As you can see from the above image, Melania Trump knows how to dress for working in a garden.
Gardening is hard work, and Melania personifies the very meaning of hard work.
For example, back in October 2017, she talked about a “daunting task” that kept her “very busy.”
She was referring to creating her inaugural ball gown (right).
Then there was all Melania’s hard work in 2018, greasing the skids to get her parents permanent residency, green cards, and then citizenship. Amalija and Viktor Knavs, like Melania, are from Slovenia, and this happened right around the time Melania’s husband was railing against “chain migration,” in which adult American citizens can obtain residency for their relatives:
What it took to grease those skids I don’t know, but I’m betting it was hard work.
Then, more recently, there was that very hard work of positioning her hard hat just so, for the best photo ops of the White House’s new “Tennis Pavilion.” In her tweet you’ll see that she did get her hard had just so, while she thanked the talented team for their “hard work”:
Now we circle back to Melania and gardening, to this week, and more hard work for this hard-working woman:
Renovating the White House Rose Garden which, Melania noted, “The very act of planting a garden involves hard work…”
We’re really talking pedal to the metal.
The White House Rose Garden is located here:
And based on pictures like this:
It looks just fine to me.
So what the hell is all this noise about “renovation” and “renew” and “restore” and “redesign” and “refreshment,” aside from the obvious alliterative value?
Well, apparently Melania has managed to overlook the raging pandemic, and major economic and social upheaval, and focus on something of importance to absolutely no one:
According to this official White House statement:
The Rose Garden look Melania is going for will involve “improved infrastructure, better drainage, and a healthier environment for plantings that reduce the risk of leaf blight.”
Our Melania is busy thinking about leaf blight! Talk about hard work!
And it doesn’t stop there. Architectural Digest also noted “the addition of two new limestone walkways, electrical upgrades, a new drainage system, the replacement of existing crab apple trees with white rosebushes, and additional white and light pink roses.”
Whew! Just that last item alone – do you know how many varieties of light pink roses are out there?
I found an article that listed 25! Just think of the hard work it took for Melania to choose among them – these being just a few examples:
We’re talking really working up a sweat here. I do hope Melania was wearing her MAGA sweatband:
So, despite the naysayers…
I’m grateful for Melania’s renovating and renewing and restoring and redesigning and refreshment-ing (and her alliteration) for two reasons:
As I understand it, Melania’s hard work will take several weeks, so for a while we’ll be spared this insane person’s Rose Garden rants:
While we’re looking forward to the Rose Garden’s new occupant:
It’s likely that you’ve heard of Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821).
He’s been lionized, criticized, caricatured, adored, loathed, and written about for more than 200 years.
Allison Pataki’s The Queen’s Fortune is not about Napoleon, but about a woman who loved him and was loved by him, then betrayed by him, and who survived that heartbreak to go on to live an amazing life.
She was Desiree Clary, a French girl who meets Napoleone Buonoparte – as he spelled his name then – in 1794 when she’s 16. The French Revolution had ravaged the country, the government was in shambles, aristocrats were dying daily on the guillotine, and Buonoparte was ready to make his mark on France – and the world.
Before he does that, he makes his mark on Desiree, declaring his eternal love and promising they’ll marry.
But Buonoparte – now Bonaparte – did lead France in a series of military victories, rose through the ranks, was adored by millions of French people, and eventually became Emperor of the French.
In the meantime, Desiree falls in love again, this time with a man who – improbable but true – will make her his queen.
Desiree and the men who loved her: Napoleon Bonaparte (left) and…read The Queen’s Fortune to find out!
There’s a lot of history in The Queen’s Fortune because Desiree’s life was so entwined with Bonaparte’s and other leading figures of the day. But that history never overwhelms because we’re learning it from Desiree’s perspective, and it’s fascinating because she had a front row seat.
The book is fiction, so some of what Desiree thinks and says is the author’s creation, an opportunity to “imagine and explore the emotional truths located therein, to consider how the important events of her story might have felt,” as Pataki says in her Author’s Note. Pataki was committed to making Desiree “the leading lady of her own story,” and she succeeded.
The Queen’s Fortune was easy to read, enjoy and learn from, and it held my interest right to the end of Desiree’s life, at the almost-unheard-of age of 83.
The dynasty Desiree and her husband founded still rules their adoptive country.
Inspired by the book and just for fun, I decided to watch the 1954 movie Desiree, based on an earlier book about her, the 1951 best-seller Désirée by Annemarie Selinko.
Among the star-studded cast is…wait for it…Marlon Brando – as Bonaparte!
What’s left to say about Mary Trump and Too Much and Never Enough?
Since the July 14 release of her book she’s been seen and heard everywhere, giving print, TV, and every other possible kind of interview:
The book has been reviewed dozens of times, with comments including “mesmerizing,” “memorable,” “compelling” and “a deeply satisfying read.” A whopping 81% of Amazon reviewers have awarded it five stars, though there were a few bad reviews, probably from people who also refuse to wear face masks.
And though we know White House press secretary Kaylie McEnany didn’t read the book, she had her comments ready: “It’s a book of falsehoods, and that’s about it. It’s ridiculous, absurd allegations that has absolutely no bearing in truth.”
I expect Ms. McEnany meant to say “that have absolutely,” but considering she’s a Trump mouthpiece, perhaps not.
