the long goodbye

I haven't been doing very well on my New York exploring. I've decided I'm going to visit one place on my NYC To-Do list each week (weather permitting).

Starting today. We're spending the day with a teenage niece, and I'm planning on finally seeing the inside of the Merchant House Museum. I've been walking past it for more than 20 years, but its odd hours never coincided with my desire to take a peek.

lump of rock hurtling through space

Loyal reader Nick pointed this out:
The deadly Asian earthquake may have permanently accelerated the Earth's rotation, shortening days by a fraction of a second and caused the planet to wobble on its axis, U.S. scientists said Tuesday.
and says
Jesus Fucking Christ! An earthquake can change the planet on a global scale? ... Kind of reminds you we all share this big lump of rock hurtling through space doesn't it.
I find this earthquake/tsunami event absolutely stunning. Many progressive bloggers are complaining about the media coverage, but I find nothing exceptional. CNN reporting that "celebrity vacations were shattered" was surreal, though predictable. But mostly it's been a lot of individual stories, which illustrate the vast numbers and make them real, which in turn motivates viewers to donate. There are the usual local angles (people killed from one's own country), the science info, the "could it happen here" scare stories.

Carping about the faces the anchors make as they report, I just don't get. What would we have them do? Laugh? Remain emotionless like automatons? I hate the mainstream media as much as the next lefty, but I don't think they're being particularly awful now.

I've been wondering how many events of this magnitude have occurred in recorded history.

I've also been thinking about how I felt on September 11, 2001, how I spent the whole day in front of the television, crying, how obsessed New Yorkers were for days, weeks... and how, now, while this is happening on the other side of the planet, we go about our daily lives. As the rest of the US and the world must have done while New Yorkers were still suffering and in shock.

I'm not saying this is wrong or making a judgment about what we should or shouldn't do. I'm just trying to empathize with victims in a situation that taxes the limits of imagination.


let's talk about the bird

There was good news on the hawk front this morning. About 45 minutes after the scaffolding was removed from the cradle that will - we hope - support their new home, both Pale Male and Lola arrived. They flew over and around the site for about 10 minutes. Observers said it was clear the birds were checking out the new design. Everyone is hopeful that they will roost.

pale male inspects the renovation

immigration myths and facts

There's a lot of misinformation out there about Canadian immigration. (Why would this be the exception?) Based on current law:

1. Americans who emigrate to Canada do not lose their Social Security benefits. Assuming George W Bush doesn't lose all our savings in the stock market, if you emigrate, you will be entitled to the same benefits had you not left the country. At retirement age, you will also collect the Canadian version of Social Security. Canada will subtract the amount of your US Social Security from your Canadian cheque.

2. Similarly, under current laws, American 401(k)s and IRAs will be accessible upon reaching retirement age.

3. Taxes are paid based on residency and where the work is performed. As a Permanent Resident of Canada, I will not pay US taxes. Canada and the US have tax-agreement laws that generally prevent double taxation. There are exceptions, but they are rare.

4. Canada has not announced that it will refuse refuge to American draft resistors if a draft is instituted. There has been no announcement about this one way or the other. There is only rumor. Based on current Canadian immigration law and Canadian history, American draft resistors will likely receive asylum, but that is conjecture, not fact.

5. Currently, US military conscientious objectors are not eligible for refugee status under Canadian law. This doesn't mean the Canadian government approves of the war in Iraq! It means that a volunteer soldier who follows her or his conscience over military orders does not qualify for refugee status under current law.

6. There is no such thing as a "Bush Refugee". Canada is not accepting asylum seekers based on extreme disgust at the current American government. No one who applied to emigrate after the 2004 election could have been accepted yet.

7. There are, however, American Muslims who fled to Canada to escape persecution in the post-9/11 US. Some of them have received refugee status; others are living legally in Canada as their cases are reviewed.

8. You do not need to hire an immigration lawyer in order to immigrate to Canada. Having an attorney does not increase your chances of acceptance. Anything an attorney can do for you regarding immigration, you can do yourself.

9. The point system for Permanent Residency, where you are assigned points based on education, work experience, language proficiency and other criteria, is flexible. If your points are below the passmark, Canadian Immigration may still accept you. Likewise, you can have a point-value above the passmark and be rejected.

thank you, thomas crowley

Excellent letter in today's New York Times:
To the Editor:

"2004: The Year in Pictures" (Dec. 27) includes a picture of flag-draped coffins of soldiers in a cargo plane, captioned, "Pentagon restricts images of troops killed in action returning to the United States."

Of all the deceitful actions taken by the Bush administration with this war, this is perhaps the most shameful - that the men and women who died, obeying the headstrong plans of their leaders, are hidden from the public eye to avoid any more criticism of the war.

How cowardly can you get?

But then what do you expect from leaders who, when they were young, went to every effort to avoid service to their country?

