Friday, October 31, 2003

An Update on St. Maria Goretti: Virgin. Martyr. Rape Victim

Girls pummel man who exposed himself

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (Reuters) --A man described by authorities as a known sexual predator was chased through the streets of South Philadelphia by an angry crowd of Catholic high school girls, who kicked and punched him after he was tackled by neighbors, police said Friday.

Rudy Susanto, 25, who had exposed himself to teen-age girls on as many as seven occasions outside St. Maria Goretti School, struck again on Thursday just as students were being dismissed, police said.

But this time, a group of girls in school uniforms angrily confronted Susanto with help from some neighbors, police said.

When Susanto tried to run, more than 20 girls chased him down the block. Two men from the neighborhood caught him and the girls took their revenge.

"The girls came and started kicking him and punching him, so I wasn't going to stop them," neighbor Robert Lemons told The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Susanto was later treated for injuries at a local hospital. Police said he would be charged with 14 criminal counts including harassment, disorderly conduct, open lewdness and corrupting the morals of a minor.

Copyright 2003 Reuters. All rights reserved.

Additional irony: St. Maria Goretti, virgin and martyr, was a little girl who died from an attempted rape.

From her website: Official Prayer to St. Maria Goretti

Oh Saint Maria Goretti who, strengthened by God's grace, did not hesitate even at the age of twelve to shed your blood and sacrifice life itself to defend your virginal purity, look graciously on the unhappy human race which has strayed far from the path of eternal salvation. Teach us all, and especially youth,with what courage and promptitude we should flee for the love of Jesus anything that could offend Him or stain our souls with sin. Obtain for us from our Lord victory in temptation, comfort in the sorrows of life, and the grace which we earnestly beg of thee (here insert intention), and may we one day enjoy with thee the imperishable glory of Heaven. Amen.

And from her bio:

Lured by the passions of his day and nurturing the dark side of his soul with impious reading and thoughts, Alessandro Serenelli had been a thorn in lovely Maria's side. He propositioned her on several occasions and harassed her with impure suggestions. On July 5, 1902, he would be denied no longer. As she once again rebuffed his sexual advance, shouting, "No! It is a sin! God does not want it!", Alexander lunged to the deed, stabbing Maria 14 times.

You know, I really prefer the modern version.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

For My Friends in the North

Go outside. Look at the sky. The solar flares are sending you northern lights.

You can skip this if it's raining.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

YES: I Am Writing

After the writing exercise, I'd found my pace and flow. Ideas and words poured forth -- the natural result of all my preparation and effort, but still feeling miraculous. I've got a clear set of ideas to work with, and I know the structure I'm going to use now. It's exhilarating, but it's also the outgrowth of work, discipline, and persistence. Let's not forget that; it's all too easy to treat writing as a gift of the muse, as opposed to something I build with my hands and heart and guts.

Tonight I took my laptop to the pre-NaNoWrite-in at Dana Street Coffee Shop in Mountain View. There were at least 8 of us there -- a couple of new writers, plus five or six who were with us last year. And NaNovember hasn't even started yet.

Now, I'm disposed to like Dana St. Coffee Shop. I bought my laptop there (and in fact saw the seller tonight and thanked him again for such a wonderful machine). I also snagged a wide-lapped wooden chair to sit in.

However, we are not going back -- ever. They have free wireless Internet access, but no working electrical outlets. They turned them off, if you please, to chase people away; apparently some folks were staying too long and not buying anything. Have they never heard of just talking to the deadbeats?

There was also no food, no air-conditioning, and they closed early. I told the counter guy that they'd lost a stack of customers who would have been there weekly, buying coffee and food and tipping generously. Idiots.

I still got a lot of work done, but I came home relatively early.

Then Michele called. Our rector has just announced that she is retiring. Michele knows how I love Margaret. I was sad enough to cry at the news. I'll have to show her somehow what she has meant to me.

But I'm OK. And I'm still writing. That's what matters, after all.
NO: I Am Not Writing

Spent the morning doing a small proofreading job, so I'm not feeling writerly. Under the ferocious proofreading/editorial gaze, ideas shrivel like banana slugs in a salt mine. (It took me five minutes to write that, and I'm not satisfied with it.) (And now I'm thinking it would be funnier if I showed the changes with strikethroughs. Ah hell. And a gaze isn't comparable to a mine. Fuck it.)

Think of this as a writing exercise.