And speaking of Trump, whom we also know didn’t read Too Much because he doesn’t read – period – Trump eventually weighed in as well:
In an interview shortly after, Mary called the comment that she was a mess “an attack he hurls, predominantly, I think, about women. Honestly, I’m in very good company. I believe he’s said the same thing about Nancy Pelosi, and I’m fine with that.”
A fine response.
I not only read Too Much, I bought it – I was one of the preorders:
Which helped Mary’s book to appear here, on the August 2 New York Times best seller list:
It’s a fast read – only 211 pages – and I believe Mary, as both a Trump family member and a person with a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, is qualified to speak. She’s credible. She offers reasonable insights into not just what Trump is, but why he is what he is.
So there was nothing eye-opening for me in Too Much and Not Enough – Trump’s egregious defects have been on public view for 50+ years.
Nothing, that is, until almost at the end, on page 209, when Mary talked about Trump’s response to the pandemic, and how different this could have been:
“It would have been easy for Donald to be a hero. People who have hated and criticized him would have forgiven or overlooked his endless stream of appalling actions if he’d simply had somebody take the pandemic preparedness manual down from the shelf where it was put after the Obama administration gave it to him. If he’d alerted the appropriate agencies and state governments at the first evidence the virus was highly contagious, had extremely high mortality rates, and was not being contained. If he’d invoked the Defense Production Act of 1950 to begin production of PPE, ventilators, and other necessary equipment to prepare the country to deal with the worst-case scenario. If he’d allowed medical and scientific experts to give daily press conferences during which facts were presented clearly and honestly. If he’d ensured that there was a systematic, top-down approach and coordination among all of the necessary agencies. Most of those tasks would have required almost no effort on his part. All he would have had to do was make a couple of phone calls, give a speech or two, then delegate everything else. He might have been accused of being too cautious, but most of us would have been safe and many more of us would have survived…”
With these words, Mary Trump summed up Trump’s legacy – and wrote his epitaph:
I recently sent an envelope via the United States Postal Service (USPS) from San Diego to Detroit.
I was told it would take “two to five” days to reach its destination.
It took eight days to arrive.
Why does this matter?
It matters because we have an election in November.
And due to the pandemic, we’ll have record numbers of people voting by mail-in ballot.
And, according to this recent article:
“More than 18,500 Floridians’ ballots were not counted during the March presidential primary after many arrived by mail after the deadline.”
And not only late-returned ballots, said the article, but
“…large numbers of mail ballots have been rejected because they…were missing a postmark.”
You could mail your ballot in plenty of time, but USPS may take its time delivering it – like the envelope I mailed.
USPS could deliver your ballot on time, but neglect to postmark it.
If your ballot is late or missing a postmark, your vote may not be counted.
There are other reasons your ballot could be rejected – according to the article, “Mail ballots can be tossed for a range of reasons that vary from state to state.”
So let’s focus on a situation that is in our control.
And come October and November, the way we control at least part of what happens with our mail-in ballots is…
By not mailing them.
Mail ballot drop-off locations:
This is a partial list of 63 mail ballot drop-off locations in San Diego County for the March 2020 election, provided by the Registrar of Voters. In this instance, all the locations are libraries.
The document details the dates for ballot drop-offs, and extended hours on election day. Each library’s name is a link to its website, so it’s easy to check the hours of operation.
According to my local librarian, the March drop-off process at my library was managed by volunteers from the League of Women Voters. Ballots were kept secure in locked containers, and picked up by the Registrar of Voters.
Notice what’s missing?
Any USPS involvement for getting your ballot to the Registrar of Voters.
Notice what else is missing?
Your worries about your ballot being late. Of not being postmarked. Or your ballot ending up looking like this, as so many pieces of mail do:
And if you think that with USPS this doesn’t happen a lot – consider this:
How many other organizations do you know that have pre-printed plastic bags with “Our Sincere Apologies” all set up and ready to go to handle their screw-ups?
The November 2020 election is already fraught with problems that are out of our control. To name a few:
If you’re thinking of taking your mail-in ballot to your polling place, remember that due to the pandemic, there are fewer volunteers to work at polling places, meaning fewer polling places. Not all states permit ballot drop-off at polling places, and some states require it be your assigned precinct polling place.
Some states don’t provide postage-paid envelopes for returning mail-in ballots:
If you live in one of those states and you forget to apply postage, USPS says it will deliver your ballot anyway. But – USPS also said my piece of mail would arrive in “two to five days.”
Trump screaming “Voter fraud!” every time he hears “mail-in ballots.” This makes his Republican congressional toadies reluctant to provide the money to help states educate voters on the correct use of mail-in ballots, and prepare states for processing the expected massive amount of mail-ins.
And speaking of Trump and his toadies, the new head of USPS, Louis DeJoy – a North Carolina businessman and top Republican fundraiser – recently told employees to leave mail behind at distribution centers if it delayed letter carriers from their routes, according to this recent article:
The article referenced:
“…internal USPS documents obtained by the Washington Post and verified by the American Postal Workers Union and three people with knowledge of their contents, but who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid retribution.
“‘If the plants run late, they will keep the mail for the next day,’ according to a document titled, New PMG’s [Postmaster General’s] Expectations and Plan.’ Traditionally, postal workers are trained not to leave letters behind and to make multiple delivery trips to ensure timely distribution of letters and parcels.”
