If none of these stories rings a bell, then maybe it was the more recent case of the group of East Haven cops who left their jurisdiction, lights flashing and sirens wailing, and went to New Haven, where they provoked an accident, took a woman and her car hostage, and then changed their stories about what happened as Internal Affairs investigated. Well, whatever the case, East Haven was where this beautiful house was located and we simply did not have the resources to jack it up off its foundation, put it on a truck, and cart it off to somewhere a bit better, (like Camden, NJ).

We lived in the house for two years, but we should have known from Day One that it was not the place for us. As the movers were unloading our stuff from the truck, there was a teen-aged girl on the front stoop of the house next door, talking loudly into a cell phone and cursing a blue streak. On closer examination, her ankle bracelet tracking device made itself evident. The girl’s heroin-using mom hit us up for work once in a while when she needed money.

Or, if we didn’t realize it was not the place for us on Day One, maybe we should have realized on Day Two, when I took Isabel to the playground in the local park just down the road from our house. Isabel LOVED to swing and she could do it for hours, so whenever she woke up real early, I would get her out of the house so Erica might be able to sleep-in a bit. So, that second day in East Haven Isabel and I went to the park and I put her in the kid swing and started pushing her. And then I looked down and noticed broken glass all throughout the sand under the swings. The more I looked, the more glass I saw. Oh, and also some used syringes. Before long, Isabel took to calling it the Glass Playground, to distinguish it from the Giant Playground that was a twenty-minute walk away from our house.

The first time Isabel ever said the F-word, she read it spray-painted on a slide at the Glass Park. Ah, memories…

 And if not on Day Two, surely we should have known five months into it, when our Subaru Outback was totaled while parked in front of our house. Seems a guy fell asleep behind the wheel on his way home from the methadone clinic. It wasn’t even his van he was driving—it belonged to the plumber who had just that week hired him as an assistant. (I ended up feeling a little bit bad for that guy.) Anyway, what got me thinking about that house in East Haven today was a cupcake I saw on somebody’s desk this afternoon. It had white frosting and rainbow sprinkles.

The sprinkles acted as the visual equivalent of Proust’s madeleine; one glimpse brought back two full years in East Haven. When I saw those sprinkles I right away pictured our front yard. We had put a white picket fence up after some punk stole the good cooking pot we had left on the porch. The pot was full of self-service Halloween candy so that we could both go trick-or-treating with Isabel. Inside that fence we had created a large L-shaped garden to grow tomatoes and basil and lots of flowers.

As I remember it, for our first Easter in East Haven we put a small shaker of sprinkles in Isabel’s basket. Then we told her that if she buried a few sprinkles in the garden, a sprinkle bush would grow. So, she planted some sprinkles in the garden. A few months later, Erica and I placed a few new plastic jars of sprinkles in the branches of a green pepper plant and then reminded Isabel of when she had planted the sprinkles. Right away she wanted to go check the plant, and sure enough it had borne fruit. In retrospect, the look on Isabel’s face when she saw those plastic jars full of rainbow sprinkles outweighs all of the negatives that came with living in East Haven, CT for two years.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

My Daughter's Perfume

Brushing my teeth this morning I had a horrifying insight into my own worldview. I am not sure about other people, but I am terribly bored by brushing my teeth. (This, by the way, is NOT the horrifying insight—that will come soon enough.) I do it every day at least twice, but it always feels like a chore. Often I will leave the bathroom as I brush, using the time to do little tasks like moving dirty laundry from my room to the washer or putting clean towels away or opening windows to let some air in. This morning I left the bathroom and went to Isabel’s room to turn out the light in her closet. While in her room I caught a whiff of perfume and assumed she had just put it on as she was getting ready for school. That whiff of perfume triggered a cascade of thoughts and feelings that ARE the horrifying insight. I am not sure what to do with what I have seen about myself, but my first impulse is to write it down and get it out into the light to help me make sense of it. Mostly, that whiff of Isabel’s perfume made me feel achingly sad.
The chain goes something like this: my daughter is growing up a bit..she is no longer playing dress-up when she wears a touch of perfume…it is part of her morning routine…soon enough she will be in high school…and she will, at some point, start dating people…and she will be lied to and manipulated and have her heart broken. How twisted is that? A whiff of perfume leads to real true sadness about the broken hearts my daughter has not yet suffered? Why is it that I go directly to the future sadness rather than the future joy? I remember how thrilling it is to have a crush on someone. I remember the jolt when you realize they might feel the same. I can still feel the explosion of that first kiss with someone you really like. Relationships bring giddy joy as much as they do deep sadness, so why do I ignore the upside and go straight to the down? Am I someone who sees life this way?