I was part of a movement of "dinosaur moms" when I lived in Maryland (Astrodon Johnstoni is the Maryland state dinosaur.) Which is nothing more than this -- dinosaur moms delight in the half-feral nature of the beasties they parent, even as they whisper Shakespeare and Kierkegaard in their ears at night.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Laveen Wishlist

A favorite pastime in Laveen whenever ground is broken on a new shopping complex is to speculate on what is coming. The point of this exercise is not that it's realistic. I mean, usually this is knowable information. It would be breaking the rules of the game to say, Oh, I know exactly what's going in there. It's an auto parts store, a chiropractor, a nail salon, and an insurance agent. It's an exercise in comparing visions of where the community is going.

The trick of this game is not to be so practical as to remind us that we live in a struggling community. I mean, what we need, really need, is a medical clinic if not full-on hospital and all-night pharmacy. What we need is a police sub-station. But aiming too high would also be a faux pas, because, well because that would also remind us that we live in a struggling community. I mean, we're not getting a wine bar. we're not getting an antique shop.

It's not that we're so very remote. There's a big box park about 12 miles to the west and an outlet mall about 12 miles to the east. The problem with those is that they are far enough away to qualify as destination shopping. I mean, you have to really set out to procure that particular item. Like, as opposed to ordering it from amazon. It's not like, oh, let's have lunch over at that place and then poke our heads in the card store and maybe get the kids a cookie at the bakery.

First on my list and Belle-mere's is a Hallmark store. A Hallmark store with a little post office in the back, because our real PO insists that it is rural, when of course it is not. Really, Hallmark, are you listening? There is money to be made here.

Belle-mere also votes for a fresh produce place. I mean, there's the Tesco, and a little fruit stand about five miles down. I wonder if we couldn't pull off a farmer's market.

First on my beloved spouse's list is an electronics store. There's a Fry's Electronics 12 miles away in one direction and a Best Buy 12 miles in the other and not so much as a Radio Shack in between.

Jones's number one is a comic book store, like Atomic Comics. Girl would probably second that if it were also a regular book store -- new or used. When spouse and I lived in Iowa City, many evenings out began or ended with a reading at the charming Prairie Lights. When we lived in Columbia, the kids and I used to wile away the hours at Daedalus outlet. No events, but bountiful and warehouse-y.

In Phoenix area, we are tremendously fortunate to have Changing Hands in Tempe. It's a world class bookstore with a full calendar of readings and other events. Even if we had a serviceable bookstore by us, we'd still make a point of going there, but it is even more of a pilgrimage because there is not so much as a Waldenbooks nearby.

I wish there were a breakfast place. Starbuck's is serviceable as a gathering place, but I yearn for some good bagels and even a bakery. I grab a dozen every time I pass Einstein Bros., but alas, I am usually on my way somewhere and have to make arrangements re: the cream cheese.

That's ok, but I feel that my pastry problem is more intractable. I do not think that the good people of Arizona know from pastry. Mexican food has its merits, but the pastry is these dry, heavy, sweetbreads. Yet, there is no European alternative -- no Au Bon Pain, no La Madeleine's, no Vie de France, no Le Baguette. How can this be?

I wish we had a proper deli, like Jason's would be nice. And a proper Italian place, like Babbo's. The list could go on and on. It's a fun game we play while we're waiting in line at the Carl's Jr., hoping that developers see in this community what we see.

Columbia = Middle Earth

Thanks to the writer's strike, I recently happened on the documentary "Darkon", which chronicles the lives and game-lives of the participants in The Darkon Wargaming Club. This club started in Balto-Wash when I was in high school. I was involved with the faerie realm during that time. At least, to the extent that I was a RenFest carnie. The Festival was held in Columbia's Symphony Woods back then. It was like a pilgrimage for the D & D gamers, girls with closets full of bodices, and other assorted artsies who would assemble there.

Back in the day, I went to a Con or two, and a few role-playing games, though none of the foam fighting variety. I'd heard tell of Dagorhir and I guess Dagorhir begat Emarthenguarth. I knew of them. And I guess Emarthenguarth begat Darkon. So I watched intently, thinking I might recognize someone. I didn't, but the movie did immediately transport me to that time in my life and those people.