Concerns about Louis DeJoy are widespread, like in this July 19 article on NBCNews.com:
The article says, in part:
“Now, as millions of voters are relying on the Postal Service to support our elections during the coronavirus pandemic, Trump is politicizing another once-nonpartisan government agency. Having a political ally with ethical and competence questions like DeJoy lead the agency potentially puts November’s election at risk.
“Public records reveal that DeJoy donated more than $1.2 million to the Trump Victory Fund and millions more to the Republican Party.
“Public reports indicate that DeJoy is planning to eliminate overtime, which could cause delivery delays and hinder voting by mail.
“Installing a loyalist like DeJoy is another way Trump could undermine the agency and suppress voting in 2020.”
And in case you had any doubts about where ole Louie’s loyalty lies, take a look at this March 27 fundraiser invitation:
Minimum donation: $2,800. Throw in a VIP reception and a photo opportunity: $35,000.
With this Trump-loving DeJoy jerk in charge, who the hell knows what might happen to our mail-in ballots?
One final note: This post comes with this caveat:
On the list of libraries above, 63 libraries in San Diego County were open to receive mail-in ballots in March.
Due to the pandemic, as of today…
Many of those libraries are closed. With no reopening date in the foreseeable future.
So it’s up to us to educate ourselves about drop-off ballot locations.
But we don’t need to wait until November.
We can start checking our Registrar of Voters website today, and make it a regular practice. We can call them, we can email them, but however you choose to make contact – make contact. Keep making contact until that drop-off location list is available.
Then find your drop-off location, and make a plan for getting your mail-in ballot to your location in plenty of time:
Well before Election Day, November 3.
Let’s not let Trump, and Ole Louie, and USPS get in between us – and our vote:
Update: Trump and Republicans Ramp Up Attacks on Mail-In Ballots
Early yesterday morning Fox News carried this story:
The story was prompted by Trump tweeting this:
According to the Fox News story,
“The president and Republicans have been warning about possible voter fraud connected to mail-in voting for months, while Democrats and the media have often pointed to a lack of evidence that mail-in voting, and absentee voting, lead to voter fraud.
“The president and the GOP have railed against recent attempts by Democrats to increase voting by mail; the RNC and the Trump reelection campaign have doubled their legal budget this year to hit back at efforts by Democrats to overhaul voting laws in response to the pandemic.
“Democrats, pushing back against the claims by Trump and the GOP, say that cases of actual voter fraud are limited and claim that Republicans are trying to suppress voter turnout to improve their chances of winning elections.
“Meanwhile, Trump campaign national press secretary Hogan Gidley said Monday that the president has a right to be skeptical of election results, claiming Democrats have a ‘history of cheating.’”
A few hours later, this story appeared:
Trump had posted the same “CORRUPT ELECTION” message on Facebook.
It appears that – miraculously – somehow Mark Zuckerberg is starting to grow a spine. The article says, in part:
“Facebook on Tuesday followed through with a new policy of adding additional voting information to posts from politicians related to elections, appending a link to a post from President Trump:
“The post in question claims, baselessly, that mail-in voting will ‘lead to the most CORRUPT ELECTION in our Nation’s History!’ The hashtag #RIGGEDELECTION is also included.
“Facebook last week began attaching labels to posts by federal elected officials and candidates leading users to usa.gov/voting, which contains basic info about elections and voting.
“For posts, like the one by Trump, that mention mail-in voting, the link will take users to a section with state-by-state instructions on how to register to vote by mail.”
This time around, Twitter seemed to give Trump’s post a pass:
“A spokesperson for Twitter told The Hill that the same post that was labeled on Facebook does not violate any of Twitter’s policies and will not be labeled.
“Per the platform’s civic integrity policy, Twitter will not take action against ‘broad, non-specific statements.’”
Start contacting/checking your county’s Registrar of Voters office/website for mail-in ballot drop-off locations.
When it comes to politics and politicians, be skeptical, and…
Toady #1: Mr. President, we have just one pressing matter to discuss this morning, sir.
Trump: Speaking of pressing, did I impress everybody with my bean picture, or what? And see those thumbs up? That’ll get the damn Hispanic vote!
Toady #3: Sir, about this pressing matter…
Trump: Pressing? Oh, you mean my press conference yesterday? Was that not THE greatest press conference in the history of this country?
Toady #2: Actually, Mr. President, it’s about –
Trump: I didn’t answer one – not one – question from any of those fake news people. Not one! When that what’s-her-name reporter asked me about the Kung Flu death toll, and I said, “That’s a nasty question!” I showed those rotten, lying –
Toady #3: Mr. President, sir, this is a matter of some urgency. Congress needs to approve the funding while you’re still in office. Ah…that is to say…
Trump: WHILE I’M WHAT?
Toady #1: Sir, what he meant to say, sir, was that now, when your popularity is the highest ever since you’ve been in office. Sir.
Trump: Oh. Damn right! The only other president that even sorta comes close to my popularity is Abraham Lincoln. He was a Republican, you know? People say to me all the time, “I didn’t know Lincoln was a Republican.” And I tell ‘em –
Toady #2: Mr. President, our focus today is on your Presidential Library, sir.
Trump: My what?
Toady #2: Your Presidential Library, sir.
Trump: Library? What’s a library?
Toady #1: A library, sir, is generally defined as a building containing collections of books, important papers and other materials for people to read, borrow, or refer to.
