Saturday, March 26, 2011

On Geraldine Ferraro:

I remember being so excited when Walter Mondale added Geraldine Ferraro to the Democratic Presidential ticket in 1984. With three terms in House of Representatives, she didn't strike me as the most qualified to be VP, but neither was she the least. And she reinvigorated the Democrats in a way Mondale couldn't. (Mondale couldn't invigorate a birthday party. As Dennis Miller, back when he was funny, said after the election, "Mondale got stomped like a narc at a biker rally.")

Ferraro endured the inane and persistent "Wally and the Beaver" and "each side has a Bush for VP" jokes like a pro. Being first makes history, but not necessarily for a lot of personal happiness. I remember being particularly impressed she didn't shiv the reporter who asked her about her dress size. I was on our school paper at the time and knew any of us would have been drop-kicked for asking anything so goddamned dumb. It embarrassed me this reporter was ostensibly a pro.

I didn't think about Ferraro a lot until the 2008 election, in which she supported Hillary Clinton. I understood her support for Clinton and if Barack Obama hadn't run, I would have backed Clinton, too. But Ferraro went further than attacking Obama's policies, which would have been fair game. She started making racist statements. Like, unambiguously racist. And she kept repeating them. She was positively and baffling irate at the way Obama carried the mic when onstage and spat out, "He acted like a stand-up comedian! Like a stand-up comedian!" (Um, what?)

Then she referred to the venerable Bob Herbert, longtime New York Times editorial writer, as "one of Obama's Black surrogates in the media". As if all Blacks know each other and were sitting around a table somewhere, thinking of ways to insult the Clintons. She played into the worst kind of White fear and it disgusted me. (Herbert didn't insult Hillary; he disagreed with her. Ferraro couldn't make the distinction.)

Ferraro was no longer the person who had inspired millions of girls and women in 1984. I never respected her again.

Still, when Mondale asked her, she accepted a slot on what everyone knew was a losing ticket and gave it her all.

Peace to her friends and family.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Whatever gets you through the night:

In the West, we never embraced funeral pyres and the cultures that did have largely done away with them.

Tonight, I would have to say this was a mistake. Count me as resolutely pro-funeral pyre.

Also, pro-Nutella and Valium.

Elizabeth Taylor RIP

In college, the above photo was among those I tacked on the bulletin board near my bed. A film buff, I was enamored of Giant, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Father of the Bride, Little Women and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. I was captivated by Elizabeth Taylor's talent and found her personal life eminently readable. No one who seemed both etched in marble and gloriously flesh and blood at sixteen, when this photo was taken, was going to lead an uncomplicated life. "Iconic" is overused, but regarding Elizabeth Taylor, no other word is apt.

Like all of us, she had her flaws. The excess of the Cleopatra era was ridiculous. Set aside the Krupp diamond, which I would have readily accepted, too. Nobody needs Chasen's chili flown halfway around the world just to have one's preferred nosh on set. And sometimes, these adolescent whims overshadowed what allowed Taylor such privilege in the first place: her extraordinary artistic gifts.

That Taylor was one of our preeminent beauties is beside the point. Her body of work, coupled with her bold and pioneering AIDS fundraising, will remain a fine legacy. I remember being moved by her love for Rock Hudson and how she resolutely stood by him when he announced he had AIDS. At this point, few public figures had spoken out in support of those with AIDS. Half the country still thought it was casually communicable and, of course, homophobia was rampant. Taylor's voice and her tireless fundraising helped change the national discussion and millions benefited as a result.

In recent years, like many near the end of life, Taylor had become somewhat of a caricature of herself and, clearly, the pills took their toll. But for decades, her work and bearing were majestic.

Sleep well, Ms. Taylor. There will never be another like you.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

He's here!

As of last night, I was authorized to reveal the great news!

Please join me in welcoming George and Jennifer's new son, Mom and Dad's first grandchild and the beautiful little boy who has made me a Thia: Nixon Henri Dremousis! (I know, my dear lefty compadres, his first name won't thrill you, but our family is delighted, so try and focus on that.) He's seven pounds, 14 ounces, 21 inches and sports a lovely full head of brown hair. Maybe the handsomest newborn ever!

