Thursday, September 28, 2006

"Legalizing tyranny in the United States"

When I began Chemical Billy, less than two years ago, I had an idea of being a political blogger. I soon realized, however, that I had neither the time, the contacts, nor the expertise to add anything new to the discussion. I decided instead to stay with the type of writing I know best, my own twisted view of my corner of the world. But this is a time when, as a citizen of this country, I feel it is necessary to climb onto my tiny soapbox and add my little voice to the chorus.

I've just returned from a road trip across the desert to the town where I grew up. Any trip to the desert is emotional for me. John Updike described the experience well, in reference to his own hometown: "I loved one loves one's own body and consciousness, because they are synonymous with being." I love the sun-blasted emptiness of the desert deeply; when I lived abroad, curled up with homesickness, it was the savage desert that I pined for, that for me represented America and all I love about it.

While I was gone, I didn't read the news. No internet connection, no newspaper, no television. So when I returned, full of love for this wide and ragged country - for slot machine jockeys and maternal waitresses, for transplanted Basques and long-lost relatives and old friends - I was shocked to see how completely we have betrayed ourselves, and so quietly, with barely a whimper in protest.

I can see I've buried the lede, but it's hard to know how to approach such a brazen abandonment of the ideals that make us Americans, of the very foundations of our democracy. I'm talking about the detainee bill that is virtually guaranteed to pass the senate today. I'll let Glenn Greenwald explain what is contained in this bill, with far more clarity than I can:

Unclaimed Territory - by Glenn Greenwald: The legalization of torture and permanent detention

And the Rude Pundit brings it down to essentials (the Rude Pundit is known for being, well, rude, but the only obscene word in this post is "evil"):

Regarding Evil and American Identity

Any parent of a wayward kid will tell you that it hurts most to see one you love doing wrong. It hurts me, right to my core, to see fear eating away our national morality. I love this country, all of it, and more than anything, I want it to do right. No idea of "safety" is worth trading our souls for.

And just how "safe" does this bill make us? It makes it legal for the president to decide that anyone, citizen or not, is an "enemy combatant," and can be held, without charge, forever. It will now be legal for the president to decide, say, that because of this post, I am a threat to the safety of Americans. He could then throw me in prison in Syria, and have me tortured, for the rest of my life. I would never get a trial. Sound extreme? Maybe it would never happen - I sure hope it doesn't. But there is nothing to keep such extreme things from happening now, except the good will and conscience of the president. It's all up to him, now.

I hope with all my heart that we can turn this around. I hope that we can vote in some people who will stand up for the America I love. I will not believe that it's too late for us, not yet.

I could go on and on, but it's all been said, and much better, by many others (though clearly, not enough). Back to my regularly scheduled programming, and pictures from the desert, soon.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Billy on SFist

Readers who have been with me awhile know about my long-running love affair with Muni. But, as in all relationships, we have our spats. And since I've adopted San Francisco as my home city, Muni service seems to have been on a long downhill spiral, eliminating and reducing routes, pink-slipping hundreds of drivers, not to mention municide. SFist has done a grand job of keeping editorial focus on the continuing problems, and several weeks of a bad commute finally prompted me to write to their Dear Mr. Ford column (as well as to Muni itself) under my meat world name. Imagine how tickled I was to see that SFist had published my letter while I was off in Utah-land. Thanks, SFist!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Billy on the road

Mr. Billy and I are off on a road trip to dance at my dad's wedding. I'll miss the city: the woman I pass on the way to work who stands out front of her dry cleaners, grimly hula hooping; an Indian woman in a lush gold sari, grooving to her iPod; the man on the bus with great loops of skin for earlobes, carefully cultivated; but Utah offers its own attractions.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

I fall in love too easily

I fall in love every day, sometimes twice.

Today it's two women at Trader Joe's. I first see them in the parking lot, talking with each other and gesturing so emphatically that I initially think they're speaking in sign language.

One is a skyscraper, the tallest woman I've ever seen. Dressed conservatively, in a below-the-knee skirt, black pumps and nylons. Long straight hair, parted in the middle. Legs like lampposts. Her companion (of course, of course) is tiny; maybe five feet tall. Messy red hair, fierce freckles, thrift-store chic.

Inside, they park their cart directly between me and the shelf I'm scrutinizing. I forgive them this minor transgression; I'm ready to forgive them almost anything. Skyscraper Girl's neck is ridiculously long, her head bobbing bewildered far above her shoulders; she looks just like Alice after a bottle coyly tempted her: "Drink me."

Her face is smooth, unlined, girlish. She may not even be done growing yet. She can look right over the top shelves to see what's in the next aisle, and the next.

I'm dizzy standing next to her.

In the checkout line, I peek through my eyelashes at their cart: two cartons of soy milk, soy ice cream, cheap champagne.

I picture them in front of the fireplace in their apartment, empty cartons of dairy-free treats and champagne glasses tumbled on the rug, Skyscraper Girl's head pillowed in Red's lap, like Alice dreaming of Wonderland.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

If I was a man

If I was a man, I'd walk big in my boots. I'd spit on the sidewalk, and sit with my legs wide apart on the bus.

If I was a man, I'd be secure in my opinions. Other men would nod sagely at what I said. I would be an expert on everything, and nobody would doubt me when I say it is clearly a problem with the timing belt.

If I was a man, I wouldn't own a mop.

If I was a man, I would smoke Marlboros and squint into the sunlight. I would wear the same style of jeans I'd worn twenty-five years ago, and leather boots that held the print of my bare foot.

If I was a man, I would drink beer every day.

If I was a man, nobody would tell me not to go there alone. I would know how to fight, and how to win. I would know the logic of meat and bone, and other men would make way for me on the street.

If I was a man, I would grow a beard, or not.

If I was a man and I wanted a job, I would walk onto a construction site and be given one. I would make buildings grow from bare earth, and reduce tall buildings to piles of rock. I would get dirt under my fingernails and callouses on my hands.

If I was a man, no stranger would presume to comment on my haircut or my outfit.

If I was a man, I would ogle women. I would stare at their hips, their breasts, their necks lifting from collars. I would imagine the feel of their hair on my lips. I would consider any one of them mine by right. In looking, I would possess them.

If I was a man, I would hold my cock proud in one hand. I would write my name in the snow.

If I was a man, my woman would bend to fit me. She would shave between her legs to please me. She would grow her hair long, and dress in my favorite color. And when I get bored, I would trade her in for a newer model.

If I was a man, I would take any suggestion to change as an affront to my essential self.

If I was a man, I would be in on the joke. I would never be expected to cook. I would be invited to poker games. I would not think about my looks. I would choose to wear a condom, or not. I would not be measured by the cleanliness of my house. I would have children I didn't know about. I would not have a skin-care regimen. I would be offered a cigar. I would be forgiven if I brought flowers. I would not write thank you notes. I would not wonder what to wear. I would be picked for the team.

If I was a man, I would walk big in my boots, and I would rule the world.