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I don't know why it should be that a thing makes me smile simply because it is old. I am interested in and pleased by the modern and futuristic, but on an aesthetic or intellectual level only. I admire our progress in technology, and the sometimes bold simplicity of so much of the machinery that supports our daily lives. The levers, knobs, and switches of hundred-year-old clocks have been replaced with transistors and silicon chips that for my part think on their own. Everything reduced; infinitely more complex but profoundly simpler. We feel safer despite being more helpless. A bent rod or uncoiled spring I can replace; a blank screen is to me as far beyond this world as any spirit gone from its corporeal prison. There is no apparent difference in its appearance, but something has changed that puts it beyond repair. The light goes out, and all that remains is amen.

The cafe in the V&A follows a gallery's worth of medieval European art--almost uniformly religious, and then of course uniformly Catholic. I spent a few moments standing before two back-lit stained glass windows from the 15th century, one depicting Maximilian I, the German king and Holy Roman Emperor; the other, his wife, Mary, Duchess of Burgundy and only daughter of Charles the Bold. If their portraits are accurate, I'll never know, but it was easy enough to imagine a person with her face, wearing her clothes. There she was, immortalized in glass, hanging on a wall in a British museum, farther away from her home than she ever traveled in life. It made me sad to see her.

I wondered what her thoughts were; if she lifted her skirts to step down from the pedestal she posed on, as the position of her hand suggested; and what was the first thing she did when she left the room. She had a husband and children, a home. The Empire was an accident of her birth, and I wondered if she resented the worry of it. I was most saddened to think that she was dead, and had been dead for half a millenium. What she knew, felt, and thought, all gone out of the world, and the world along with it. All that remains of her majesty is a likeness in two dimensions, all her court strangers who make her a subject, and appear in clothes they wouldn't wear to work.

She was an Empress, and that's her life in memory. Looking around the room, I realized how much better it were to be a god.

I count centuries now in terms of lifetimes--my lifetime--and when I see a headstone I count the number of times I could have come and gone since the dead man finally went. That number is how Time reckons me, and as it grows higher I become less. It is always growing higher.

I can see, therefore, the appeal of religion. To unite with God in an afterlife would make each of us eternal and take away our insignificance.

I don't know how strong faith truly was in people who lived in Maximillian's time. I don't know how deeply they felt it, or how far Jesus ever really got into their hearts. But five hundred years ago, the artisans depicted armored angels bearing shields and brandishing swords. Two thousand years have made shadows out of soldiers and miracles into parlor tricks. If the Virgin will deign to appear in a salt stain under a bridge, what remains for Gabriel? Or for me?

Our Progress and Reason have disarmed them, and that's good. They were never made for bloody work. It dismays us now, though, to see our angels' swords taken up again by lesser soldiers of another God, and Him no less than Mine.

There are two million Muslims in the United Kingdom, where some say the banner of jihad has been raised. Suicide bombers of course will share their hell with Inquisitors, Crusaders, and the like, but that's another place and time. I don't see why I should have to die to speed them on their way.

Bush, Bin Laden, and all their little devils. I wonder in what halls they'll hang five hunded years from now.

Written in a journal as the mood struck. Please note: I am a Jew, and so recognize that I have taken a liberty in adopting icons of the Christian faith. Also, no offense is meant to members of the Islamic faith. Just to extremists of all stripes.

My goddamn neighbor who smokes up constantly

I live in Berkeley, California, and like most Berkeley residents, I don't have anything morally against a little weed. Not my cup of tea, but if you like it, I'm not one to judge.

Most of the time.

But I do have one teensy-weensy problem with weed: it smells like ass. I should know.

When I moved into my apartment, a practically ideal studio with a generously-sized kitchen and a spiffy claw-footed bathtub, I had little thought for what annoyances the neighbors might bring. Sure, given the neighborhood, I anticipated a few obnoxiously loud undergrads across the street, and the odd street noise. And when it turned out that the teenager downstairs played trumpet, um, not quite as well as Wynton Marsalis, I was forgiving. He only plays on Tuesday nights, anyway.

But while I expected noise, I did not expect smells. But as I soon learned, I have a neighbor, to whom I will henceforth refer as Goddamn Neighbor, who smokes up regularly. And by "regularly," I mean daily, usually around 7:15 AM, when it wakes me up and causes me to open the windows, airing out my apartment and cursing loudly.

You see, the fumes seep in through my kitchen, God alone knows how. And there's no way for me to stop it.

Once I yelled through the bathroom vent, "Whatever it is you're smoking, it smells like shit!"

I had two very satisfying weeks of olfactory peace after that, but alas, it was not to last. The stench returned, and no amount of yelling through the bathroom vent thereafter had any effect at all. I fantasized about his arrest by some overzealous cops, but seeing as how this is Berkeley, it was never a serious hope.* A pipe dream, as it were.

