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December 07, 2004


Welcome back! We missed you.

I had somehow not remembered that your partner is Kyrgyz. I have a long-standing, though not terribly well-informed, fascination with Kyrgyzstan. Do you have any idea what's going on there politically?

And I hope the roaches in FL were not as bug as the ones I saw in Alexandria (Egypt, not VA), who were easily 4" and looked as though they were planning to set up picnic tables in my hotel room. Yikes.

Welcome back. Florida's loss is our gain.

Random thoughts as I read your post:
- Have you read the Renault books on Alexander?
(on my list of all time favorites)
- I've never heard of the Kyrgyz
- I'm touched by the love, respect and affection that shows when you write about your partner.

Thanks hilzoy...I missed you guys too.

Elections are slated for February in Kyrgyzstan, and my partner, who reads the news there daily, is rather pessimistic about Akayev not rigging the whole thing to get someone from his family in there (of course, this will be the first real test of the country's democracy since the collapse of the USSR). I'm more optimistic, but he knows the place, so....

The Argus is a really good source for updates to the situation. And here's a handy summary from riting on the wall.

Have you read the Renault books on Alexander?

Read The Persian Boy and loved it (must give credit where it's due...wilfred gave it to me). Does she have others on AtG?

I've never heard of the Kyrgyz

Neither had I. Small central Asian country, part of former USSR. Totally land-locked, next to no natural resources. Heartbreakingly beautiful mountains and valleys.

For a sense of their culture, I'd recommend a book by their national literary giant Chingiz Aitmatov (read "The White Ship"...aka "The White Steamship"). He wrote this during the Soviet days, so there's plenty of disguised social criticism of the regime, but it also gives you an excellent sense of the Kyrgyz value system.

You were missed. I love this post.

I am certainly not a nomad. My husband isn't either, exactly, but he's biked across the country, backpacked in Alaska for a month, loves to travel to any destination. Whereas I get homesick, especially when I'm jetlagged, and I'm a wuss about camping--car camping only, as few walks at night as possible, ideally a campsite on an island so there is no possibility of a bear encounter.

I need to make such a contingency plan as well. I tend to compartmentalize my fears about such things: Boston is fine, they'll attack New York. The NY suburbs are fine, they'll attack the city. Park Slope is fine, they'll attack Manhattan. Uptown is fine, they'll attack downtown, where most of the boats are, or perhaps Times Square. During the alerts last summer I rode the subway without a second thought, except when the train pulled through Wall Street or Penn Station. But I will probably be living in a different city from my husband next year (career reasons, just one year), and that makes me worry 10x more.

The single best advice I have heard is to make a contingency plan for re-establishing contact if you are separated from love ones--a place for your family to meet up again if you have to be evacuated and fall out of touch. Phone trees and websites for getting in touch. Phone cards in case cell phones are down but regular phones are working. etc. etc.

Re leaving NYC - "It's about a 10-hour drive, but we've discussed what it would take to get there on foot as well."

Anyone who hasn't read _Little, Big_ by John Crowley should do so immediately.

Great advice Katherine. We have a meeting place, but hadn't thought about using websites or having phone alternatives...will add that to the list.

Re camping. I'm OK for three days, and then I really, really want a hot shower. I watch these survival shows (or that new series 'Lost') and then I think about folks like Lewis and Clark, and realize I am so remarkably spoiled in the way I live.

I have great faith in human resourcefulness (and my partner lived through the collapse of the USSR---and it hit Kyrgyzstan particularly hard---he's simply a marvel, so as long as I have him, I know we'll be fine), and I did the whole scouting thing as a boy (a religious version called the Royal Rangers), but still, I wonder just how long I could survive on the road without a corner deli on my own.

What an enjoyable post, Edward. Have you ever read "Down and Out in Paris and London" by Orwell?

Pardon the prying, Edward, but how were sales? ("None of your business" is an acceptable answer).

"Down and Out in Paris and London" by Orwell?

Yeah, I read it several years ago (bit fuzzy on it now though). In fact shortly before I moved to New York. Seeing the armies of homeless folks in NYC, I actually began to compile information for a book when I arrived here titled "Notes for When I'm Homeless" that including information on where to get the best day-old bread they throw out, where the best public restrooms where you could "bathe" were, etc. Then, the Clinton economy came along, Guiliani swept the homeless away, and it didn't seem as relevant...things are swinging back that way again though.

