For some reason or other, dinner and iPod sharing and plenty of wine with Eric this evening leaves me thinking a number of things, foremost among them this: I miss the Boy more than I can say.

That statement goes against every bone, muscle, and cell in my body that tries to be strong, reasonable, and logical. No doubt I'll want to delete this post tomorrow when the muscat has worn off and the rational part of my brain has once again taken the reins. But for now, when my defenses are utterly down (to the point of being almost nonexistent), I can admit to being human, can say that I battle with these feelings of sighing emptiness, can admit that listening to "If Everything Fell Quiet" on the aforementioned iPod while standing in the middle of my kitchen last night made me sink into tears, so much did the song remind me of him (since it came from him in the first place), of us, of things at a better point.

But when will I learn? When will I understand the upshot of loss, what it's like to have your heart pulled out of your chest, julienned, and unceremoniously stuffed back in, so that it doesn't fit quite right, so that it strains against its boundaries, so that it aches for the parameters it once knew? When will my slow mind--and even slower heart--twig to the fact that us/we/nous is no more, however strong my flare-ups of longing and wishing might be?

For now, sadly, it's still often beyond me. I open my hands for things I can't grab, open my heart for things I can't truthfully feel, reach for a full comprehension I'm (evidently) not yet meant to have.

And all the while, I make the most heart-rending calculations: what I wouldn't give for some contact, though I don't know that it would do me any good. What I wouldn't give to cast back six months, back to when my worlds (both internal and external) seemed like different places altogether.


GWB Two Ways

Alexandra Pelosi's Journeys with George is a smart, funny, interesting look at the 2000 Bush campaign as seen from within GWB's traveling press pool, of which Pelosi was a part (as a correspondent for NBC). I know this has been said before, but one of the most brilliant and unnerving things about Pelosi's film, which she bills as a home movie of sorts, is that it makes Bush look charming, reasonable, and entirely human.

So it's jarring to consider Journeys with George side by side with Eyes Wide Open, the American Friends Service Committee's traveling exhibit of 1500 pairs of combat boots, a field of civilian shoes, and a wall of rememberance, all devoted to memorializing and raising awareness of the deaths resulting from the Iraq war.

The exhibit was in San Francisco last weekend, on the grounds between City Hall and the library (with the boots representing servicepeople from California who have been killed in Iraq lining the steps of City Hall itself), and it was both breathtaking and heartbreaking to behold. Granted, staging the exhibit in SF is pretty much preaching to the choir, but even here in Liberalville, USA, it managed to (sorry to poach the expression, but...) open some eyes.

It's one thing to read the death toll every day in the paper, or to hear NPR's endless dispatches from Iraq, but it's something else entirely to see 1500 pairs of empty boots (each with a name attached, and many stuffed with flowers, flags, photos, and letters from the deceased) and row after row of civilian shoes. The numbers become real, and the utter waste of this quagmire becomes even starker.

Asking how it is that the charming, joking, sometimes (though by no means always) even sympathetic man in front of Pelosi's lens could morph into the man who bears responsibility for the depressing parade of shoes making their way across the country isn't a rhetorical question. It's a question with a blatant and sad answer: whatever spark of humanism might have existed in the 2000 GWB was long extinguished by the time that man became 2001 GWB. Any hope the movie might've given us that the man who would become our next president was capable of compassion was long ago blown to bits.

Pelosi's film, then, becomes more than just a portrait of a man, a year, the experiences of a gaggle of reporters and photographers confined to small spaces together for months on end; it becomes a piece of history, a look at what Bush was like before power, greed, hard-heartedness, and a horrific group of advisors made him the war-mongering disaster he is today.


Vegas, baby

I went to Las Vegas last week to present my session on creating effective error messages at the WritersUA conference. Though I really did intend to check out some of the other sessions, I wound up going only to my own, the networking lunch, and the networking mixer thingy that took place the first evening.

This left me plenty of time to explore the city, which I did, both on my own and with my friend Marcus (a Vegas native) as my guide. LV can be described in any number of ways, including "totally overwhelming," "oddly compelling," and "human civilization in microcosm."

What can you say about a city where legions of Latino immigrants line the streets to hand out colored business cards offering STRIPPERS DIRECT TO YOUR HOTEL ROOM 24 HOURS A DAY, where every other person you pass on the sidewalk is openly carrying an alcoholic drink of some kind (more often than not in a gargantuan, whimsically-shaped container, such as an Eiffel Tower full of daiquiri), where both cigarette and cigar smoking are allowed pretty much everywhere?

What can you say about the fake rainforest, the fake Manhattan, the fake Paris, the fake Venice, the fake Caribbean, the fake ancient Rome, the fake New Orleans? They're utterly disturbing and utterly quaint at the same time. (I admit that strolling through "Paris" made me really want to go back to Paris--the real one, that is.)

And what can you say about the fact that, when you go out for drinks, as we did, first to a few local bars, then to the Westin, then to whatever run-down $5-ante casino on the strip we wound up at, you can stumble back to your hotel at 2 a.m. and swear for all the world that it's not a minute past midnight, as everyone still seems to be awake and everything still seems to be going full-swing? Only, I suppose, that it's like real life suspended.

But like anything suspended, it eventually comes back down. So when I left the city on Tuesday evening feeling like I'd been drinking fiberglass juice (so raw was my throat from inhaling endless smoke) and aching for a week of recovery, I was slightly bummed to be going but, truthfully, fairly happy to return to my quiet world in which other people's cigars don't figure and the only thing I generally see at 2 a.m. is the inside of my eyelids.

I'll go back, to be sure, but not until I've had the chance to detox my liver, clean out my lungs, and remind myself of what's real.