Trump: So? I don’t waste my time reading, what’s that got to do with me?
Toady #3: Sir, it’s become a tradition since Hoover –
Trump: Hoover, yeah, the vacuum cleaner guy. He made a lot of money on those things.
Toady #2: No, sir. I’m referring to Herbert Hoover. He was the 31st president, from 1929 to1933, sir.
Trump: The vacuum guy became president? He musta had the cleanest White House ever!
Toady #1: Mr. President, beginning with Herbert Hoover, every president has a Presidential Library. There are 14 of them and – wait, let me open the PowerPoint I brought. Now – here’s a list of the 14 Presidential Libraries:
Trump: Obama’s on that list? I don’t wanna be on no stinkin’ list that Obama’s on! He wasn’t even born in this country!
Toady #1: Look, sir, here’s the George W. Bush Presidential Library…
Trump: Bush? Lotta good “bush” jokes back then. Ya know what I mean? Told a few myself! Did you hear the one about –
Toady #1: And here’s his father’s library…
Toady #1: And Bill Clinton’s…
Trump: Clinton! He’s a Democrat! I don’t wanna be on no stinking list with those Do-Nothing Democrats!
Toady #3: There are Presidential Libraries for both Republicans and Democrats, sir.
Trump: Waste of money. Complete waste of money. Probably the biggest waste of money in the history of our country.
Toady #2: On the contrary, sir, Presidential Libraries are very popular – hundreds of thousands of people visit them. Look at the attendance at Bush’s library…
Trump: Whoa! Look at that line! It goes way up!
Toady #1: Yes, sir!
Trump: Just think of all the money they’re making! Mine will be the most popular watch-a-callit of all of them, and I’ll make some serious money!
Toady #2: Actually, sir, the money raised goes into supporting the libraries and –
Trump: I gotta have me one of those. What’s it called again?
Toady #3: A Presidential Library, sir.
Trump: Yeah. Yeah, I like it! The Donald J. Trump Presidential Library. I can see it now!
This past Sunday on the CBS Evening News I watched a horrible story about how the pandemic is affecting a hospital in Texas.
Pandemic stories are horrible, but this one took a turn I hadn’t seen before:
Blatant exploitation of the sick, and a mind-numbing lack of sensitivity, both displayed by the reporter, Mireya Villarreal.
It quickly became clear that video of infected people in ICU beds fighting for their lives wasn’t enough of a story for Villarreal.
So she dressed in PPE – personal protective equipment:
To go into the ICU and get up close and personal with the patients and staff.
The PPE Villarreal used must, of course, be disposed of – PPE that could have been used by a hospital staff member.
PPE, of which there is a shortage:
She asked two hospital workers if they’re scared:
Wow! What an insightful question!
Why would they be scared?
Because they’re working with patients who have a highly infectious, incurable disease? Because they might get infected, and take the disease home to their families? Because they could die, as more than 700 U.S. health workers have done?
Apparently feeling that the “scared” question was working – and no doubt with visions of an Emmy Award for Outstanding Continuing Coverage of a News Story dancing in her pea brain – Villarreal then connected with this patient:
This woman is suffering from coronavirus and pneumonia. Her 35-year-old daughter died from COVID nearly two weeks ago.
The patient’s husband is also in the hospital, fighting the virus.
It appears that a section of Trump’s wall, constructed by Fisher Industries of North Dakota, is showing dangerous “signs of erosion” only months after being completed:
Not only showing signs of erosion, but “segments of Fisher’s steel structure could topple into the river if not fixed. “
The section cost $42 million, and I think we know who paid for this debacle.
And why is Fisher Industries’ wall section getting such widespread attention?
Trump, without hesitation, had the answer:
“It was only done to make me look bad”
That’s right, Donny.
Fisher Industries did a crappy job of building a small section of your wall only to make you look bad.
In fact, everything that goes wrong in this country was and is perpetrated by people whose actions are solely directed at the goal of making Poor Donny look bad.
I can think of a dozen situations – in fact, I have thought of them – where the actions of others were done with only one goal in mind:
To make Poor Donny look bad.
Let’s borrow that Politico headline, make a few adjustments, and I’ll show you what I mean:
Even though Roger Stone clearly was guilty of obstruction, making false statements, and witness tampering, the jury convicted him only to make Poor Donny look bad.
For sure. Fay was just hanging out around Bermuda, as tropical storms do, but then she thought, “I’ll cruise up the East Coast, to where Trump’s having that rally in New Hampshire on July 11. He’ll have to cancel, and that will make him look bad!”
That darn Supreme Court! Maybe we could get Roger Stone to tell them to just forget the Constitution, because when they rule against Trump, it makes him look bad.
Obviously. The Minneapolis police chose to go after George Floyd on May 25 knowing it would start a worldwide wave of protests, all for the purpose of making Trump look bad.
You weren’t thinking that closing businesses and telling people to stay home was a way to try to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, were you?
Do those 40 million+ plus people who’ve lost their jobs due to the pandemic really need that unemployment money? Nah. They’re only asking for it to make Poor Donny look bad.
Clearly, the people dying from COVID-19 must have some sort of grudge against Donny, and are doing this to make him look bad.
Think about it. Why else would the VA fail to provide even minimally adequate health care for our veterans, except to make Poor Donny look bad?