He was born yesterday at 9:35 a.m. and both families spent a large swath of yesterday encamped at the hospital. I got to hold him for quite some time and he's enchanting.

Out the door to see our lad again. And while I don't believe in omens, Seattle's fiercer-than-usual rain has ceased for the past two days. Most obvious metaphor ever, but we have, in fact, had sun.

Monday, March 14, 2011

We need a new word for "disaster":

I wish "hell" were divorced from religious connotations because it more aptly describes what has transpired in Japan since Thursday.

Everyone already knows where to donate by now and I have no idea if thoughts and prayers work, but I'll keep sending mine, just in case, to the victims, their loved ones and the first responders.

Of equal personal importance, a close loved one is back in the hospital for the second time in three weeks. Again, I send thoughts and prayers, hoping they help, unsure of their impact.

Life continues reminding us it is beautiful and terrifying in equal measure.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

My newest piece for TNB, "Mike Sacks Really Wants a Meat-pocket", is up now:

I interview Mike Sacks' about his new, wickedly droll and superbly reviewed essay collection, Your Wildest Dreams within Reason.

As I state in the intro after alluding to the horror unfolding in Japan, "In a world that will never make sense, we need smart people who make us laugh. So, thank you, Mike Sacks, for helping us keep the lids on our pill jars.":

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Because we're just a font of good news around here:

The Wall Street Journal's newest CFIDS piece, on whether it's safe for those of us with CFIDS to donate blood and the role the XMRV retrovirus might play in determining the answer:

As I noted the other day, the Wall Street Journal's CFIDS reporting has been exemplary. If you have CFIDS, particularly an acute presentation in an advanced state like I do, even the thought of donating blood is criminally negligent. I would never risk inflicting this upon anyone, much less some poor bastard who needed a blood transfusion. Within the past year, the governments of the U.K., Canada, New Zealand and Australia have issued edicts legally prohibiting those of us with CFIDS from donating blood. In this country, the Red Cross announced last year, thanks, but no thanks. The FDA has been advised to do the same and we're waiting for their conclusion.

One of the things that fascinates me about this discussion is that it's finally being taken seriously. One of the first questions I asked after being diagnosed early in 1992 (I was egregiously ill nine months before I had a diagnosis) was, "Can I donate blood?" I followed these with, "Could I transmit this sexually?" and "If I were to get pregnant, could I give this to the fetus?" The answer I received from dozens of doctors was, basically, "Hell if I know." And they honestly didn't. But really, how fucking obvious was it that these were pertinent questions?

Twenty years later, with over a million Americans diagnosed with CFIDS and credible estimates running much higher, it's gratifying and vindicating the illness is increasingly treated with the seriousness it always deserved.

I can't help but ask, though, "What the hell took so long?"

Saturday, March 05, 2011

From the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, CBS News and Elle Magazine, four new CFIDS features outstanding as they are pertinent:

1) Elle Magazine's gorgeously etched profile on Laura Hillenbrand, author of the acclaimed bestsellers Seabiscuit and Unbroken. A searingly honest and often funny look at what it's like to write each day while your body slowly unravels:

2) The New York Times continues its superb CFIDS coverage with this dismantling of the recent Lancet study in Britain and explanation why a reliable diagnostic test is crucial:

3) The Wall Street Journal continues its superb CFIDS coverage with an examination of how the illness has continued to spread over the past 25 years, and again, why a reliable diagnostic test is of utmost importance. Written by a DePaul psychology professor who has had CFIDS for 21 years:

4) And the most buoying of all, the new study, lauded by Dr. Nancy Klimas, the nation's foremost CFIDS researcher, that has discovered 700 spinal fluid proteins unique only to those with CFIDS. This is the news that finally brings the diagnostic test within reach. Its importance can't be overestimated:

Again, profound thanks to my loved ones who always believed me and to those who met me later and stood by me. To those who doubted me, well, beware of Greeks with long memories.