The Bean Blog (currently on hiatus)

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Thinking About

"The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America. The confidence, that we have always had as a people, is not simply some romantic dream or a proverb in a dusty book that we read just on the Fourth of July. It is the idea which founded our nation and has guided our development as a people. Confidence in the future has supported everything else... We’ve always believed in something called progress... We’ve always had a faith that the days of our children would be better than our own. Our people are losing that faith. For the first time in the history of our country, a majority of our people believe that the next five years will be worse than the past five years...

"We were sure that ours was a nation of the ballot, not the bullet, until the murders of John Kennedy and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. We were taught that our armies were always invincible and our causes were always just, only to suffer the agony of Vietnam. We respected the presidency as a place of honor, until the shock of Watergate... We believed that our Nation's resources were limitless until 1973 when we had to face a growing dependence on foreign oil...

"First of all, we must face the truth, and then we can change our course. We simply must have faith in each other, faith in our ability to govern ourselves, and faith in the future of this Nation. Restoring that faith and that confidence to America is now the most important task we face. It is a true challenge of this generation of Americans."

--Jimmy Carter, July 15, 1979

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Persuasive Argument for Fidelity

Earlier this month, a curious little story flitted across the sporting news world. I laughed a bit when I heard it and thought, "If anything will keep your partner faithful, that should do it." Then I forgot about it until it was brought up again on my favorite sports talk show, Pardon the Interruption. So I thought I'd go ahead and blog about it.

Apparently, the wife of New York Mets' pitcher Kris Benson has figured out how to keep her husband's jewels in her pocket. She told him that if she ever caught him cheating on her, she would have sex with everyone on his team. Not an empty threat, either, as I think that few would turn down an opportunity to bed this woman, recently named FHM's hottest wife. Anna Benson made her proclamation on Howard Stern's syndicated radio morning show. After announcing that she would screw everyone on his team, she went on to state that she'd also have sex with all the coaches, trainers, even the groundskeepers. That not enough? She made a pledge to follow the Mets around for a while and have sex with everybody from the opposing teams as well. That sounds like quite an undertaking, if you ask me, but I bet Kris Benson will think twice before he cheats on his wife.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Tainted Ring

Preface

My father was an alcoholic who beat my mother. I don't know how bad it was for two reasons: 1) she left him when I was about one year old, and 2) she doesn't like to talk about the unpleasant aspects of her past.

The Post

Years ago, and I can't remember exactly how it came up, but my mother showed me the engagement ring my father had given to her. It's not obstentatious. My father never had much money. But it's a nice diamond solitaire (1/3rd of a carat) set into a simple white gold band. My mother showed it to me because she said that she'd planned on giving it to me someday. She didn't exactly say, "Here, take it," but I think that if I had said, "Here, give it to me," she would have.

But I didn't say that. The ring made me feel a little odd. It seemed to be a symbol of bad times and bad things. Not something I would want to wear on my hand nor something I would like to place on someone else's.

I could try to see it as a symbol of the love they felt for each other once, the love that made me. Only, I wasn't made out of love. Around Christmas in 1974, she just gave him what he wanted because it was so much easier than arguing the point with him. She's sure of when she conceived me because she hadn't had sex with him for months leading up to that Christmastime favor, and she wouldn't have sex with him again for months to come...or maybe forever as far as I know. So I could never look at the ring and think, "I was made out of love."

But I guess I could look at it as a symbol of a love that once existed between my parents. She did love him at one point, and I assume that he loved her in his own fucked up way. So at best, the ring could be a cautionary tale. I could look down at it on my finger and think. "The road to hell is paved with good intentions," or maybe just, "Shit happens."

Even though my mother and I have not talked about the ring for a few years, it's come into my mind again because she talked to the Bread Winner this past weekend about having it reset for me. And I'm not sure what to make of it. Why has she held onto it for all these 29 years? Why wasn't it hocked ages ago when we were going through some lean times? And mostly, is it important to her that I have it? What does giving it to me mean to her?

I thought my mother's desire was an odd, unusual one until, as the Bread Winner and I were talking about my mother's ring, she revealed that her older sister's engagement ring is none other than her mother's engagement ring reset. My in-laws marital story isn't quite as bad (in my opinion), but it's hardly one to shout out as an example. Her father cheated on her mother--pretty regularly from what I can tell--and they split when the Bread Winner was three (and her older sister was six). Add into the mix some other unsavory actions on her father's part, and the fact that her older sister can't stand him, and I wonder what she thinks seeing that ring on her finger.

A diamond is forever. That seems to be the consensous. Only, what kind of forever?

Friday, December 10, 2004

Confession

Much like Usher, I too have a confession. I like the "Chris Gaines" album. For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, let me explain it to you...or refresh your memory. You might have heard of this curious little album by a recording super star.