Thomas Crowley
Chapel Hill, N.C.
Dec. 27, 2004

* * *
R.I.P. Jerry Orbach. As an avowed "Law & Order" addict, I will miss the wise-cracking, never bigoted, recovered alcoholic, grieving father, and tough old softie Lennie. Orbach had a terrific, versatile career and died much too young.

He never knew I named a drink after him: The Briscoe. In a tall glass full of ice cubes, pour a generous helping of dry vermouth that you bought by accident, add whatever juice blend you have in the fridge and a splash of Rose's Lime. Add straw and enjoy.

alternative universe

Today the death toll from the tsunamis is put at 70,000. I'm trying to imagine what a crowd of 70,000 people looks like.

While I'm exercising my imagination, I'll envision the United States sending a contingent of its under-used military to South Asia for disaster relief and rebuilding. If the US wasn't wasting so much money and people-power to make the world safe for Halliburton, think of what could be accomplished.


the limits of empathy

It's weird, isn't it, to be blogging about our own little lives, while at this very moment, people are suffering on an almost imaginable scale?

Of course, people were suffering yesterday, in Darfur, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in... take your pick. Any of our neighbors or friends, or we ourselves, might be enduring a personal tragedy that eclipses all else. But when a disaster occurs on this scale, the numbers so huge, too numbing to truly take in, how do we process it? What does it mean to say more than 40,000 humans are dead, millions more at risk for disease, millions homeless? We'll write checks, shake our heads, some of us will shed tears. Is there more?

* * * *

R.I.P. Susan Sontag. A great thinker and writer is gone.


Winter is finally here. Ah, I love the cold weather! So bracing, energizing.

Snow becomes inconvenient, living in an apartment with dogs - every walk is a production, before and after. But the cold is great.

Snow makes me miss Gypsy. That dog loved winter. She had an amazingly thick double coat, like a wolf's, and she positively blossomed in the cold. Her black eyes would sparkle and her coat seemed to get even thicker and fluffier. Even when she was old and slowing down, when her paws would touch snow, she'd buck and prance around like a puppy.

two gypsies

life is cheap, war costs a fortune

Courtesy of Redsock:
After being criticized for pledging only $15 million for Asian earthquake relief, the US upped that total to about $35 million. That is also roughly what will be spent on Bush's inauguration next month (though private donations will cover most of that cost).

Compare that $35 million to the $226 million being wasted every single day in Iraq (650 days and a cost of at least $147,000,000,000) -- or 1/5 of 1% of the total cost of the invasion.


the global village

The horrific destruction in South Asia is an extremely personal ordeal for thousands of New Yorkers. I always notice how whenever there is a disaster, be it earthquake or civil war, anywhere on the planet, a community in New York is painfully waiting for news. New York is the global village.

Looking at the Star and Globe and Mail this morning, I see it is the same in the Toronto area.

I also see Canada is no stranger to the petty local angle. This seems to be universal. "Ten thousand killed in Sri Lanka - two Americans missing!!"

you say you want an orange revolution

I had dinner with an old friend recently, someone I hadn't seen in nearly 20 years. He considers himself liberal, and he referred to the Democrats as "we". Discussing what "our" strategy for the next election, he focused on getting people as ruthless and politically brilliant as Karl Rove & Co.

I didn't say much. (Yes, it happens!) I'm all for axing McAuliffe, that stupid wimp, and Mary-Beth Cahill could have done a better job, though I don't lay a lot of blame at her feet. But talk about re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic! With a Republican-controlled media and key elements of the election system rigged, the Dems can get all the Karl Roves they want, it ain't gonna make any difference.

If you believe, as I do, that the 2004 election was fraudulent, and you see how questions about its legitimacy were handled, it's really hard to care who the Democrats hire in '08.

You know how hard I worked to help defeat W, so you'll never hear me say a Kerry administration would have been just as bad. But you also know I was leaving no matter who won the election. As I tell people about our plans, I've been refining my response to the obvious questions about our reasons. And I've finally found the most succinct answer possible: I want to live in a democracy.

If you're about to tell me how we do live in a democracy, because we have the right to vote, here's my reply. (Scroll down past my whining.)


application questions

Several people have written with questions about the Canadian immigration application process. I'm wondering if the application itself might have changed, or if different processing centers use slightly different forms.

For example, my new friend Nick from Colorado is waiting for his fingerprints to come back from the FBI. My application, however, instructed residents of the US and Hong Kong to not send anything to the FBI until instructed to do so - that is, if your application makes it that far, they'll tell you its time to run the FBI check. A man from the Bay Area asked about state-issued identity cards. My application called for passports and birth certificates (and marriage certificates, if applicable) but said nothing about identity cards.

If you're filling out the forms yourself - which you can do, you do not need an attorney - be sure to read the instructions very, very carefully. Don't rush to get a spot in the queue. The wait is very long anyway - filing a week or two later won't make a significant difference, but if your application is filled out incorrectly, that will delay you.

If you have questions, I'm happy to tell you what I know, but if our forms are different, ask a few people to read it, then trust your judgment.

more reasons to love new york city

Yesterday in Tribeca, we saw a car with this graffiti on its back window: 927 Fifth Ave Sucks.

