samedi, mai 27, 2006

Pimp my what?

The Bread Breaker, which has a temperature gauge that reaches 1,000 degrees, is one of an increasingly popular breed of supergrills that are becoming backyard status symbols, as Americans, mostly of the male variety, peacock with an object that harks back to the earliest days of human existence.
As Memorial Day marks the official beginning of grilling season, many men will find themselves almost genetically drawn to throwing hunks of raw meat onto a fire and poking them with tongs. It's a pull that some will spend almost any amount of money to satisfy, said Pantelis A. Georgiadis, the owner of Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet, the grill manufacturer based in Michigan. "There is a market segment we call the 'man cook with fire' types," he said. New York Times, Sunday, May 28- 'Pimp My Grill"

As I have confessed before, I am a woman wired to enjoy the company of men. Given the spark of debate with an attractive, witty man, I am willing to follow the highways and byways of conversation into realms of learning that are quite foreign to me-football, Internet Technology, Republican politics.
But I have to admit that I would have very little to contribute to a dialogue about the art of grilling.
When I moved to my modest rancher out here in the exurbs, I decided that I needed certain accouterments that seem to accompany "country" life. These have, so far, included a lawn mower (totally necessary) patio furniture (which we will certainly use)- and a George Foreman electric grill. The George Foreman grill was one that you could buy, without even a small pang of guilt, in a department store for less than $100.00. Assembled quickly when it was delivered, it was dusted off and brought up from the basement about a month ago, and has been used...once. I haven't even bothered to look at instructions, because even a mechanical Neanderthal like me can use it without printed aids.
Imagine my chagrin, then, when I discovered that I should have invested $11,290 in a gorgeous Kalamazoo grill! What will the neighbors think of me now? One of my neighbors already mows the strip of lawn adjacent to his land because he thinks I (Mom w/o husband and two lively kids) need a little help now and then. What will he think of me if he ever sees my puny grill?
Apparently the market for many of these Hummers of the fried, broiled and charcoaled world is largely male. At least according to this article, there's nothing some guys like more than smoking turkeys, turning knobs, and showing their male friends the latest in boy toys.
Why would a man spend almost as much on a grill as he would on a Toyota? This can't be just a matter of status. Most of your acquaintances are never going to see the behemoth slumbering under a hood in your yard.
Could the grill represent some primitive tie to the days when men would trap, kill and hunt dinner? Possibly. But I'm guessing that even then they weren't the ones to cook it. Which brings up another matter of curiosity-how come some men (not all, by any means) enjoy cooking "special" meals, but wouldn't be caught dead at a stove on a mundane Wednesday night?
Finally, there is the delicate matter of what we shall call the "bigger is better" issue. This is probably the most interesting theory of theme park grills, but one on which I shall maintain a discreet silence (although I encourage you males to speak).
For the ignorant female or the citified male, here are some good starter questions if you find yourself at a summer party. "My goodness, is that a hybrid (one which uses gas, charcoal or wood)? Do you have a refrigerator that goes with the grill? Can you demonstrate how to stir grill spaghetti?"
Oh, and I'd advise that you make sure you are near the beer cooler. When your host starts explaining the joys of his new toy, it could be a very long night.

jeudi, mai 25, 2006

When is $90,000 really a cigar?

Republicans and Democrats in the House of Representatives have achieved an almost unprecedented level of bipartisanship in denouncing the F.B.I.'s search of a congressman's office. They talk angrily about the separation of powers and the implications of having an executive branch agency make a foray into a lawmaker's official space. Our first question is where all these concerned constitutionalists have been for the last five years NYT May 26 On the way home tonight, I had the radio tuned to NPR (as opposed to the "open your windows and blare" rock music I normally have on during these warm spring evenings). The show: Ed Gordon's talkie "News and Notes." I love hearing the roundtable moderated by the wise and warm Juan Williams. This time the topic of the day was the corruption allegations against Congressman William Jefferson of Louisiana. I gotta be candid: the fact that he allegedly had $90.000 in his freezer seems a bit odd (our local paper asked snarkily whether it was in the deep freeze because the lettuce crisper was full). Even odder is the apparent videotape of him accepting a suitcase full of cash. Frankly, I think the evidence Justice presented is well worth taking seriously. Whether the FBI should have raided his office or not I'll leave to the wise men and women who run the US Congress. As usual, they have chosen to get ticked off over a matter that is arguable, while turning their backs on decisions that threaten our civil liberties and the integrity of our legal system . This Justice Dept has done some atrocious things...notably finding ways to stop an investigation of alleged NSA eavesdropping on Americans and denying the Guantanemo prisoners the right to be tried in American civilian courts. It was only when one of their own had his prerogatives threatened that those in the majority challenged Alberto Gonzales and his lower-downs. What really got my attention, however, was the reference by one (more liberal) commentator to the theory among black talk radio listeners and hosts that there was a Justice Department conspiracy to release the information around the time of the New Orleans election to harm candidate Ray Nagin. As it happened, Ray Nagin won the election. As a white woman, this never would have occurred to me. I don't think highly of the Justice Department, but neither Gonzales nor his pals, including George Bush, seemed to court the bigot vote with subtly racist rhetoric. Nor do I think that they are quite that inept. On the other hand, I'd like to know more about the experiences that shaped the thoughts of some African-Americans and led them to think that there was a national conspiracy going on to discredit black candidates. Could it be a long exposure to systemic American racial injustice that would that leads them to think that $90,000 packed in next to the ice cream and frozen vegetables was part of a conspiracy? Or it could be that American women and men of all races have a yen for conspiracy theories? It brings back echoes of the OJ Simpson trial and reminds us that we are still a country with racial wounds that ache and cry out for the salve of justice, empathy and trust.