For reasons unknown, country singer Garth Brooks decided to take on another persona, i.e. pop star Chris Gaines, and then proceeded to make up an entire history for Gaines, including a massively successful recording career up to that point. He even got VH1 to make a mockumentary Behind the Music about Chris Gaines' life. This was all supposed to lead up to a movie about Chris Gaines' life, called The Lamb. The movie was in the works, as evidenced by article on CNN.com, but it never happened because Chris Gaines' Greatest Hits failed horribly on the charts.

Time and time again, the famous try to branch away from what they are successful at. Musicians try to be actors. Actors try to become musicians. Professional atheletes try to be actors or musicians. With very few exceptions, they all fail. Garth Brooks didn't leave the music industry, but he still went away from his money-maker: country music.

His country music fans liked....well, country music. Perhaps they felt a bit betrayed by the man they had made into the most successful solo recording artist of all time. For whatever reason, they didn't by his pop album. And people who liked pop had no interest in seeing Garth Brooks as some bizarre made up character named Chris Gaines. Especially not a Garth Brooks (yes, that's him) made up to look like a Chris Gaines who looked like this:




And this:




And lord help us all, like this:




Even more bizarre to me than the fact that Brooks made up this person was that he made up parts of music history. To me, I can imagine putting a character into the real world and creating a biography for him. Perhaps because that is what novels and movies do: they put fake people into the "real" world, more or less. But Brooks took it a step further. One of the songs on the CD is called, "It Don't Matter to the Sun," and in the linear notes (where "Chris Gaines" explains why he "wrote" all of these songs), it is revealed that "It Don't Matter to the Sun" is supposed to be a "re-make of the Ramsey Sellers 1972 classic." Huh? I mean, what is the point of that? Why not just re-make a real 1972 classic? Or just include the song as one written by Gaines?

But despite all the strangeness and oddity of this album, I must confess that....I like it. I really, really like it. I bought it back in 1999 when it first came out. I don't know why. I'm not a Garth Brooks fan. I guess I was just drawn to the preposterousness of the Chris Gaines concept. I bought it for a lark. And then I fell in love with it.

I have a rather extensive music collection, and CDs cycle in and out of my rotation. I'm always buying music and listening to music, and I forget about some of the albums that I loved as new infatuations replace them. Because of this, every now and then, I take a look over my CD collection and pull out and oldie, but a goodie, and re-introduce it into my current listening mix. I did this a couple of weeks ago, but to my horror, the Chris Gaines CD was not in its jewel case. After looking for it for a while, I had to really question myself. Did I like it enough to buy it twice? This outrageous CD? I decided that I did, and I ordered it from amazon.com.

It arrived last week, and as I removed its plastic wrapping, I noticed that the cover seemed to be holographic. That was weird. My original CD cover was not that way. I turned the CD around in my hand, wondering at it, and that's when I saw it. Written on the spine were words to the effect of "Limited First Edition Holographic Cover." Oh, poor Garth/Chris. It's been five years, and amazon.com still has first edition copies....

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Greedy Little Girl

Yeah, you're right, the subject title of this post is referring to me. Everybody sing! It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere I go.... And that puts on thing in my mind: presents FOR ME!

I am asking for a lot of camera stuff that is geared towards my little wedding photography business. I was going to more or less leave it at that, which is reasonable considering that what I'm asking for adds up to about two grand (yikes!). And then yesterday, I saw it. A super cool jacket.

I have a thing about jackets. I don't know why. Some people like shoes or hats or whatever. I love jackets.

I saw this jacket a few months ago at the Gap. Yes, I am that lesbian. I won't deny it. Anyway, I saw it there, and it was so cool. Black leather. Chinese collar. Looked a little beaten up. Looked about 25 years old...exactly. It's part of the Gap's 1969 collection. Oh, I wanted it. But I didn't have $379 on me at the time, and even if I had, that's a lot for one item of clothing.

Then yesterday, I couldn't help myself, I went back to the Gap. I felt for sure that it wouldn't still be there. It had been months! Surely all those cool jackets were sold out! On top of that, it's not even on the Gap's website, so I thought it was probably left over from a season ago or something like that. So of course it wouldn't still be there!

But it was. And it was marked down to $249. Oh, I want it. I really, really want it.

I'm such a greedy little girl....

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

French, French, French, French, French

The French language and I have had a long and mostly difficult relationship. Like most people I know, I took Spanish in high school, and I continued with it when I went to a community college after high school. Then one summer a friend of mine got a job placing French university students with American families for the month of August. She got paid per student placed. Naturally, she hit up all of her friends and family members to host a French person. I was living in Delaware with my mother at the time, and she quickly agreed to take one...and then another right at the last minute. Neither one of us spoke a word of French, but that was okay because both of the girls--well, young women--spoke English. That was why they were coming to visit in the first place. They wanted to spend some time in an English speaking country.