Yes, all those asylum seekers from El Salvador and elsewhere came here not to save their lives and give their children hope for a better future, but only to make Poor Donny look bad.
Somehow, somebody back in 2001 knew Trump would be in the White House one day, and decided to invade Afghanistan so that someday, mean people could use the war to make Poor Donny look bad.
Yup. The Access Hollywood producers just knew that on that day in that interview, Donny would talk about grabbing women by the pussy, so they kept that video rolling solely with the intent of making him look bad.
And finally, as the pandemic rages across our country, Trump is spending more time on the golf course than he does in briefings with Dr. Anthony Fauci (Fauci says he hasn’t briefed Trump in two months).
When those who unkindly suggested that perhaps the time he spends playing golf is excessive, naturally Poor Donny defended himself by saying that “Obama played much more and longer rounds” of golf – as he tweeted on July 12:
When someone call me “anal” I take it as a compliment.
Provided their definition is:
When it comes to reading, I’m precise: If an author has a trilogy of books, I want to read them in order: First book, second and then third.
Abbi Waxman has had three books published:
The Garden of Small Beginnings, May 2017 Other People’s Houses, April 2018 The Bookish Life of Nina Hill, July 2019
I recently heard about The Bookish Life of Nina Hill, read it, and enjoyed it very much. So much, that before I’d even finished it, I wanted to read her other two books.
I haven’t felt that way in a long time – as I say in my first review (below).
What I didn’t know was that while these three books aren’t promoted as a trilogy, there’s a definite sequence to them, and lots of character carryover from one book to another.
I realized this as I started reading Waxman’s first book – her second for me: The Garden of Small Beginnings. When I encountered a character named Rachel, I had to pause and think, “Is this the same Rachel from NinaHill?”
And in Other People’s Houses – “Is this the same Richard and it’s before he…”?
When characters carryover, if you read the books in order, you see those characters evolve. If you read the books out of order, some context and connection is lost.
All this to say, if you’re going to read Waxman’s books, read them in order.
Even if you’re not anal.
You’ll get a lot more pleasure from them – and in two of them, there’s much to be had.
And now, in the order I read them:
Meet Nina, the single; Lili, the widow; and Clare, the wife.
Book Review: The Bookish Life Of Nina Hill
Publication date: July 2019
Review, long version: Three roses out of four.
Review, short version:
In Abbi Waxman’s The Bookish Life of Nina Hill, a character says,
“Do you know the best feeling in the world? … It’s reading a book, loving every second of it, then turning to the front and discovering that the writer wrote fourteen zillion others.”
That was on page 329, near the end, and I was enjoying Nina so much that I hoped Waxman had other books as well.
She does – more about them later.
Waxman’s lead character and first-person narrator, Nina, is a complex, almost-thirty woman trying to lead an uncomplex life. She lives alone except for her cat, Phil; she works at a bookstore, which she loves; she’s a voracious reader, and in a book club; she’s in a weekly trivia group that enters competitions.
And she has a daily calendar to help keep organized, and give her some sense of control.
Control – a feeling that was lacking in her growing-up years.
Nina’s mother Candice is a lying, selfish bitch, who travels the world as a news photographer. When Nina asked at a very young age about her lack of a father, she said Nina was the result of a “very brief liaison” with a man but “wasn’t even sure of his name.”
At first Candice took Nina on trips with her, but when Nina turned two, Candice parked her with a nanny and left. Since then, their telephone contact is sporadic, at best.
Though more philosophical than bitter, Nina’s thoughts about her mother are, nonetheless, poignant:
Candice “would show up three or four time a year, bringing gifts and candy and smelling of airports.”
“Nina had smiled to hear her mother’s voice, the part of her she was most familiar with.”
While speaking to her mother, Nina thinks, “Not everyone finds it as easy [to forget a child] as you did.”
Candice had lied about not being sure of the name of Nina’s father, but an attorney has appeared, advising Nina that her father knows Nina’s name.
Or knew – her father is recently deceased, was extremely wealthy, and has a large, extended family, whom Nina will have to meet.
And not just meet, but deal with.
As Nina deals with that newly found family, with a newly found attractive guy on a rival trivia team, and with a life that’s getting increasingly more complex, I smiled, I cringed, I laughed – and I liked.
Here’s an example – perhaps edgier than some, but one of my favorites.
Nina’s meeting with her book club, and as with all good book clubs, the discussion has wandered far from the book.
In this case, the topic was the photos of his penis that a guy had sent to one of the members.
Another member observes, “Let’s be honest. The out-of-context penis is not an attractive item. It’s a naked mole rat wearing a beanie.”
Have you ever seen a mole rat? I hadn’t, so I googled it, and went from smiling to laughing.
Just add a beanie, and voila!
I said I’d get back to Waxman’s other books, and I’m doing so because it’s the first time in a long time that I went out and got another book by the same author before I’d finished the one I was reading.
I finished Nina and went straight to enjoying Waxman’s first, The Garden of Small Beginnings, then on to her second, Other People’s Houses.
So keep reading…
Book Review: The Garden of Small Beginnings
Publication date: 2017
Review, short version: Three roses out of four.
Review, long version:
In Abbi Waxman’s The Garden of Small Beginnings, a garden is pivotal.
But this most emphatically is not a gardening book.
It’s a story about transitions, and what better metaphor than turning barren dirt into thriving, healthy fruits and flowers and vegetables?