Nature colors. Purple loosestrife (yes, I know what damage it does). The watercolor skies, cloud melting into air, of March. Fall in Pennsylvania. The softened, bleached tones of November before the snow falls. The fading of green to blue to slate of mountain ranges on a grey day. The molten, almost hallucinatory green under basswood trees on a sunny day. Old stone, old brick. Blue shadows on snow, rusty iron, smoke, slate, lichen, moss, turned earth. The palomino hills of California. The bone-colored moon rising in daylight, the golden moon rising just past sunset.

smells: And you thought I was overwriting about color. You poor sucker, you.

Lilacs in the rain. The iron tang of snow in the air. (Yes, you can really smell it coming.) Burning leaves, burning wood. (Not a romantic smell to me so much as a homey one.) Fresh ginger, nutmeg, vanilla, basil in the sun, and all the spices I'm not allergic to. Tomato vines. California's thousand fragrances, from rosemary to redwood to eucalyptus. Miso soup – it smells like Grandma's house, though it shouldn't. The flesh and sweat of my lover. Hot tea. My own hands after I've been peeling lemons, limes, oranges. Plowed fields. Barns. Yes, I like the smell of cow manure, especially when it's been spread on the fields on a March day – when it's starting to warm up, but there's still snow in the sheltered places. Vetiver, oakmoss, sandalwood, petitgrain, all the essential oils I use in making soap. The first whiff of salt in the air when you get near the ocean. Rising bread, baking bread. Dusty old stores, the kind with wooden floors. Especially if they're selling hardware or used books.

sounds: "Hi, honey, you're home" from any of my housemates. Gabriel's purr of recognition. Most church music. Lots of other kinds of music. The wind. That sweet thunk when a bat connects perfectly with a ball. Someone I love reading aloud. Someone with a good voice reading aloud. Thunder – I love thunderstorms, and I miss them. A friend or family member's voice on the phone.

art: "It's a stunning exploration of negative space. Do you know why it's a stunning exploration of negative space?"
"No, why?"
"Because Jesus wants it that way."
(Five extra points to anyone who can identify the film.)

interests: (Alphabetized for your reading pleasure; not exhaustive by any means) Arthurian legends, baseball, brain/mind link, bread baking, California, cats, cross-stitch, depth psychology, dream landscapes, edges, fat, feminism, gender, geology, ghost stories, God, grief, herbs, history of war, home, intentional communities, labyrinths, landscape, mythology, nanotechnology, nanowrimo, occasionally getting enough sleep, old houses, overdyed silk, psychology, PTSD, publishing, reading, rebellion, religion, ritual, rocks, sacramental theology, sacred places, semiotics, soapmaking, textiles, theology, trees, true crime, used book stores, vampires, Victorian era, writing, writing the disaster.

stuff: Books. Things with sentimental value. I never threw anything away until I moved out here, and I'm still wading through boxes.

lit: Almost any genre – but it must be well-written.

dislikes/allergies: Not the same thing at all. (That wasn't what I meant at all.)

Dislikes: Sloppy craftsmanship. The refusal to see, grow, think, or feel. Emotional manipulation and nonconsensual power games.

Allergies: Damn near everything.

OK, now I'm writing.
From a Poem by Mary Oliver

When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.


Thursday, October 23, 2003

Best T-Shirt Ever

Do you qualify to be an adult?

DISAPPEARING ACTS: A Loaf of Bread, a Jug of Diet Dr. Pepper, and Two Cats Beside Me in the Wilderness

I haven't been around much lately, and I may be around even less next week.

I'm going cat-sitting for a bit more than a week. In return for feeding, petting, and playing with a couple of utterly gorgeous felines, I get to stay at a friend's apartment while he's away. Just me, my laptop, and the voices in my head.

I am going to write.

NaNoWriMo starts at the end of my time alone, but I hope by then I'll be deeply immersed in the big nonfiction project that's been hanging fire the last year or so. I plan to do my 50,000 words of fiction, of course, but word count really isn't what matters this year.

What matters is finding my way into the new book. What matters is patiently working to achieve the focus and concentration that once were among my greatest gifts. What matters is making the writing the first priority.

Instead of starting the day with email and the endless round of resume submissions, I'll start the day with writing. Later on, in the afternoon hours that are least productive for me, I can read, nap, and deal with email and job submissions. In the evenings I will take walks around the apartment complex, maybe watch a movie, maybe write some more. Always I'll have lovely kitties to play with.

A few times during the week I'll emerge and see friends -- Sunday afternoon, for example, when I'll be in San Francisco for the NaNoWriMo kickoff party. And I may need to put myself together to see someone about a writing contract. Mostly, though, I'll luxuriate in solitude and beautiful words.

