Monday, January 25, 2010


Way back in the Dark Ages, I used to be a College Republican. Not only that, I was a Young Conservative. Of Texas. I spent more hours than I care to remember, actually going door-to-door to get out the vote for some of the most--well. Let's just say that my disgust with the conservative movement was an organic process, derived from direct personal experience of the hypocrisy, chauvinism, bigotry and overt, shameless greed of those who espoused it.

One of the salient characteristics of College Republicans was their knee-jerk submission to authority. I was one of the few true believers--manning the table on the West Mall, attending meetings, debating liberals and making friends with them. Most College Republicans were members of fraternities and sororities, who joined solely in order to boost their resumes. But when the order came down, they went to the polls and voted for the approved candidate, whether they knew jack about the issues or, overwhelmingly, not.

When I eventually defected to the Young Democrats and associated ilk, I found the opposite problem. They were constantly getting side-tracked by trivial issues and splitting into factions. In any group of ten, you'd find fifteen irreconcilable opinions. This may have provided infinite opportunities for personal growth and self-expression, but it was hell on getting things done.

Which brings me to the current moment.

People with financial and political power don't get their power by accident. They know how to seize it and they know how to keep it. Since power is their priority, they don't take their eye off the ball, and they don't give it up for petty concerns like a landslide popular vote, a ruined economy, forty million uninsured, skyrocketing medical bankruptcies or a destroyed city. They're only in it for themselves, and they don't care what happens to you.

Nevertheless, we and Obama have to reckon with them, because they've got 1) tons of money; 2) a huge propaganda machine; 3) the SCOTUS tilting the balance in their favor. Acting as if they'll just go away because they lost an election is naive and foolish.

Progressives, quit your bitching. Quit whining about how Obama has betrayed you, how he didn't fix the economy in 30 seconds, how 60% of the population wants a public option, how this healthcare bill sucks and we should just junk it and start over. What are you, twelve? Did you really think that the Presidency was a magic wand that Obama could wave and recreate the system? Did you think that the stupid, the greedy, the spiteful, the easily manipulated and the sociopathic power-mongers would just go away?

Look, this isn't a joke. This recession isn't going away any time soon, and by the time it does, our lives will be radically different. We have the choice to come together and rebuild our nation into something approaching a decent place to live, or we can keep crying for the moon while the forces of evil quietly suck us dry, separately and alone. There is no place for ego, grandstanding or apathy in this crisis. If the country goes down, we all go with it.

The healthcare bill in Congress isn't perfect, but it makes a start at stopping the most egregious abuses of the current system, while putting pilot programs in place to start improving it, slowly. That's huge. Get on the horn to your representatives and threaten them with disembowelment if they don't pass it.

The Diet-Free Life

My new job, at The Balance Health Center in Philadelphia, has invited me to do a series of workshops. I'm planning for a weight loss through wellness seminar, tentatively entitled 'The Diet-Free Life." Since I can never be content with a few words when several hundred thousand will do, I have started a Diet-Free Life blog, complete with Facebook fan page.

Most of my friends don't need to read such things, of course, but some of you might get a kick out of watching me trying to write in a pithy, concise manner.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Empty Houses

Like so many others, this recession hit us really hard. Both Joe and I are self-employed, so when the work dried up, we didn't even have unemployment benefits to tide us over. Recently the unthinkable became our best option--we sublet our Brooklyn apartment and moved in with extended family.

And do you know what? It's kind of fun. Olivia's G-ma is great to live with and has plenty of space to share. Aunts and uncles and cousins drop by, bring breakfast, loan us their baby furniture, recommend yoga studios. Joe fixes their electrical wiring, I share recipes. There's always someone to talk to.

All around the country, people are losing their houses--their big, big, empty houses. They're filling dumpsters with the stuff they bought to fill those houses up. I wonder how many of them bought houses to fulfill some vague dream of 'home,' derived from movies and children's books, full of laughter and games and roaring fireplaces? And I wonder how many people rattle around in them, wondering when the fun is going to start?

I think too many Americans have used their wealth to isolate themselves. They put up gates around their communities, shop online, live in suburbs and drive alone in SUVs built for eight. The more money you have, the more you don't have to interact with anyone you don't want to deal with. And ultimately, even your friends are too busy and far away to visit.

A number of years ago, I leased out my house, put my stuff in storage and floated around the world for a few years. I got good at being a houseguest. I kept my possessions to a minimum, cooked for people, listened, gave massages, and moved on when it was time to go. Since I am relatively introverted and like to control my own space, this was a challenge. But I was fine, my friends were happy to have me, and sorry to see me go. (They're still my friends, so I'm pretty sure they were telling the truth.)

This recession was a long time in the making, and our culture as a whole has a lot of hard lessons to learn. One of those lessons might be that relationships take more effort than possessions, but they give you more in return.

Personal Update

Mandala calendars have sold out! Thanks to all you lovely people who made my first commercial venture a success. If you sent in an order and have not received yours, please let me know ASAP--all orders were shipped.

Our family is living in Philadelphia for the time being. The NYC economy just wasn't working for us. (We weren't working for it, either.) We may be back in a few months, but we don't know. Meanwhile we can be contacted at the same phone numbers, email addresses etc.