Our first-person narrator, Lili Girvan, may not describe her life as “barren,” but she’s far from thriving. Lili was widowed three years earlier when her husband Dan died in a car crash, leaving her with two young daughters to raise.
Lili works as a textbook illustrator, and early on we get a good example of her wry take on life as she ponders the whale penis illustration she’s been asked to change:
“Yes, it was important to be thorough, but how many vets were going to need to operate on a whale penis? It’s not like the last time you took your parakeet to the vet you couldn’t get into the waiting room on account of the impotent whale sitting nervously on several hard chairs.”
The image of the nervous, impotent whale in a doctor’s waiting room?
It’s Lili’s job that leads her to the garden – her manager Roberta has asked her to illustrate a series of books on vegetables for a big seed and flower company. To ensure Lili’s success, Roberta signed her up to take a gardening class and really get a feel for the farm-to-table process.
It’s a garden that leads Lili to a truly endearing and important cast of characters, her classmates.
And it’s the classmates who help Lili begin her transition from grieving widow to someone who can see…
While we can enjoy Lili’s humor, make no mistake – she’s deeply grieving the loss of her husband:
“Every breath I took was an insult, every smile I automatically returned in the drugstore was an affront, every morning I woke up alone was a vicious punch in the throat.”
“I still wish I had died instead of him.”
Lili is also dealing with a mess of a mother – alcoholic, bitter, sarcastic, neglectful, catty, “a professional narcissist,” and this: “As a child, her little daggers had cut deep, but now they just bounced of all my shiny scar tissue. Lucky me.”
And she’s dealing with the kind, tall, handsome class instructor. When Lili realizes she’s attracted to him, “It was horrible”
And she’s dealing with…
Well, there’s plenty more.
And it’s all good reading.
Book Review: Other People’s Houses
Publication date: 2018
Review, short version: One rose out four.
Review, long version:
Bottom line first:
If Other People’s Houses had been my first Abbi Waxman book, it would have been my last.
I didn’t like, or care about, the characters. I didn’t care about what happened to them.
I almost didn’t finish it.
Other People’s Houses is an ensemble book about four couples: Neighbors who are wives and husbands with kids and pets, and are in each other’s business way too much.
And there are so many of them – you know there are too many people in a story when page one lists a cast of 15(!) primary characters, and the next page has a map showing who lives where.
But Waxman had published her first novel, so perhaps it was time for her semi-autobiographical story. According to her website, Waxman is a wife, mother of three, hostage to about 15 assorted animals, and probably someone’s neighbor, so I’m sure many readers can relate.
I’m not one of them.
In the book, the neighbor wives and husbands and kids and pets have their crises large and small, and then the book ends.
My interest ended about half-way through.
OK, there are some funny moments. One of the wives, Frances, has taken on the daily torture of driving her and her neighbor’s kids – seven of the them, ages four to 14 – to three different schools in the morning and picking them up from the three schools in the afternoon. During the drive, says Frances, the kids “got so raucous that a tribe of howler monkeys would have fallen silent in awed appreciation.”
But there are a lot of – for me – boring moments, too. From the overload of the teen’s angst (really boring) to the four-year-old’s decision to grow up to be a toilet, and her temper tantrum when her little friends refuse to “poop in my mouth!”
I did finish Other People’s Houses, but will I read Waxman’s new (June 2020) book?
As you can see from the above picture, someone or something very scary at the Post Office took a big bite out of the DVD mailer you sent to me.
And then a USPS employee put a “Return to Sender” sticker on it:
The sticker has 14 options but none were checked – perhaps the box-checking USPS employee was off that day?
And then another USPS employee – instead of returning it to Netflix – delivered it to me.
I’m relatively new to Netflix. After we went into shelter-in-place, I went into denial, hoping it wouldn’t last long. But when it did, I wanted – needed – a reliable source for movies, so I turned to Netflix.
I didn’t have a reliable source for toilet paper or hand sanitizer or paper towels or toilet paper or bottled water or rubber gloves or napkins or face masks or toilet paper or canned goods or – did I mention toilet paper?
Netflix, I knew I could count on you.
Apparently, so did a lot of other people:
A lot of these millions are streaming your movies, but I haven’t yet made that technology leap. So while those folks are streaming, I’m getting regular deliveries of DVDs and everything was swell.
Until someone or something very scary at the post office took that bite.
I donned my rubber gloves – yes, I finally found a source for rubber gloves – and cautiously opened what was left of the mailer.
I peered inside…
The DVD appeared to be intact!
So I’ll watch and enjoy my movie.
Then comes the challenge of returning it.
When the mailer is intact, it’s easy – just slide the DVD back in, pull off the strip covering the adhesive, seal it and drop it in a mailbox.
I can’t seal it, so – staples? Frog Tape? Gorilla Glue?
Padded envelope? Box it up? Hire someone to deliver it in a briefcase handcuffed to their wrist?
However I send it back, I hope Netflix understands it wasn’t me, but rather someone or something very scary at the Post Office took that bite.
Toady #1: Mr. President, you told us this morning that your speech at Mount Rushmore this evening would include an announcement about a National Garden of American Heroes. We’ve been brainstorming since then, and devised a Fair and Equitable and Encompassing Statue Selection Strategy. I’d like to show it to you now:
Toady #2: We’ve made a list of 50 statue candidates and numbered each name. Each ball in this bingo cage has a corresponding number. We’ll give the balls a twirl, you’ll pick one and – voila! You’ll select 30 balls, and your National Garden of American Heroes is born.
