Archive for January, 2012


January 10, 2012

After college, I answered phones for Senator Levin, Democrat of Michigan.

This was during the 1996 partial birth abortion debate. Rick Santorum was on the Senate floor with his grisly fetus photographs, explaining that the procedure involved, “thrusting a pair of scissors into the back of its skull and suctioning its brains out.”

Meanwhile, America’s pro-lifers lit the Senate switchboards. My job was to politely say: “Thanks for calling, I’ll pass your views on to the Senator,” which was harder than it sounds: Most callers seemed to think they’d reached one of Satan’s satellite offices, therefore being civil would’ve been an affront to God. Some yelled; some sent me to hell; some were in impotent hysterics: their only weapon a phone! what they wouldn’t give for a semi-automatic brimstone launcher!


One gentleman asked whether my boss believed in Jesus. I explained that Senator Levin was Jewish, so it didn’t seem like a relevant question.


A mother of two told me what was going on with abortion in this country made the holocaust look like summer camp. ThanksforcallingI’ll… Um. “I don’t think,” I said, trembling with anger, “the holocaust had anything in common with vacation.”

A beat. And this woman apologized. She remembered — oh, Rick Santorum! — that Jesus never preached nastiness.



January 5, 2012

Today my brother-in-law took me for a hike in rural New Jersey. (Yes, there is such a thing.) It was freezing cold.

I had forgotten how beautiful winter can be.



January 5, 2012

After Christmas, I took Mei to New York City. It was just overnight, but it seemed like a big trip to both of us. I was nervous about watching a 6-year-old in Manhattan. Mei cried because she didn’t want to leave her daddy.

But by the time we got to the train station, we were okay. Here she’s covering her ears because the passing Amtrak was so loud.


We had lunch at my favorite tea shop: Podunk, on 5th Street. Everything there is homemade, and delicious. Except Mei didn’t like her hot chocolate.


Then we went to Rockefeller Center.


Mei got a camera for Christmas. She took a lot of photos, including this one of skaters.


Last month the subway doors closed on Mei’s backpack, causing some PTSD. So I was proud of her for riding like a regular New Yorker.


My sister met us for dinner at Bread Tribeca. Mei got a clown pizza. She picked off the cherry tomato eyes and green bean mouth, and ate the rest.

She also took these pictures of the restaurant’s wine barrels, which I hadn’t even noticed. Kids are so good at seeing things. I miss that about being one.



January 3, 2012

When I was little, I loved Christmas. I loved the tree, the parties, the songs, the when-is-it-going-to-get-here countdown.

I loved the whole story.

And even though I was a godless child — I can’t remember ever believing in Santa Claus, much less little Jesus — I tried to make an exception at Christmastime.

Usually this took the form of a late-night prayer, when I was kept awake by anticipation and terror: “Please God, if there’s a nuclear war, let it be in January.”

I figured it was an especially perilous time of year: If the Russians were aiming for maximum evil, they wouldn’t just launch a bomb; they’d do it Christmas Eve.*

My father told me that an attack was very unlikely. If it ever did happen, we could go to the Metro, which in Washington is deep underground. I wasn’t convinced — how would we get enough warning? also, how would everybody fit?

So after my Christmas prayer, I’d lie there imagining armageddon crowds on the subway escalator, hoping that my family would make it into the tunnel first, leaving the other families, the other ones, to take the brunt of the blast.



* Target-wise, I knew Washington, DC was a bad place to live. I’d once expressed doubt that missiles would be able to make it all the way across Europe to our shores. But my dad explained that they’d come over the North Pole, which was shorter.