Pardon the prying, Edward, but how were sales?

F*&%ing Excellent. I'd never seen anything like it. We actually sold two pieces twice, there was such a buying frenzy. The one upside to Bush's tax plan is that the rich are feeling flush. And, finally, I've sold to some of the super collectors (they've been buzzing around but never bit before now). Many thanks for asking.

Lucky are we who have family members in Heartlandia. Unfortunately, my journey home takes no less than 15 hours.

I had hoped that my queasy thoughts about a possible need to escape was just a product of my own personal neurosis. but this post seems to say others are still thinking that way too. Being a resident of the greater DC metropolitan area I resisted such thinking immediately after 9/11 but then the nightly news on preparing for a dirty nuclear bomb detonation and the anthrax poisonings finally got to me.

I'm the organized one in the family. I have the tent, first aid kit, extra batteries, transistor radio and wet wipes packed and ready in the garage. I also have the assurance of my father, who's a member of the rural electric cooperative at home, that they are still able to produce their own electric power even if the national grid starts blowing fuses (thank god for good ol' dirty coal) and we have well water, not public water.

Am I taking this too far? I hope so.

How did you deal with the problem of selling something twice? I bet that was interesting!


You sound remarkably well prepared...might have to ask you to lead an open thread on what to do.


You offer the second collector a huge discount on a similar piece. It doesn't always work, but at least you apologize in a way that means something. Of course, selling something twice is a much nicer problem to have than not selling anything at all (which I've had happen at art fairs).

This is a great post, Edward. It does make me melancholy that folks need to plan escape routes, but having driven quite a bit on Manhatten and commuted via subway years ago, I understand the need to plan if something happens.

Bugs. When I get dissatisfied with my modest suburban digs I think back on the place in Manila I lived in for a while as a Peace Corps volunteer. Tiny room. Directly outside the door was a drain, from which in the middle of extremely humid nights would sometimes clatter hundreds of gigantic, dark-brown flying cockroaches to bang around the hallway like little robots. A fellow volunteer down the hall and I learned to make some entertainment out of this. Everyone wears plastic flipflops in the Philippines and if you smack a big roach just right on a hard surface, it makes a firecracker-like popping noise, and with the echo chamber of the hall and armed with a flipflop in each hand, we could make a great percussive racket for about an hour. Gross, huh? Not as gross as waking in the morning and finding one of the survivors poised on your half-eaten mango, antennae waggling.

And what about pigs? I stayed with a family in a barrio during training for 4 days, and they gave me the oily mattress in the master bedroom in their nipa hut -- right over the family pig pen. The family was, of course, kind, generous and hospitable but the pig pulled an all-nighter of snorting, snuffling, and various other eructations, so sleep was fitful at best, sweaty (like always) and I didn't know flies could be so active at night.

The next afternoon, the San Miguel beer truck pulled into town (big, shiny; the only sign of modern convenience in this particular barrio). The driver and his guy riding shot-gun were so impressed that an Ameri(cano) was in town that they stuck around for the party that night and contributed most of the beer in the truck. The next morning, the driver, his buddy, and hitchhiker me drunkenly poured ourselves into the cab of the truck, drove approximately 50 feet, made a late left-hand turn and drove right into a canal. The truck and all those empties in the back turned over on its side in, luckily, the one foot of water in the canal, and we emerged unhurt, grinning, and out of beer.

So, I had a great time and wouldn't change one thing about those experiences. But when I think maybe I want to burn my house down because I'm sick of it, I think about the pig and the roaches, and like Jimmy Stewart at the end of "It's a Wonderful Life". I kiss the loose piece on the banister every time I use the stairs. Or I throw it against the wall.

Welcome back, Edward.

Me, I am so not a nomad. I like to travel - I've been to Xi'an in China, I've hiked the Grand Canyon, I want someday to travel by train across the interior of Australia - but I like to come home.

I've gotten more paranoid since the election, and I think a lot of others have as well--my husband and in-laws used to laugh this off; no longer.

What are they doing about the grid? A whole lot of buildings in Manhattan need electricity for running water. Not to mention the city's decrepit water tunnels themselves.

Let me guess: we can't deal with it unless we're willing to drill in ANWR and subsidize coal and waive liability on MBTE and God knows what else they write into the next monstronsity of an energy bill, right?