For a while I just accepted the routine. I closed the kitchen door to protect my other room and opened the window to air the kitchen out while I bathed in ye olde tub, and was out of the house often enough that I only occasionally coincided with his afternoon sessions, which were erratic. I limited myself to passive-aggressive tactics like making rude comments about the revolting smell of his noxious weed smoke while passing by my Goddamn Neighbor's door, which went unheeded, natürlich.

But my tolerance has reached its limit, goddammit.

Recently, the smoking up has been nearly constant. Early in the morning, middle of the day, late at night. Last night I was woken up by an acrid smell -- it had to be three in the morning. I opened up my windows and shivered, curled up in my blanket.

I'm not taking this anymore. I feel sorry for my landlady, who's going to be caught in the middle of this, but I'm on the fucking warpath now. Marie (name changed to protect the innocent) is going to get a phone call every time the telltale stink arises. Early in the morning, middle of the day, late at night. At three in the morning. Goddamn Neighbor's ass is going down.

And if anyone knows of other ways to surreptitiously eliminate an unwanted neighbor, I'm taking suggestions.

*Fact: in Berkeley, the police do not care about weed. It's more effort than it's worth to actually try to enforce the law given the combination of an enormous student population and a very liberal atmosphere. I have this on good authority from a friend who was once an RA at the International House, who was informed of this during an official presentation by the Berkeley police.

Almost fifteen years ago I was working as a secretary at a tree surgeon in Redwood City, California. Nice company, loved the job, sat around an office full of pesticides all the time.

Then I got pregnant with my little girl, Amy.

Needless to say, I quit working immediately. Gave Bob three hours notice, which he accepted in good humor, being that he doesn't think dead fetuses are cute, either.

Except for a temporary gig a year or so back that I did from home as tech support for an ISP owned by a friend of mine, and owning my own web hosting, web design and dial-up ISP that I ran from my living room office, I haven't really worked since then.

Today I went for my first job interview in more than sixteen years. I was a nervous wreck, and when I got there they gave me a stinkin' math test. I suck at math, but apparently I scored 95%. Wow.

Long story short, I have a job. I start tomorrow. I am THRILLED!

This means no stress about paying bills on time. No fears about where the next meal is coming from. No worrying about school supplies and shoes for our massive brood of kids. And finally being able to pay some child support to my extremely kind, loving, and patient ex-first-husband and still damn good friend, Koji.

Thank you, God.

If I had a life without limits, where would I be?

What if I was the prettiest girl with a perfect body – what would it be like? I would be a glowing, happy presence everywhere I went – smiling at everyone and cheering them up. Doors open for me everywhere I go. A kind man finds me, truly loves me even with all of my bullshit. Actually his true love helps cure me of it and I become a better person. He chooses me over every other priority – pushing them aside like the petty nuisances they are. He asks for me and only me - nicely without force. We hold hands as we fall asleep at night.

What if I could sleep with any man I wanted – if there were no consequences to it and no danger? No mixing sex and love and feeling fucked up in the morning – no diseases or adultery – just sex for fun. A man on the street says “hey beautiful!” as I pass and instead of turning away shyly, I say “thanks, that is sweet, would you like to come home with me?” We would then make love, or at least have hot sex. After, I’d prepare him a snack and he could take a streetcar home – everything is still polite and no one is ashamed. I could have them all - the guy at the rental car place (yes!), the sporty guy in my class (yes!), my old friend who I have been curious about (yes!). Nobody would feel weird or get hurt. We would all just be satisfied.

What if I was independently very wealthy? Paying bills and tickets would be meaningless. I would never be lonely because I would always be able to do every activity anyone suggested, instead of finding it expensive. I would not be a petty rent/loan/lease/tax/gas slave in a job I dislike as I am today. I would fund the creative projects of my friends and other talented people and bring them to market. We’d create a new artistic movement, new industries, wealth and a positive work environment for our employees – because why the hell should so many people be miserable at work? We would use any extra money to share our success with people who are less fortunate. I would own a house. My Mom would not have to worry about her future. My sister and her family could have seed money for their business idea. I would pay back my brother. I would have kids – even if I never find a man who wants to take care of them – we would take care of ourselves. The kids would be happy – they would always be loved and wanted. We would travel all over the world in the summers.

No limits would be great – wouldn’t it? Eat forever… drink forever… talk forever… love foreverlive forever… It never stops. It never breaks. It never leaves. It never dies. But, the limits are everywhere – they stick to everyone and they stick to me. I guess we all have limits and get frustrated as we bump into them and stick to them – some days. On those days the limits seem more annoying than ever. And – I have been having those kinds of days lately.

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