NOTES FROM THE DISTRICT
25 December 2005
Just a quick message to let you know I got home safe. Israeli airport security
held me for four hours,
confiscated only one item from my luggage (in fairness, it was a piece of a grenade),
and gave me nearly 20 minutes to rush to my departing plane.
I have spent a lovely Christmas in Oklahoma and am heading to New York / DC on December
30th. I have a few more stories to finish about Palestine but will try to post them on
my website and send links so as to minimize ex post facto inbox cloggage.
Thanks for hanging in there. It's been lovely having some good, thoughtful folks along
for the ride in spirit.
Our new cat is permanently on acid and is playing with the dining room table right now.
All my best for 2006.
P.S. For a holiday treat, read this out loud to a friend or loved one: "I'm Sofa King, we taught Ed."
My big brother always knows how to make the season bright.
January 30, 2006
Christmas with the family this year was awesome. I
hadn't seen anyone except my mom and step-dad in two
years, and nearly the whole extended fam got together,
four generations of aunts and uncles and cousins and
great-grandkids, nearly 30 people, and played football
and frisbee and soccer and bean bag toss all day on
our lawn in Stigler. This was after telling all our
armadillo and turkey hunting stories for the year over
a massive Christmas dinner. I also got to know my
best friend's fiancee, who is awesome. Their wedding
will be in July. And I nearly got attacked by a mad
momma cow at my grandparents' house. She thought I
was trying to assassinate her baby or something. I
just wanted to pet it.
New York was amazing as ever, and I spent time with
some great friends, including a college roommate who
lives in Brooklyn and a high school roommate who flew
in from Texas to visit me and another friend of hers.
And I had some sushi that was so good I really almost
passed out. I'm not kidding. Ask Liz.
I'm settling in nicely in DC now, living near Dupont
Circle, a twenty-minute walk from the Capitol
building, with two cool guys, one of them a friend
from my freshman dorm at college and the other a very
chill tall dude who did Peace Corps in Turkmenistan
and speaks Russian. My most exciting news of the week
was getting a futon from a friend of a friend to
replace the leaky air mattress I'd been sleeping and
shivering on up 'til then. It's just like heaven.
Other than that I've been connecting with old and new
friends, going out a bit too much, going to political
talks at bookstores, looking around at various job
opportunities, and showering constantly to wash off
the Dick Cheney vibe that saturates this place.
Ha ha, just kidding, actually the vibe here is quite
nice -- a lot of smart, eager young people who want to
make a difference. Most seem smart enough to have
figured out that Bush isn't doing any of them any
good, and I've heard that DC is about 90% Democrat.
The people closest to the regime are
the most turned off by it. And the Abramoff case has
done a lot to restore my faith in our system, which
seems to be so dangerously flagging under the
onslaught of the Bush Administration. (Attorney
General Gonzales's reason for not enforcing the law
against spying on Americans without a warrant? It's
too much of a pain in the ass. I'm not even kidding.)
It even appears that some Democrats have started to
grow something almost resembling a spine.
I watched an amazing address by Al Gore a couple of
weeks ago about the rampant, unprecedented, and
un-Constitutional abuse of Presidential power going on
these days, and there might even be an Alito
filibuster (hold onto your uteruses, it's going to be
a bumpy ride) despite the overwhelming atmosphere of
contented defeatism in the media. And then there's
the 2006 elections... and then maybe, just maybe, it's
payback time for Kenneth Starr. After all, killing
thousands of Americans due to lies, corruption, and
incompetence is a little bigger of a problem that a
stain on a blue dress... though, to be fair, not
nearly as titillating.
My birthday was on the 21st, and another friend from
my freshman dorm made a reservation at a lounge bar
called Ozio for a party. His housemate baked me a
lovely white cake with blue sparkles and stars, and we
invited about twenty people. It was really nice, kind
of a homecoming as well as birthday party, with a good
mix of old friends and new people. The drinks were
superb. It's rare for me to find a bar that makes
drinks better than I do. But my hat went off to their
I'll have my first big job interview next week. Wish
I got the 300
minute per month cell phone plan and can talk for free on
weekends, or so T-Mobile tells me. I chose T-Mobile
because Catherine Zeta-Jones is just so sexy. That
little grey sweater? Man, they had me right there.
But the way companies here require years-long
contracts, impose monthly minimums, allow you to
choose only between unimpressive services, and charge
you for RECEIVING calls and SMSes is infuriating. In
Palestine and Israel, calls were cheaper, SMSes cost
almost nothing, you paid as you went with no monthly
fees, and receiving calls and SMSes was completely
free, so you could mooch off your friends if your
credit ran out, and they could mooch off you. The
hierarchy of mooching based on who had more disposable
income was a proud and vital aspect of Palestinian
culture, a very nice way to spread the wealth a
little. I think it's that way in Europe as well.
I know, I know, we only get ten paid vacation days and
no free health care, either, and that's outrageous,
too. But charging me an entire nickel to receive
SMSes -- I don't even control who sends me SMSes! --
is just beyond the pale. I think so far that's been
the worst of the culture shock.
Oh yeah, and some have asked what I thought about the
Hamas win. The short answer is that I feel cautiously
optimistic. Which isn't saying much, considering that
the status quo was humiliating and unbearable.
And while I'm not a big fan of political Islam, I do
think it's fair for me to mention that I come from a
town where they erected a monument to the Ten
Commandments on our courthouse lawn in gleeful
violation of the Constitution, which itself is largely
based on the values of the Judeo-Christian tradition
with a heartening amount of secular humanism and
relativism thrown in.
And the Islam of, say, the Taliban or the Ayatollahs
bears about as much resemblance to the Quran as Bush
bears to Jesus Christ.
I'm not apologizing for anything, least of all the
repugnant repression of women in many societies at
home and abroad, or the killing of innocents by
anyone. And I'm a secular humanist, so I don't want
anyone's dogma running my life, thanks. I'm just
saying it's fair to note these things.
I'm working on a longer answer.