Wonderful comments John! It's all so relative, I know. There are slums with streets of human waste running through them and diseases on every surface, there are war-torn areas where buying bread means dodging bullets, so my slight inconvenience in Miami is clearly nothing in comparison. My overall epiphany stemmed from realizing how much I have. How comfortable my home is.

I walk past homeless people all the time, and it occurred to me this morning that I must perform some serious mental disassociation to think that smiling or saying "hello" (as if they were also just on their way to work) was as normal as I try to tell myself it is. I've had homeless people sneer back at such niceties, and been offended, but I get it now. It's ludicrous in context. My tiny apartment is a palace.

Mary Renault wrote three books on Alexander:
1) Fire From Heaven, which is Alexander growing up (3rd person/omni) -- this made me fall in love with AtG
2)The Persian Boy, which you've read (1st person, Bagoas)
3) Funeral Games, (3rd person) which is what happens right afetr Alexander dies. I have this but it's taking me forever to read, because -- you know, he's dead. *sniffle*

Welcome back! You were greatly missed -- indeed, several commenteers expressed their wishes that you'd speedily return when I dipped my toe, again, into the gay marriage debate.

Thanks von.

I'll have to read Paul's piece later (other job making demands right now). Paul's always good, if somewhat, shall we say, nostalgic, in his writing.

Glad to see you're back as well...case going well?

Hmmm...no sooner do I agree with John Thullen that the comforts of home are relative (see his great comment re: bugs and pigs in the Phillipines) than the Associated Press reports that: Wild Pigs Terrorize Fla. Suburb

Welcome back, Edward. I'm glad at least the business part went well. Amazing how it takes leaving home to re-realize that there's no place like it. I think that's the real reason for vacations: so we can stop complaining about where we live the rest of the year.

Miami is so not Florida; it's more like a grafting of New York onto Cuba. I stay away at any and all costs. Sometimes, when I absolutely have to drive through Miami, I just have to put any sense of proper driving procedure to the side and just stay braced for everything. In Miami, driving on the shoulders of the interstate in traffic jams is nearly obligatory.

And now I have to go. I've got a sick three-year old who's sleeping about eight feet away from me, and I can only type softly for so long.

Oh: what I'm reading right now (concurrently): Herodotus' The Histories, and The Silmarillion. To celebrate the character that Herodotus was, perhaps we ought to have a Father of Lies open thread. Or something.

Glad to see you're back as well...case going well?

Yes! I just got a favorable ruling in my "impossible" (patent) case -- somehow, we managed to got the relief that we needed even though it wasn't relief that was legally availble to us. It's a long story, and one I'm not at liberty to discuss in any detail, but I'm pretty close to being on cloud 9 right now.

All my other cases (several patent infringement disputes and a massive, international RICO dispute, along with a couple minor matters) have gone pretty quiet (at least since last night). So it was "stay up late last night drinkin' wine and stroll into the office at 9:30 like a champ" day -- my first such day, well, ever in 5+ years of practice.

Incidentally, to my persistent (and very reasonable & bright) critics, please forgive me for not posting a response on the Equal Protection Clause. I'm enjoying the liberty of, well, liberty.

"Wild Pigs Terrorize Fla. Suburb"

The Filipino solution: A Catholic or other holiday. A big open fire. A spit. Pritong baboy! Bring the San Miquel.

Same solution for dogs who nip someone.

Actual conversation with my neighbor outside of Manila upon arriving home from work and seeing some sort of beasty on a spit 11 feet from my front door:

Me: "Great! A celebration. What are you roasting?"

Neighbor: "Fido" (Name changed to protect the innocent)

Me: "What can I bring? And what did he do?"

Neighbor: "He bit the three-year old"

Me: "I need a beer"

This, all in Tagalog. Sorry, the meal was quite tasty. I really am sorry.

"Miami is so not Florida; it's more like a grafting of New York onto Cuba."

I read that and thought "oh, maybe I should visit then." ;) No offense. Tallahasse and West Palm Beach are not for me; I am such a northeasterner. Give me snow, brick and stone, population density, subways, neighborhoods that change every six blocks, buildings taller than the streets are wide. If I have to put up with slush & small apartments & colds & noise, so be it.

If people are talking about books, I'm going to talk about movies....right now I'm about 3/4 of the way through the Angels in America DVD. It is fantastic--not only the miniseries I've seen (which doesn't say much) but maybe the best movie I've seen this year. I'd read it several years back, but plays are meant to be seen.