Trump: We’re gonna show those new far-left fascists, running around trying to vandalize our history, desecrate our monuments, our beautiful monuments, tear down our statues…
Toady #3: Mr. President, would you like to make the first selection?
Trump: Hold on, there, just hold on. Before we do any twirling and selecting you better be sure – there are no damn Democrat presidents in there, right?
Toady #2: Not a single one, Mr. President.
Trump: OK, good. Good. And no frigging Mexicans. Or anybody from those whatchacallit countries, that triangle thing. They’re all rapists and drug dealers.
Toady #1: Ah, no sir, I mean, correct sir. There are no Latinos or Hispanics in the bingo cage.
Trump (laughing uproariously): But we keep ‘em in other cages, don’t we?
Toady #3: Gentlemen, shall we get the ball rolling, as it were?
Trump: And no Indians, right? OK, exuuuuuse me, gotta be politically correct here, no Native Americans?
Toady #2: Correct sir. And no Asian Americans, either.
Trump: Damn good thing, them coming here and spreading Kung Flu, don’t deserve to be in any garden of mine. I suppose we’re stuck with having women on the list, right?
Toady #1: Oh, yes sir, and the list includes, for example, number 11, Harriet Beecher Stowe.
Trump: Who the hell is she?
Toady #1: She’s a famous American author, sir. She wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
Trump: Famous? For writing a book about her uncle’s house?
Toady #2: And number 28. Dolley Madison, sir.
Trump: Now, there’s a name I know – the snack cake lady. Love her Chocolate Zingers!
Trump: OK, enough with the broads. You got Putin and Xi Jinping on the list, right?
Toady #3: Um…Mr. President, this is a National Garden of American Heroes?
Trump: Yeah, yeah, but I made sure in my Executive Oder that non-US citizens who – how’d they put it? Oh, yeah. Played “significant roles in American history also could be honored.” And that’s Putin and Xi.
Trump: ‘Cuz they’re gonna be presidents for life, and if they can do it, so can I. My Order says the garden opens by July 4, 2026, so I’ll just extend my second term a couple a years. Like, two. Maybe three. Or four.
Toady #1: Shall we get started, Mr. President?
Trump: I gotta know how tall these statues are gonna be.
Toady #2: At this time we’re estimating nine to 10 feet, sir.
Trump: OK. And how tall is my statue gonna be?
Toady #3: Ah…your statue, sir?
Trump: Of course, you moron! Who the hell do you think the damn garden is all about? Am I not the greatest American hero?
Trump: I was thinking 50 feet tall. Wait – how tall are those statues of Kim Jong Un?
Toady #1: Are you referring to the Grand Monument on Mansu Hill in North Korea, sir? Those are actually Kim’s ancestors, sir.
Trump: Whatever. How tall are they?
Toady#1: They’re, ah…they’re 66 feet tall, sir.
Trump: 66 feet? Then make mine 70 feet, and the other ones…I dunno, six feet? And bunch ‘em together so I’m what you look at. Got it?
Harry Truman was President from April 1945 to January 1953. Throughout his time in office, he had a sign on his desk that read, “The Buck Stops Here”:
In his farewell address to the American people given in January 1953, President Truman referred to this concept very specifically in asserting that, “The President – whoever he is – has to decide. He can’t pass the buck to anybody. No one else can do the deciding for him. That’s his job.”
That was the motto Truman lived by.
Donald Trump has occupied the White House since January 2016. He, too, has a sign on his desk, presented to him by one of his toadies an admirer:
In March 2020, in response to a reporter’s question about whether he takes responsibility for the lag in making coronavirus test kits available, Trump replied, “I don’t take responsibility at all.”
I like the GAO – the Government Accountability Office.
The GAO, according to its website:
“is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for Congress. Often called the ‘congressional watchdog,’ GAO examines how taxpayer dollars are spent and provides Congress and federal agencies with objective, reliable information to help the government save money and work more efficiently.”
And the good folks at the GAO were certainly providing “objective, reliable information” when they advised that Congress should “provide Treasury with access to the Social Security Administration’s full set of death records, and require that Treasury consistently use it.”
Unfortunately, the GAO provided this objective, reliable information just a tad too late.
“Tad too late” meaning they provided that information only after the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had sent coronavirus stimulus payments to almost 1.1 million dead people.
Totaling nearly $1.4 billion:
I can’t resist calling a grave error.
More than a million grave errors.
And this isn’t new news. Back in April the Washington Post reported,
“While the living wait for much-needed funds, the IRS has rushed out stimulus checks to the deceased. Payments have gone out to surviving spouses and to bank accounts that relatives kept open to settle a dead loved one’s estate.”
At the time, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that the heirs of the deceased who received stimulus money should give the funds back.
Sure thing, Steve! And like Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz, you “should give” yourself a brain:
How this SNAFU came about is a quintessential example of our government’s left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. According to the June 25 Washington Post article,
“The problem relates partly to the fact that, while the IRS has access to the Social Security Administration’s full set of death records, the Treasury Department and its Bureau of the Fiscal Service – which actually issue the payments – do not, the GAO said.”
Did I say “right hand”? The government’s left hand doesn’t even know there’s a right hand.