The movie's been accused of exploiting its subjects. It's true that it's hard to watch, when real-world friendships start to unravel over game alliances, or when it seems that some of the gamers have more important life issues to tend to than the game. But, and now maybe this is my sick sensibility, I came away feeling nostalgic. Watching "Darkon," like watching "Hairspray" (the real one, with the incomparable Divine in the mom role), makes me proud to come from such weird and wonderful people.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Jefferson's as Epic Saga

For that brief moment in there when the nation was having the hard discussion about race, I renewed my yearning for the Black epic saga. I have a pitch to make -- "The Jefferson's" re-imagined as period drama with Will and Jada Pinket-Smith as George and Weezy. The Jimmy Smits vehicle "Cane" is a good model. It has everything. Smits plays a Cuban refugee, so there's a little history lesson in every episode, about Castro, Pedro Pan, etc. but it's painless b/c it's woven into the story. Likewise, 70's Black New York could give us lessons on Black enterprise in racially isolated communities. Smits has made good, so the plot is generally driven by ghosts from the past and struggles with exactly how much solidarity he owes his unwashed fellow Cubans and their old-school power rings. The dynamic is essentially the same in 70's Black New York. The Duque family in Cane has entertainment holdings, so it is a natch to have a new Latin star on every week. Likewise, The Jefferson's could have today's hip hop artists on as "Soul" stars, perhaps doing advertising spots for George's laundromat empire.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Righteous Mom # 2 -- Chicha

Another in the "Don't mess with a brooding mother" strain. She is Pacha's constant, affectionate, compulsive wife, mother of his two kids, keeper of his idyllic moutain home. But even with number three on the way, she manages to give the usurping empress what for. You go girl!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Righteous Moms in Kids' Movies

In the run-up to Mother's Day, I am creating my dream line-up of kid or kid-friendly movies (made-for-tv ok) where the moms are not dead (e.g., "Hannah Montana", "Jump In," "Little Mermaid", "The Rescuers"), otherwise absent, (e.g. "Chronicles of Narnia,") self-absorbed/ overwhelmed to the point of incompetence (e.g. "Zach and Cody," "The Spiderwick Chronicles") or horrid, (e.g. animated "Cinderella", Brandi "Cinderella"). Step-moms and grandmas will be considered case-by-case. Non-human moms ok. Movies must be watchable. By grown-ups. Extra credit if mom is married to dad.

Seriously, I can only think of one -- Molly Weasley from "Harry Potter." She scrimps, she putters, she worries, she scolds. But when necessary, she shows that she is not just the washerwoman to the resistance, she is its conscience and its kick-*ss warrior. A big "You go girl" to Molly Weasley, and to J.K. Rowling, who knows a little something about parenting in harsh circumstances, for writing her.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Daily "coffee bean"

Daily affirmation from my stepmother:
Leadership experts have made a discovery about the relationship between GROWTH AND LEADERSHIP. Leaders have the capacity to develop and improve their skills through feedback. This capacity is what distinguishes leaders from followers. If you take leadership in this vain, then all of us are leaders if we have the courage to learn from our mistakes. All too often, when our mistakes are pointed out to us, we become:
angry; and
passive aggressive.
The characteristics defined above are the characteristics of winners or leaders. Each day you will have the OPPORTUNITY to learn from a mistake. Embrace the lesson and you will find that your life will take on a different trajectory—a trajectory toward SUCCESS! Have the COURAGE AND CAPACITY to learn from your mistakes today!


One unexpected consequence of this OWL curriculum that Girl is working, is that she has come away determined to dam up the floodgates of her oncoming puberty. The whole business of what lies ahead must seem messy and unseemly and not worth the trouble, from where she sits. She is about the age of Anne Rice's vampire girl and it constantly puts me in mind of the tragedy of that character, forever frozen at that stage of development. She allows as how she might want a little more privacy at this age, but she is adamant that that is all the privileges of growing up she will avail herself of, for now, thanks anyway.

How weird and perverse that I am the one watching the pot, watching for the bubbles, thinking I might add a pinch of salt. What's the name of that one boy in your class that you said was hilarious?

I am channelling Erma Bombeck, which is hip nowadays, haven't you heard? We worry that our kids are developing too fast and we worry that they aren't developing fast enough. Yeah, howzbout I leave that pot alone?

Monday, April 07, 2008

MLK's dubious legacy

So, today's nugget of wisdom from the back-back seat of the van, is "Thanks to Martin Luther King, $4,000 and I can be friends. Because he's Black and I'm White!"

Um... where to begin?

Sunday, April 06, 2008

You're so gay

Now it begins. Jones has this friend $4,000 who is very street. He tries in his own dorky way to keep up with him. Up until now, it's meant that he's taken to saying "ain't" a lot. But yesterday I overheard him taunting $4,000 saying "You're so gay." (Sigh) My own boy.

So, OK, teachable moment. But I was hoping that I would be able to lay these matters of sex and gender and whatnot out for him in some sort of coherent manner. I mean, the kid is still basically at the "Mommy swallowed a watermelon seed" level of birds and bees. I have busted out the graphs and charts on him, but I don't think it "took."

So, you mean to tell me that he's getting anything out of my "Gay is when a man wants to make a home with another man" lecture?