When I come home, I want to bring the new work habits with me. I won't be able to immerse myself so deeply; I'll have family responsibilities, and I'll have all the distractions and pleasures of home life. But I can and will make writing my first deed of the day. That is a promise.

Friday, October 17, 2003

Famous Last Words

  • I'll never get a PDA. I can barely decipher my own handwriting. No little box is going to be able to read it.

  • Anyway, I refuse to learn a new alphabet just to please some overpriced piece of technology.

  • Anyway, I would drop it, or lose it.

  • Anyway, I love paper and pens.

  • Anyway, I don't need one. My Daytimer may be big and bulky, but it contains everything I need. Pretty much. Usually. If I carry a notebook, too, and a couple of paperbacks to read.

  • Anyway, I can remember everything I need to do.

  • Anyway, I have the laptop.

Then Doreen told me I could download books to a PDA. There are a lot of wonderful books now out of copyright, and I could keep Saki's Chronicles of Clovis in my pocket. Hmmmm.

Then I started using the Palm software on my laptop as an organizing tool, and I loved it. I could remember to return library books on time! I could track what I was doing! Maybe an organizer was a good idea.

Then I discovered that I could get a keyboard and just type stuff into it. So I started keeping an eye on eBay and Craigslist. Eventually I found what I wanted: a Palm m500 with all the extras, going really cheap. (Partly because it's black-and-white, and everyone seems to want color on their PDA.) It came complete with two cradles, a synching cable, a metal case, a thumb keyboard, a near-full-size keyboard that folds into its own leather case, several other unopened gadgets, and the m500 its ownself: tiny yet powerful. I named her Alyx, after the short but kick-ass Joanna Russ character.

Then I noticed it didn't have any styli. I went out to Staples and, for a moderate percentage of what I got the whole thing for, I bought some styli.

What kind of seller was this, I asked myself. Clearly someone who buys all the latest high-tech toys with all the gadgets, but doesn't necessarily use it. Plenty of this stuff was still in its virginal blisterpak.

Is he too cheap or simply too distracted to include the styli? Or maybe passive-aggressive. "She's getting all this stuff for so little money. Let her buy her own damn stylus. She can have everything but my rod."

Now I had the Palm. I wanted to synch it to the laptop. I had not even plugged in the cradle yet. I tried to start Palm Desktop to find out what I needed to do. No dice. I'm getting a #-50 error message.

I messed with extensions and a dozen other issues. Nada.

I deleted and reinstalled. Still nothing.

I downloaded an older version. Nope.

I cursed with vigor and imagination. I'd already set up everything on the laptop the way I like it. Now it was all gone.

Ah, hell. I decided I should just run it off Michele's PC. The interface on the PC is not nearly as good as on the Mac, but I can live with that.

Since then I've been stuffing goodies into it. The contents of my Yahoo address book. The software to run the two keyboards. Endless lists. Birthdays for most of my family. Social engagements for the next few weeks. Ebooks and reader software. The morning and evening prayers for this month from the Book of Common Prayer.

I am also considering ways to decorate the aluminum case. Stickers, model paint, decoupage. . . . I want to create something unique.
The End of Baseball

From the day pitchers and catchers report to training camp, my cell phone plays "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." It has now been set to play the "Ode to Joy."

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

The Dying Cubs Fan's Last Request

Do they still play the blues in Chicago?
By the shores of old Lake Michigan
Where the "hawk wind" blows so cold
An old Cub fan lay dying
In his midnight hour that tolled
Round his bed, his friends had all gathered
They knew his time was short
And on his head they put this bright blue cap
From his all-time favorite sport
He told them, It's late and it's getting dark in here
And I know its time to go
But before I leave the line-up
Boys, there's just one thing I'd like to know

Do they still play the blues in Chicago
When baseball season rolls around
When the snow melts away,
Do the Cubbies still play
In their ivy covered burial ground
When I was a boy they were my pride and joy
But now they only bring fatigue
To the home of the brave
The land of the free
And the doormat of the National League

Told his friends "You know the law of averages says:
Anything will happen that can."
That's what it says.
"But the last time the Cubs won a National League pennant
Was the year we dropped the bomb on Japan"
The Cubs made me a criminal
Sent me down a wayward path
They stole my youth from me
(that's the truth)
I'd forsake my teachers
To go sit in the bleachers
In flagrant truancy

and then one thing led to another
and soon I'd discovered alcohol, gambling, dope
football, hockey, lacrosse, tennis
But what do you expect,
When you raise up a young boy's hopes
And then just crush 'em like so many paper beer cups.

