Month: April 2010

04.30.10 immigrant

As the UK election looms, anti-immigration fervor is all over the news.

I am an immigrant. I bring my skills, my taxable income, my genius husband and dazzling children. I want to work and contribute to a society that is fair and equitable. I want to make a home.

I have done this at great personal cost. My relatives are dying, and because I am applying for citizenship in the UK, I can’t go home for the funerals.

Remember that when you cast your ballot. The immigrant of your imagination? It is me.


4.28.2010 RIP

RIP Maryann – sister, wife, aunt, cousin, mother, grandmother, friend. We will miss you.


4.26.2010 waves

I have been inundated by ferocious waves of grief because I can’t be there for my grandmother, her mind gone now, all feuds and judgments erased.

She is no longer the person I knew, the authority I hated and adored in equal measure. I’m not trying to impress her, or rebel against the Lavender way; those concerns died with my grandfather. I still disagree with the choices they made, but I also understand the gift they gave me.

I grew up in opposition to them, and that made me.

But none of that matters any longer. All I can think of right now is how she held me and danced, in that house on the cliff over the bay, singing along to Shirley Temple songs on the record player.


4.24.2010 home

I just heard that my grandmother has been airlifted to Harborview with a broken neck. Nobody knows how the injury happened; it seems that she was alone in her room at the nursing home, but she can’t recall.

My mother also reports that her aunt has started hospice care.

I am frantic with anxiety, and there is absolutely nothing useful to do. I am left with the poor substitute of a symbol: bouquets of roses ordered in haste from a great distance.

Transcontinental tears make no difference whatsoever.


4.18.2010 accoutrements

Lacking a first class airline lounge to scrounge in, I was forced to BUY the new Tatler.

Oh, the horror… spending my own money on such accoutrements just feels obscene.

Arguably, reading the rag is in and of itself a dirty business, but hey! How else would I figure out which cosmetics are worth the price? It isn’t like I was born with the knowledge, or raised with the skills.

Fake it til you make it, kid.

My days are otherwise consumed with the question of where to live, and that is a conundrum no magazine can help with, no matter how glossy.

We’ll take a few points as given, namely: I will select a destination helpful to my career. The new city will be aesthetically pleasing, with adequate provision of coffee, movies, and esoteric cheese.

I could go back to Portland; I miss my friends, and I own the place currently known as the Harmelodic Haus. That life is a readymade – I can just walk right back in.

Seattle casts a spell, offering the landscape where I belong.

Or I could meander south, to San Francisco. Or east to Austin. New York is always a temptation.

The problem with the United States is the lack of a public infrastructure. Health care reform hasn’t halted the medical bankruptcies. The current administration has not significantly improved the lives of working class families, nor provided adequate care to the mentally ill people begging on street corners.

America: love it or leave it? I choose both.

Right now my inclination is to either remain in the UK (with a new address) or go to Germany. Therein lies the controversy, and for me, it is all about money. Remember: born in poverty, raised working class. I’m self-made and I pay my own way.

London is one of the most expensive cities in the world, no matter how you read the statistics. It is also hugely alluring, not least because I already have a life there – a literary agent, friends, daily routines, favorite shops, a language I am at least moderately acclimated to.

The only significant barrier to moving is the cost of housing. A comprehensive review of the market informs that all properties in Zones 1 to 3 are approximately the same cost, best stated as ‘breathtakingly expensive.’ Regardless of whether you rent or buy, reckon on a range that starts at 600 quid per bedroom (and that would be a bargain). The more you pay, the better the place, etc. Yet Zones 1 to 3 are by necessity the target destination, for reasons both practical and subtle.

Germany represents a significant savings on housing, for better quality overall. I could trundle over and buy a flat in Berlin tomorrow if I liked, and it would be a fantastic place in a central neighborhood. There are, however, two major problems with Germany:

1. Compulsory education. My son would be compelled by law to attend school. Entering the public German system at this age, with no knowledge of the language, is commonly considered a catastrophic mistake due to the way children are tracked in the system. The best alternative is private school (an option I find abhorrent on so many levels), and that would cost at least 15,000 euro – possibly as much as 25,000.