One of the girls was wonderful, Emily. And the other...well, not so much. We invited both of them to come back the next summer and told them they didn't have to go through the program again. They could just buy plane tickets and save the cost of being part of the program. Emily took us up on our offer and returned the next summer. And then she returned the summer after that. And she offered time and time again for me to come and visit her in France.

All those years of Spanish. And now it was French that I needed to know! My community college (Delaware Technical & Community College) did not offer any language besides Spanish (and American Sign Language--if that counts as a "foreign" language), so if I wanted to learn French, that meant going to the Fucking University of Delaware. It cost more to take one class there than it did to take four classes at Del Tech. And the University was far, far away from where I lived in north Wilmington. But I asked for the money as a birthday present, and I schlepped all the way down to Newark for the classes five days a week.

At first it went okay. I did something that I did a lot at the time and have since learned not to do: I befriended the teacher. This always turns on me in the end, because I don't like authority, and since the teacher now knows me personally, they can see that, and they end up hating me. Such is my history. During the semester, I got into a bad car accident and my car was in the shop for about three weeks. I couldn't make the trip all the way down to Newark every day. By the time I got the car back, I'd missed 15 classes. Since you got a percentage point taken away from your final grade for each class you missed, and I was a B student (at that time), I was down to about a 70. Of course, missing three weeks of classes put me at a severe disadvantage. My car was ready right around the time of the mid-term. I knew I would fail it, and by failing the mid-term, I would effectively fail the class because I would not be able to recover those 15 missing percentage points. I tried to get an incomplete, but my teacher had decided to hate me by this time, and she wouldn't give me one. When I appealed to the dean of the romance languages department, the dean refused to give me the incomplete and then said something along the lines of, "I understand that you're a community college student. You know, some people just aren't cut out to go to a university." Hey bitch, I'm going to an ivy league university now and carrying a 3.87 GPA, so suck my dick, you whore!

But I digress.

By the time I went to visit Emily in France, years later, I didn't remember any of the few weeks of French I'd taken. And Emily's parents didn't speak a word of English. But it was okay. I liked it there, and I decided that I wanted to take French again and then go back, able to communicate better.

Right after I returned from France, I moved to Philadephia. The Community College of Philadelphia (much larger than Del Tech) did offer French, and I took four semesters of it there. And then I decided to finally get my bachelor's degree, so I applied to and was accepted at the University of Pennsylvania. Now, I should have taken the placement test right there and then. But I didn't. Some time went by, and I still didn't. I was steadily losing my French.

Around the time I was applying to Penn, Emily had applied to become an exchange student of sorts through her university in France. This program was for graduate students, and it allowed French graduate students to go to an American university to take classes and to teach elementary French. And of course American graduate students did the same in France (except they taught English, obviously). Emily wanted to go to a university in Boston or California, but she was placed.....at the University of Pennsylvania! She started teach elementary French, and she allowed me to audit her class without having to pay the auditors fee (which is actually the same as if you were taking the class for credit--what a rip-off!).

But since I was auditing, I didn't feel that compelled to go to all of the classes (again, five days a week). And my French never got good enough to place me out of Penn's language requirement. Now I am making a compromise: I'm going to only transfer 3 of my classes from CCP and take the last one at Penn. Next semester. And I've barely looked at French in well over a year. And I need to get up to speed. And I need to be working very hard so that come January 10, I won't die in French 140. And four days have gone by, and I haven't done a goddamn thing. Not good. Not good at all.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Missing 100

I've been looking forward to my 100th post. Seems many bloggers take a moment to commemorate the event. 100. A milestone. I was going to wax poetic about how I started blogging. I was going to talk about how my blog has found its voice...and maybe I have found my voice along the way, too. Lots of things. And I was getting close to it. My post counter on the blogger dashboard read 92.

Then I noticed, sort of offhand, that my post counter had read 92 for about a week. At least, that's how long I had noticed that it read 92. During a week, I post 3, 4, 5 entires. Shouldn't the counter read somewhere around 97? Then I started to think back. How long had it read 92? Could it have been for even longer than a week? And if it was stuck at 92 now, couldn't it have been stuck at some other number previously, and I just hadn't noticed?

And that's when I did it. I actually counted my posts. This one, anti-climatically, is number 105.

105. Well, it's a nice number, I guess. But it doesn't have the panache of 100! My muse is not speaking to me, not driving me to put up something reflective and commemorative for post 105. As it turns out, post 100 was Shoot the Messenger: a long, rambling account of my failures as a friend. Shit, does that have a deeper meaning? Is the (blog) world trying to tell me something? My centennial post topic: Oz is a loser and a bad friend! Wonderful.