Year after year after year
after year, after year, after year, after year, after year
'Til those hopes are just so much popcorn
for the pigeons beneath the 'EL' tracks to eat
He said "You know I'll never see Wrigley Field, anymore
before my eternal rest
So if you have your pencils and your score cards ready,
and I'll read you my last request
He said, "Give me a double header funeral in Wrigley Field
On some sunny weekend day (no lights)
Have the organ play the National Anthem
and then a little "na, na, na, na, hey hey, hey, Goodbye"
Make six bullpen pitchers, carry my coffin
and six ground keepers clear my path
Have the umpires bark me out at every base
In all their holy wrath
Its a beautiful day for a funeral, Hey Ernie lets play two!
Somebody go get Jack Brickhouse to come back,
and conduct just one more interview
Have the Cubbies run right out into the middle of the field,
Have Keith Moreland drop a routine fly
Give everybody two bags of peanuts and a frosty malt
And I'll be ready to die

Build a big fire on home plate out of your Louisville Sluggers baseball bats,
And toss my coffin in
Let my ashes blow in a beautiful snow
From the prevailing 30-mile-an-hour southwest wind
When my last remains go flying over the left field wall
Will bid the bleacher bums adieu
And I will come to my final resting place, out on Waveland Avenue

The dying man's friends told him to cut it out
They said stop it that's an awful shame
He whispered, "Don't cry, we'll meet by and by near the Heavenly Hall of Fame."
He said, "I've got season's tickets to watch the Angels now,
So it's just what I'm going to do
He said, "but you the living, you're stuck here with the Cubs,
So its me that feels sorry for you!"
And he said, "Ahh play, play that lonesome losers' tune,
That's the one I like the best
And he closed his eyes, and slipped away
What we got is the Dying Cub Fan's Last Request
And here it is

Do they still play the blues in Chicago
When baseball season rolls around
When the snow melts away,
Do the Cubbies still play
In their ivy covered burial ground
When I was a boy they were my pride and joy
But now they only bring fatigue
To the home of the brave
The land of the free
And the doormat of the National League.

- Steve Goodman

I love Steve Goodman -- a brilliant musician who was in Hillary Rodham Clinton's graduating class. He wrote "City of New Orleans" (one of the greatest train songs ever) as well as many other wonderful, funny, and touching songs. And God help him, he was a Cubs fan.

He died young of leukemia. He is missed.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Bless Us, Babe, For We Have Sinned

I'm not sure putting an 85-year curse on one's former team counts as a miracle in canon law, but it's clear that the Bambino is a baseball saint.

Baseball Fans Turn to Babe Ruth for Intervention

By Aleksandrs Rozens

HAWTHORNE, N.Y., (Reuters) - When all else fails, try prayer.

Fans of the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox -- fierce rivals locked in a tense playoff series that turned violent in Game 3 on Saturday -- are heading to the grave of baseball great Babe Ruth to seek divine intervention for "The Curse of the Bambino."

Boston has not won a World Series (news - web sites) since selling Ruth -- "the Bambino" -- to the Yankees. The team, which won its last championship in 1918, sold Ruth two years later.

The Yankees have since dominated the sport, and their stadium is known as "the House That Ruth Built."

Yankees fan Vincent Serratore of the Bronx went over the weekend to leave a cigar at the stogie-loving Ruth's grave at the Cemetery of the Gate of Heaven about 30 miles north of New York.

"The curse lives," Serratore said, expressing the deep superstition that is a characteristic of many baseball fans. "I don't care what anybody says."

Piled on the gravesite were flowers, candy, an apple, baseballs, Yankee caps, American flags, rosary beads, baseball ticket stubs and a framed poster of the baseball great, who held the career home run-hitting record for much of the 20th century.

Cemetery staff says traffic to the site has been steady in recent days. From a Red Sox fan was a written note, pleading with Ruth to lift the curse.

"Go Sox. Just One, Thanks Babe," it read.

Monday, October 06, 2003

Some Thoughts on the Love of God

Real Live Preacher Man is a Texas minister who writes a blog on He's an extraordinary man, and his posts are always worth reading.

I think love is The Creator’s watermark, left imprinted on our hearts when we were still wet from the earth out of which we were made. . . .
The Creator says, “You might never call my name, or you might call me every name in the book. You may search for me all of your life, or you may never give me a second thought, but you WILL know how I felt on the day I made you.”
“You might deny my existence, but you will never be able to deny the mark of my palm on your soft hearts. Your hearts will rise up and call you blessed.”
“Your hearts will tell you who you are, and whose you are.”

You Can't Win If You Don't Vote

Californians, tomorrow is the big day. Get out and vote.

A friend of mine provided these nonpartisan links.

View your sample ballot, including polling place location, here.