mardi, mai 23, 2006


Today I got a newsletter in the mail which really put my dreams of travel in a whole different perspective, making them seem trivial and selfish. About six years ago a group of us began a small nonprofit that helps kids living with AIDS in Romania. We support a home health program that allows children to live at home instead of having to spend most of their lives in the hospital (although there are children who end up living in the hospital). Under the last dictatorship, children in Romania were infected with the AIDS virus by re-used syringes. So were adults, who passed the disease on to their children. The suffering of children with AIDS in Romania is almost unimaginable. Poverty and isolation and discrimination are their daily companions. The social worker we support, Mary Veal, and the staff in Romania work bravely to encourage and nurture their young patients, but must cope somehow with the horrors of seeing kids they love die. What does that feel like, to know someone you love can be helped, but that the medication which would save their life is not available? In a heartbreaking entry in her journal Mary writes of a girl named Angela. The 20 year old office cleaner came to the staff doctor, Dr. Cristina, because her sister (both are abandoned) was in the hospital. Angela asked Dr. Cristina: "Who will die first, my sister or me? I want to die before my sister because I don't want to watch her die." This past winter a measles epidemic swept through Romania. Young children with an immune defiency were vulnerable to a disease for which almost any child born in a US hospital gets vaccinated. I name these children not to sensationalize their passing, but to help us realize their uniqueness...Elena. Marinel. Stefania. Teodor. Marius. Alexandra. Ema. Ioana. Roxana. Corina. Razvan. Please pray for them and for their families. Created in God's image, they are all our children. How can we in the wealthy West pass by and ignore their suffering? How can we close our eyes to the wounds of a world of children who all deserve an opportunity to thrive? PS: If you want to know more about ARC (Aiding Romania's Children), please write me.

Mykonos dreamin'

Married friends are currently spending two weeks in Greece-one week on Rhodes and one on another famous island, Mykonos. Radiologists who make an excellent living, they have been to Greece before. Not to mention Egypt, France, Italy, and other countries too numerous to mention here. As I bid one of them a wistful farewell the day before they leave, I wonder if I will ever be able to afford to travel to these islands, redolent of myth and history. Growing up immersed in Mary Renault's novels of the ancient world, I craved the sight of the temples and beaches where the real and fictional heroes of childhood walked and fought and loved. Like so many college literature majors, I read Nikos Kazantzakis and built air-castles out of sun-drenched Greek villages and the imagined lives of ardent peasants. As a shy graduate student, I listened raptly as a handsome artist attempted to seduce me at New York's Metropolitan Museum by describing the essence of the light in Greece, his hand idly caressing my shoulder as I sat like a fly snared in honey. My footlose roots go much deeper than my own experiences. My parents traveled all over Europe. My grandmother went regularly to Mexico and South America in the depths of the Depression. Thus far, however, I haven't been able to afford such regular trips. A number of these lovely places are just photos or souvenirs or dinner conversation to me. As I get older, the desire to visit Greece and Tuscany and the Scottish Highlands remains powerful. At the same time, I am very aware of how much of that longing is a product of my upbringing and relative affluence. My visions are those of the privileged classes, and my hobo dreams are linked to what I have experienced already. Knowing this doesn't silence the call of my inner traveler...but it does remind me of how much I have already been given. In the meantime, I'm eager, like a hearthbound spouse of old, to hear the tales of adventure when my friends the Greek travelers return. Hopefully that will spur me on to make some of my own visions a reality.

dimanche, mai 21, 2006

Leave 'em to it?

My own experience teaches me, as does observing that of others, that we are a self-justifying species. Confronted with evidence of what many consider "wrong-doing," such as pilfering a pencil here and there from an office, or driving away when I have smacked someone's bumper when I was pulling out of a parking space, I can find all sorts of reasons for rationalizing my own misdeeds. They aren't paying me enough here anyway, I mutter as I consider stashing some sheets of copy paper in my bag. Or...didn't that car have several dents in the bumper already? Sometimes I make myself feel guilty enough to leave the copy paper at the office or to scribble a note on the car. But I admit that there have been occasions on which I have successfully, (or unsuccessfully) rationalized my own behavior, and quickly forgotten it. On a larger scale, I have encountered divorced men and women, or women who chose to end a pregnancy who were convinced that the circumstances under which they separated were "special. They exempted themselves from the normal contritition that should probably accompany these events because of the "unique" circumstances. As we draw nearer to the next General Convention, I see a tremendous amount of self-justification going on within the Episcopal Church. On the one side (broad-brush strokes here) the pro-gay ordination/consecration crowd is saying: "I am an oppressed gay/lesbian, or I am friends with oppressed gays and lesbians, or I believe in a radically inclusive church, so what I and my colleagues are doing is, de facto, what God would do." On the other hand, conservatives are arguing: "I know what the Bible says, I am faithful to what the Bible teaches, and therefore, I am acting in God's interests on earth." My own bias, (and the church's mainstream tradition), is to consider or grapple with what the Bible says on a particular subject and test my conclusions or feelings against that standard. Often as I have said, I fall short. Sometimes I end up in disagreement. Like Tony Campolo (who takes the conservative side in the homosexuality debate) I believe that the New Testament says a whole lot more about poverty than it does about sexuality. But does that mean that we avoid the passages that make us uncomfortable, such as the injunctions about divorce, or adultery, or sex outside of marriage, or materialism? Or are we going to pick and choose which ones we find acceptable? These are questions that perhaps both sides in this debate could fruitfully ponder. Right now my family and I are attending a Lutheran church, where the focus is on contemporary outreach, mission and social justice. I prefer that to being in the middle of someone else's battle royal. I've got enough sins of my own, thank you.