2. Health care. Proof of insurance is a legally mandated condition of residency. The cheapest I can get for myself is a minimum payment of 325 euro per month for the public plan, not including options I will need, like travel insurance. This is a threshold payment – actual premiums would be 17% of my total income. Oh, and since I don’t speak the language, it would be extremely difficult to access services, deal with bills, etc.

Whereas the UK offers free standardized health care, and school is free if you want to go (my kid doesn’t). So, stated in a completely conservative fashion, living in Germany would require earning an extra 30,000 euro each year, minimum, to cover basics like health care and education.

Oh – but that washes away the savings on housing, doesn’t it? How fascinating.

I would like to stop thinking about these things and just read the Tatler. Dreaming of a new life is far easier than leading one.


4.15.2010 sartorial

Who has tickets to the Rufus Wainwright opera? Me!

I know that the rest of the world has abandoned sartorial standards, but I actually care about what I wear. Every day, all the time, even when I look like a raggedy fool. But especially in the context of events one would have dressed up for in, oh, 1890.

Most of my clothes were sorted and packed for the upcoming mystery move, and I have no time to shop. Rummaging in the high shelves of the studio I finally found an adequate garment, but it hurts my neck!! Oh, how troubling. Whatever shall I wear? Hmm….


4.14.2010 busted

Back in Cambridge, I stopped to watch cute indie buskers playing a set in the city centre…. only to get busted by council staff in this Town of No Fun.

As I walked away a Hare Krishna tried to snag me with “Do you practice tai chi? You look so balanced.”

I resisted an urge to smack.

I haven’t been this annoyed by the town I live in since 1988.


4.10.2010 pleasure

We went to Kensington Gardens to ride a replica of Stephenson’s Rocket, then it was back to the flat to eat cinnamon jellybeans and watch Doctor Who.

I’ve always been a fan, lonely and mocked within the family infrastructure for this pleasure. But now my kid likes it, so I finally have a pal! We watch the new episode each week, and of course there is a massive archive on youtube.

Later I managed to get lost at the Barbican (this seems to be my natural state) then it was off to meet Paul Finlay & the Lucy’s Diary crew to watch Kid Carpet and Milk Kan at the 12 Bar Club.

Really good – and then the nightbus! Yummy….


4.8.2010 testament

My kid is doing a course at the BFI so I spent the day working in the Tate members room.

The view is amazing, the people annoying. I spent the morning brandishing a copy of the Daily Mail in front of my face to repel unwanted flirtatious attention from artistic bald men.

But the afternoon was worse – the cafe filled with posh women and their misbehaving children.

When I had kids in my entourage, I can assure you they were never allowed to scream and run about, climb on chairs, smear jam on strangers. That isn’t cute, it is obnoxious. Civilized behavior is an imperative in all age groups.

Though I was more comprehensively disgusted by the notion that this public institution serves as the playground of people who can afford to buy the stuff on the walls.

Note to development staff: if you want a shot at my donations, and even potentially my estate, you should work on creating and promoting programs that serve a public interest. Your wine evenings for members? Ick.

Oh, and I am perfectly serious. My last will and testament invests scholarships for disadvantaged youth. I just haven’t decided who gets to administer the money – my alma mater? My favorite nonprofit organization or museum? What a fun guessing game.

I should start a Take a Teen Mom to Tate program.


4.4.2010 spectacles

I went walking through Finsbury Park, and ended up on Hampstead Heath. London is such a mysterious city …. I am surprised every day I spend here.

In my wandering I encountered a Famous Rock Star, but only noticed because he was staring at me.

Maybe he liked my spectacles.


4.1.2010 unmentionables

I am in London and on a quest to sort out the question of unmentionables.

Prepared to pay any price I slogged from store to boutique, with no luck.

Thwarted by capitalism! In our global economy, the mediocre prevails. Even the most expensive shops all stock the same limited array of goods. In another era I would hire a seamstress, and at this point, the option makes a lot of sense.

How much of my time is devoted to these concerns?

How much do I spend on merchandise that does not suit my needs?

Oh, and an existential question: if cleavage is fashionable now, why are the relevant undergarments still so ugly?