Voting hours are from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Your employer must give you time off to vote if you don't have sufficient time outside of working hours. Learn more about voting here.

All of these links are non-partisan and present both proposing and opposing viewpoints. Please take a moment to educate yourself before you vote! That way you'll know you're doing the right thing.
Read about the recall election.

Read about the candidates for Governor. Remember that even if you vote "no recall," you still get to choose a candidate in case the recall does go through.

Read about Prop. 53.

Read about Prop. 54.

Exercise your rights. Don't let everyone else decide your future. Voting may well be the most important thing you do tomorrow.
The Phillies and the Cubs

Naturally, I’m rooting for the Cubs in the World Series. But there are serious differences between these classic hard-luck teams -- and their fans.

The Cubs play in one of the greatest ballparks ever: Wrigley Field. It’s an ivy-covered shrine to tradition. The Cubs were the last team to start having night games. (The first was scheduled on the euphonious 8/8/88; they must have rained out, because if I remember correctly they didn’t do so until the next day.) On occasion, a home run will leave the park and smash into one of the buildings across the street. I recall a French gentleman being considerably startled in the 1980s when this happened.

Since I was 12, the Phillies have been playing in the phenomenally ugly concrete-and-Astroturf Veterans Stadium. Yes, they won there, especially during the mid-1970s and the annus mirabilis 1980, but I for one won’t miss it. The plans for the new ballpark brought tears to my eyes. It’s going to have real grass and a lovely jewelbox geometry (very different from Veterans Stadium, which looked like a Stalinist monument to The People’s Toilet).

The Cubs’ record is one of early success followed by decades of doldrums. They did actually win the 1907 and 1908 World Series. They had legendary players, some of whom have entered the language: the brilliant double-play combination of Tinkers to Evers to Chance belonged to the Cubs. They went to the Series several more times in the teens, as well as in 1929 (they lost to the Philadelphia Athletics, who are now of course the Team from Oakland).

The Phillies . . . well, some experts consider my boys to constitute the most futile professional sports franchise ever. As one player said, “We’re not a Major League team, but we play a lot of them.” They were the last of the original teams to win the World Series -- 87 years after the club was formed. We still haven’t won our second. We’ve only gone to the Series five times in our long and mostly incredibly depressing history. We’re fabled for our collapse in September 1964 as well as for the 1950 Series in which the Yankees swept us. We once had an outfielder so clumsy he was known as Dr. Strangeglove.

The Cubs fans are loyal, knowledgeable, and perennially optimistic.

The Phillies fans are nicknamed the Boobirds and with good reason. Their despair and anger are expressed by booing anyone they don’t think is sweating to make the team win. That includes the spectacular Michael Jack Schmidt, one of the game’s greatest third basemen, whose elegant style didn’t suit the fans. Philadelphia, a town where sports matter, has been cursed with perennial losers in baseball, football, hockey, and basketball. Except in the magic year of 1980, when all the teams went to the championships -- a feat that has never been equaled by any other city. No wonder the fans are bitter, cynical, and outspoken.

So why do we stay? Why are we loyal to a bunch of losers? My husband asked me that once. (The ex is a lifetime Yankees fan -- that should have warned me.)

“You can’t expect me to cheer for a strange team just because they’re winning.”

They’re my boys. I have to follow them, curse at them, chew my nails over them, and cheer on their triumphs.

I’m rooting for the Cubs to win the Series this year, but only because my boys didn’t win the wild-card spot. (I’m really looking forward to seeing the Cubs trash the Marlins.) What I want, what I long for, is another winning season that ends in late October. A season that will see us as world champions again.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Less than a Month to Go!

Next month is call'd the NaNoWriMo.
He that outlives this month, and fills the page,
Will stand a tip-toe wherever writers meet,
And rouse to claim his fifty thousand words.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil bore his neighbours,
And say 'November is NaNoWriMo.'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say 'These wounds I had from typing through the night.'
Old men forget; yet who can forget,
The NaNoGeezers? or young Gallifreyan
Who on the final day wrote 19,000 words.
Familiar in his mouth as household words,
Lauren the Queen, Mortaine and Feralboy,
Recursive and Idunno, Karentoe, Junglemonkee,
Be in their coffee cups freshly remember'd,
This story shall the writer sell for cash,
And shall ne'er go by NaNovember
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be made fun of,
We few, we happy few, we band of writers;
For he to-day that swills caffeine with me
Shall be a writer; be he ne'er so vile,
This month shall fire his imagination:
And dilettantes who’d rather stay in bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their words cheap whiles any speaks
That wrote with us within Chris Baty's month.