Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Talk about birthdays lately -- Karen the chicken turns 10 on Monday! The toughest and smartest and meanest of birds, and also the longest-lived. My beloved spouse and I loved her twin, Natasha, who died several months ago. Natasha was sweet and friendly, nonviolent and wise. When the younger chickens were coming up, Karen would beat up on them, and Natasha would ignore them. When the younger chickens grew up, they would beat up Karen, and ignore Natasha. But Karen is made of tough stuff! More than a year ago she looked like she was on her last legs, spending a couple of days lying listlessly in a shallow pit she had dug herself. We considered putting her out of her misery. But she bounced back! Happy Birthday!

* * *

Given the talk about birthdays, today the 4-year-old said to me, “When I’m your age you’ll be dead.”

“Maybe,” I said, “but not necessarily.”

“OK,” he said, “if you’re still alive you’ll be old. When I’m the age you are now you’ll be old or dead.”

“Yes, that’s right.”

I’ll be 84, if I’m alive.

* * *

My birthday is Monday too -- 44. I had been happy to turn 43 because it’s a prime number, but 44 is nice too. When I was a kid, Mickey Stanley of the Tigers was number 44. He said he picked it because “4 for 4 was the ideal box score.” Here’s hoping for an ideal year.

(I looked it up. Mickey Stanley’s number was 24. I have no idea who -- if anybody -- said that about number 44. Hank Aaron, though not a Tiger, was number 44.)

We had a party Saturday night. Friends, food, music, drink, laughter. First people came about 4:30, last people left past 12:30.

One conversation: how the rabies vaccination can cause heart problems in the first hour or two after taking it, and luckily nothing happened to my beloved spouse after nobody warned her of that after she got a shot before traveling in the 3rd World several years ago. Someone elaborated on the story, and a few people chimed in, and it developed into a routine.

“Yeah after I got my rabies shot I went for a jog. With my ex-husband. To discuss custody issues. When we bumped into my boyfriend. Fortunately, a rabid squirrel bit me then, which made it all worthwhile.”

Maybe you had to be there. And tipsy.

* * *


Last night after the party I fell asleep on the couch. Before dragging myself to bed a couple of hours later, I checked my rounds on a couple of favorite political blogs and learned that my favorite of all, Steve Gilliard, had died at age 41. He had been profoundly ill for many weeks, and I had expected and dreaded this announcement since his family had forbidden any updates on his condition a few weeks ago. I read him daily. Smart, caustic, funny, bold -- he turned my head around. A lot of favorite writers have died in recent years -- Guy Davenport, Hugh Kenner, Ellen Willis, Edward Said (whose writing I first fell in love with in an English-language periodical I picked up while traveling for a month in Egypt in ‘99, where he wrote about Egyptian pop culture). But none has hit me as hard as Steve. And not because I met him or even corresponded with him -- I didn’t. I occasionally commented on his blog, and he may or may not have replied -- I don’t even remember. I just read him. Just about every day.

He was the most rock-and-roll of political bloggers, maybe of any blogger -- he didn’t hold anything back, he put it all out there: His brilliant and erudite (and terrifyingly pessimistic) military analysis; his caustic and astute (and sometimes overly optimistic) political commentary; his wise and incisive commentary on race and gender; favorite recipes; sports talk; TV shows & pop music; tabloid gossip; family portraits; dating advice. Dating advice! From one of the most caustic political commentators on the left! And it was the real deal: The political causticness came from love as much as the wise and humorous dating advice. That someone with such a mind could be all heart -- what a loss.

As of this writing there have been more than 315 blog tributes to Steve since he died Saturday morning. I’ve read a couple dozen, and two have stuck out: Jane Hamsher of FireDogLake was acquainted with him and writes movingly; and a woman I had never read, Shannika, never met him, and writes movingly.

With sorrow -- sorrow -- to those for whom he was an intimate friend and relative. I cried when the announcement came out that there would be no updates on his health until his coma ended. And now it has ended as I feared it would. My heart goes out.

(Photo of Steve by Lindsay Beyerstein.)

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