Here’s another part of the problem, says a story in USA Today:
“The IRS’s legal counsel determined that the agency did not have the legal authority to deny payments to people who filed a return for 2019, even if they were dead at the time of payment, the GAO said.”
So our government both knowinglyand unknowingly sent relief checks to dead people.
Thorough. They were, indeed, thorough.
In an attempt to rectify this mess, the IRS posted this helpful information on its website:
First, what is with the word “likely”? “Likely” means “such as well might happen or be true; probable.”
So the IRS is saying, “Taxpayers might not qualify or probably won’t qualify”? Why not just say, “If you’re one of the following, no money for you”?
And second, did the IRS then just sit back, now able to confidently point at the listing of “deceased individual” and say, “See? We told all those dead people they probably won’t qualify for a relief payment. We TOLD them! It’s not OUR fault if they didn’t listen!”
The nearly 400-page GAO report goes on to offer some other insights, including this:
“…the IRS does not have plans to take additional steps toward recouping the payments.”
And, says Forbes,
“It’s still not clear whether survivors who received the checks in error are legally required [to return them].”
So, nearly $1.4 billion of our tax dollars is out there, somewhere.
Some people will return the checks, while some will look at this as a windfall and say, “Thanks, dead Uncle Ed!”
I’ve been aware of Mount Rushmore since I was a kid.
I knew there were heads of presidents carved into it, but I’m not sure I could have named them.
I’ve never had any interest in seeing Mount Rushmore.
But now I am seeing it, in a very different way.
What prompted this feeling was this June 26 online article:
Normally, Fox News is not one of my go-to sources of information.
But the story was from the Associated Press, which I do consider a trusted source.
The news that Trump wants a “showy display” at Mount Rushmore on July 3 isn’t a surprise – “showy displays” are his métier.
Like last year’s $30 million+ July 4 Salute to America, which was actually Trump’s salute to himself.
The most memorable thing about that July 4 fiasco was Trump’s speech about the Revolutionary War, in which he said,
“Our army manned the air, it rammed the ramparts, it took over the airports, it did everything it had to do…”
It seems likely Trump will make equally intelligent, informed statements this July 3.
What prompted me to start seeing Mount Rushmore in a very different way was this statement, early in the article:
“‘Mount Rushmore is a symbol of white supremacy, of structural racism that’s still alive and well in society today,’ said Nick Tilsen, a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe and the president of a local activist organization called NDN Collective. ‘It’s an injustice to actively steal Indigenous people’s land and then carve the white faces of the conquerors who committed genocide.’”
Genocide? I thought.
He can’t be referring to Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt?
George Washington, the “Father of Our Country”?
Thomas Jefferson, the “Father of the Declaration of Independence”?
Abraham Lincoln, the “Great Emancipator”?
Theodore Roosevelt, the “Great White Chief”?
Yes, the very same four men.
We were taught they were heroes, but recent events in this country have some – including me – wondering.
“An active slaveholder for 56 years…”
“Of the 317 slaves at Mount Vernon in 1799, 123 individuals were owned by George Washington and were stipulated in Washington’s will to be freed upon his wife’s death. However, these conditions did not apply to all slaves at Mount Vernon.” (Source: MountVernon.org)
Thomas Jefferson, the “Father of the Declaration of Independence”:
“…acquired approximately 175 enslaved people through inheritance: about 40 from the estate of his father, Peter Jefferson, in 1764, and 135 from his father-in-law, John Wayles, in 1774.”
“Jefferson did buy and sell human beings. He purchased slaves occasionally, because of labor needs or to unite spouses. Despite his expressed ‘scruples’ against selling slaves except ‘for delinquency, or on their own request,’ he sold more than 110 in his lifetime, mainly for financial reasons.” (Source: Monticello.org)
Abraham Lincoln, the “Great Emancipator”:
“Lincoln first publicly advocated for colonization in 1852, and in 1854 said that his first instinct would be ‘to free all the slaves, and send them to Liberia’ (the African state founded by the American Colonization Society in 1821).
“Nearly a decade later, even as he edited the draft of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation in August of 1862, Lincoln hosted a delegation of freed Black men and women at the White House in the hopes of getting their support on a plan for colonization in Central America. Given the ‘differences’ between the two races and the hostile attitudes of white people towards Black people, Lincoln argued, it would be ‘better for us both, therefore, to be separated.’” (Source: History.com)
Theodore Roosevelt, the “Great White Chief”:
“‘I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indians are the dead Indians, but I believe nine out of every 10 are,’ Roosevelt said during a January 1886 speech in New York. ‘And I shouldn’t like to inquire too closely into the case of the tenth.’” (Source: AmericanMuseumofNaturalHistory.org)
And therein lie some of the dichotomies of our country.
Here are other excerpts from the Associated Press article:
“The four faces, carved into the mountain with dynamite and drills, are known as the ‘shrine to democracy.’”
“Tim Giago, a journalist who is a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe, said he doesn’t see four great American leaders when he looks at the monument, but instead four white men who either made racist remarks or initiated actions that removed Native Americans from their land.”
“The monument often starts conversations on the paradox of American democracy – that a republic that promoted the ideals of freedom, determination and innovation also enslaved people and drove others from their land”
So Trump will get his July 3 Salute to Self at Mount Rushmore, and once again we taxpayers will get screwed.
I have a lot of thinking do to.
And I have even less interest in seeing Mount Rushmore.