The acting is wonderful. Al Pacino is better than I've seen him in a long time, Meryl Streep is good as always (her main role has just started), but it's really the people I'd never heard of before who are carrying this. Jeffrey Wright and especially Justin Kirk. If there's a weak link it's Emma Thompson, but I'm not sure if it's possible to do a good job with that role.

hey, congrats on the sales.

oddly enough, i thought one of the most thoughtful books about leaving NYC in a disaster was Stephen King's The Stand. If every car in Manhattan tried to leave at once, no one would leave at all -- accidents, car jackings and random violence would likely bring the city to a complete halt. Stay indoors a few days, then start walking.

speaking of being home, any special holiday traditions people want to share? How about the Kyrgyz?


Pritong baboy!

You mean lechon. I call dibs on the ears. Crunchy ...

I'm about 3/4 of the way through the Angels in America DVD. It is fantastic--not only the miniseries I've seen (which doesn't say much) but maybe the best movie I've seen this year.

I was mesmerized by that film. I too had read both parts years ago (not living anywhere near a production at the time), but to see it realized so brilliantly. I watched three hours one night and the next three the following night. I then went right back and re-read the books. The most re-assuring, pure genius text written for the stage in my lifetime.

i thought one of the most thoughtful books about leaving NYC in a disaster was Stephen King's The Stand. If every car in Manhattan tried to leave at once, no one would leave at all

Yeah...already figured that out...plan includes getting across the Hudson sans car and picking one up on the other side.

I'm surprised that nobody has linked to the thread on Making Light about emergency plans.

Making Light

Many, many good suggestions.

OT but... Could the powers-that-be set the blog software to close threads after a certain number of weeks inactive? The site seems to be attracting some ugly spam, and maybe a smaller cross-section would help.

I'm about to ban our graphic-language spambot visitor rilkefan...not sure how to close older threads though...a few of them are googleable and continue to get great comments (like the Call-up info request one), so I'm hesitant to shut those off.

Edward: have you never read Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow? Great scene among the Kyrghiz.

I hear it's about rainbows. (fafblog joke)

A few more things about Angels in America, having watched the end. It's not so much a spoiler-y play, but if you've not seen it please don't read:


--I'm willing to believe that there's no good way to film wrestling an angel (in addition to the outlandishness of it, how do you wrestle something that's flying?). There is, however, absolutely no excuse for the fireworks in the scene shortly afterwards.
--That was the first genuinely moving scene set in heaven I've ever seen. The lingering slow motion visuals & the black and white were a bit much, but when he took the robe off & was just standing there in his hospital gown, I about lost it.
--I wonder what the Mormon church made of the play. I suspect they were not so cool with it, but it made me curious about the religion. (Where in upstate New York?) And Hannah reminded me of my (Catholic) grandma. Streep and Kirk were so good together.
--Justin Kirk (who played Prior Walter) seems to have been previously best known for "Jack and Jill", a short lived sitcom on the WB. (I bet he's also done a lot of NY theater stuff.) Dude, someone hire that guy for another real acting role.
--It's a very, very Jewish play. Not just Louis' way of speaking, not just the kaddish, not just the rabbi at the beginning--the whole thing.
--The second half was a bit more uneven than the first but overall even better.

Is there anything playing in NY now--Broadway or off--worth seeing? Not musicals. (My husband has a categorical rule, he didn't even want to try and see Caroline or Change.) We're already planning to see Democracy by Michael Frayn if we can, but we might be able to squeeze in a second one.

"the Call-up info request one" ???

You could have a list of "great old posts still worth adding to". Plus it'd be a nice way to finesse some Moe posts back on the front page.

Katherine: if you want to learn more about Mormonism, and/or check out america's closest thing to a Soviet-era Eastern European capital (hateful monumental architecture and sculpture, sayings of the founder inscribed everywhere, etc.), go to Salt Lake City, where (among other things) you can not only find out where in upstate NY Joseph Smith had his vision, but see a large and tacky diorama in which he is suddenly illuminated by an unseen light bulb.

Good hiking, though.

I just checked out an interesting preview for a film called "Holler to the Hood" that exposes abuse in American prisons. The site also offers some interesting audio clips about incarcerated people and the communities surrounding the prisons. Red state meets blue state and Hip-hop meets Bluegrass! Audio and video clips are at www.appalshop.org/h2h They are doing radio broadcast for prisoner family members, maybe it is a sign of the times.

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