Friday, December 03, 2004

One Foot in Stirrup, Into the Saddle Soon

I'm going back to school, boys and girls. In just about six weeks, I will be attending classes...again. I've written about my school woes once before, and now I can proudly say that, only a mere four months after that post, I've gotten off my ass and done something about my situation.

My major (probably all majors) has an end of the semester party, and the comparative literature party was this past Wednesday. I put on my party clothes (you know--sparkly vest, spandex pants, and a cowboy hat), and I headed back to campus. I needed to see a certain professor, although I wasn't sure if she would be there since she is no longer the chair of the undergrad department anymore. But alas, she was there.

She looked at me as I walked into the room and said, "So you're coming back." I said, "That's up to you, isn't it?" I said it in a nice, subservient way--not the bitchy, scarcastic way you might have expected. No, I approached humble, (cowboy) hat in hand. I was finally ready to deal with the consequences of my actions...or, er, inactions as they were.

But essentially, there are no consequences. She was nice and friendly, and we both pretended that the Argument from Spring 2003 had never happened. She says she will write the email that will allow me to take classes this spring. She also said that she would let me finish my honor's thesis over the summer and into next fall. Yippee skippy! Can't ask for anything more than that.

I met with my regular college advisor this morning, and I basically heard from him what I expected to hear. I'm taking two classes this spring: my last French class and some sociology class that will fill a requirement.

It's hard to fathom that I will finally be back in school next semester. Finally finishing up these last classes. I'm a student again. Or just about.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

The Best Laid Plans

The fine, up-standing police officers that control traffic at the Philadelphia International Airport do not allow lolly-gagging around the pick-up lane for arriving flights. Actually, they don't allow a full stop. You can slow your car down to about 3 miles per hour, and the person who needs to be picked-up must accurately throw their luggage into your car and then jump in themselves. If you attempt to fully stop your car, you will be chastized publicly by a police officer, blowing his whistle, pointing at you, jumping up and down, and waving his arms.

Because of this, if you find yourself driving to PHL, you'll see cars parked on the shoulder of the exit ramp leading to the airport. In the current cell phone age, people wait in their cars for the call that tells them that the person who needs picking-up is standing in the median, ready and waiting. If you do not do this, you will drive by the pick-up location, not see said person, and have to circle the entire airport. Not fun.

This Thanksgiving, the Bread Winner's mother came to town. Through the Bread Winner, I relayed all of this information. I told her to call me when she was standing on the curb and then I would show up minutes later and retrieve her. "Call when I get off the plane to let you know I've landed?" No, when you are standing on the curb. "Call when I get to baggage claim?" No, when you are standing on the curb. "Call when the baggage starts appearing at baggage claim?" No, when you are standing on the curb. I swear to you, it will take longer if I have to drive around the airport, and I will have to drive around the airport if you are not standing on the goddamn curb.

So what does she do? Why, she calls me when they get off the plane. This is my mother-in-law, and although I was tempted to say, "Weren't you listening when we went over this a few weeks ago? Call me when you're standing on the curb!" I bit my tongue and said, "Okay."

I found myself having to guess how long it would take her to walk from her gate to baggage claim (she ended up not checking baggage, but she still needed to go to baggage claim to leave from the doors that would place her in the pick-up location). I decided to give her five minutes. Then, with a feeling in my stomach that said, You'll soon be driving around the airport, I pulled off from the shoulder and followed the signs for Arriving Flights.

Naturally, she wasn't standing on the curb. Naturally, as I attempted to stop my car to wait for her, a police officer ran at me and with his eyes he accused me of committing a crime worse than mass murder. So off I went. As I was winding my way around the airport, she called again to tell me that she was, in fact, standing on the curb. I asked her to tell me what terminal she was at. She said she couldn't see any signs. I asked her to tell me what signs she could see. Then I told her to be sure to be standing on the median and not the curb next to the airport (the curb next to the airport is for buses and such, while the median is for car pick-up). She said, "There's no median." What do you mean, There's no median? "There's no median." Ah, thanks for the clarification. Only, there is a median in the pick-up area, so you see why I'm confused.

I heard her turn away from the phone and say to one of those aforementioned police officers, "The person who is trying to pick me up can't fine me." Oh, so now this is my fault?

There I hear the police officer say over the traffic noise, "You're on the wrong side of the airport. This is for departing flights, for drop off. You need to go to the baggage claim area and exit from that door. That's the pick up area."

Once I drove around, this time following the Departing Flights signs, I picked up my dear mother-in-law. "Oh," she said, "that's why all these people are being dropped off here."

Yes, indeed.