If you don't recognize the address, it's the ultra-luxury co-op that royally pissed off an entire city by evicting two red-tailed hawks from its eaves. I won't try to recreate the story here; goodness knows there are plenty of places to read about it. The hawks have their own website, there's been at least one book written about them, the story has garnered international attention, as well as the focus of gossip columnists who helped unmask the people behind the selfish decision.

Thanks to organized protest, general public outcry, and the intervention of both the Audubon Society and the NYC Parks Department, Pale Male and Lola can again roost in peace. And some of the wealthiest people in Manhattan won't live in dread of an errant twig falling on their heads.

As of today, the birds haven't come home, but they've been seen in Central Park, and everyone seems to be confident that they will.

This is one of my favorite City phenomena, the kind of story that makes me proud to be a New Yorker.

our "christmas"

We never made it to the movies, but we had a lovely New York day, and today I'm filled with the goodbye-New-York blues more than ever.

First, excellent dim sum at HSF in Chinatown, which was packed with both Chinese families and (apparently) Jewish families. All I can say is thank goodness there's a huge Chinese population in Toronto.

After dim sum, we wandered around the part of Chinatown that used to be Little Italy. Little Italy these days is really just a few restaurants hanging on as the area grows increasingly Asian, mostly (I think) Vietnamese. It's cool to see the transition. I love the shops in Chinatown, the big jars of ginseng and dried fish, the tea shops and bakeries. Though the best Asian food in NYC is now in Queens, the city's original Chinatown is still thriving.

I had heard of a hotel bar and lounge that was supposed to be a knock-out - we love hotel bars - so wandered over to Tribeca to check out the Tribeca Grand Hotel (click on Tribeca, then Church Lounge, I can't link to that). It is simply fabulous. On Christmas day, it was quiet, though not deserted, and very warm and friendly. If you're up for an expensive, delicious drink in a gorgeous setting, you can't do much better than this.

After that, walking around looking for a "bar bar" for a less expensive pint, Allan remembered Chumley's. We hadn't been there in probably 15 years, and Allan somehow remembered where it is! (Which absolutely amazed me, considering our fried brains.) Ah, Chumley's. It hasn't changed at all, complete with the unmarked door and secret back entrance.

If you're visiting my fair city and find yourself in the West Village (which you should), look for this gem at Bedford and Barrow Streets. If it's cold out, a fire will be blazing in the fireplace. You might have to ask a fat, old dog to move so you can sit down.

I love New York and I'm going to miss it. I'm glad it's in my blood. Living here has changed me, forged me, and I'm grateful for it.


a new york jewish christmas

One last traditional New York Jewish Christmas: Chinese food and a movie. I'm really getting the leaving-New-York blues.

Those of you who celebrate this holiday, I hope you have a wonderful day.

Lately I've been seeing desk-pounding pieces by right-wingers up in arms because most people now say "Happy Holidays," to be more inclusive, as opposed to "Merry Christmas," which assumes everyone is Christian. Clearly the end of civilization as we know it. Next thing you know, the women will wear pants and the darkies will go to school with our children!

One guy called it revisionist history. Actually, it's just the opposite. It's progress.


neutrality is evil

"Sooner or later," Heng said, and I was reminded of Captain Trouin speaking in the opium house, "one has to take sides. If one is to remain human.

from The Quiet American, by Graham Greene


cheap drugs

I don't usually post about things like this, but I've just gotten a terrific tip, and I want to share it with as many people as possible.

I've mentioned that our Buster is on various medications, some of which are very expensive. Our behaviorist (Buster's shrink) told me about a mail-order pharmacy based in Florida that has the lowest prices in the country. It's called Barrier Island Pharmacy: 800.711.3090.

They have the ugliest website in creation, which makes them look like some fly-by-night operation, but don't be put off. They're completely legit.

I spoke to a pharmacist there yesterday. First, he actually answered the phone. A live person, answering the phone! Next, he patiently quoted me prices for each drug I named. The prices were so much lower than what I was paying at Drugstore.com, that I thought I had heard wrong. One medication for which we were paying $40 for 30 tablets was $40 for 100 tablets. Not every price difference was that significant, but every price was lower.

The pharmacist explained that Barrier Island Pharmacy has a set profit margin, no matter what the drug cost to them. Often the wholesale price of a medication will decrease significantly, but the consumer will never know that, because pharmacies like Wal-Mart and Rite Aid will not pass the savings on them. When the price of a drug goes down, Barrier Island automatically informs its customers that their price will go down, too. So even though BIP can't match the buying power of huge chains like Wal-Mart, their prices will be much lower.

BIP never charges for shipping unless it's a rush order, and then only whatever the cost is to them (no extra surcharge). During this time of year, when the regular postal mail is very slow, they routinely ship by Federal Express at no extra charge to the customer. They handled all the change-overs of our prescriptions from both Drugstore.com and our local pharmacy. And the pharmacist couldn't have been more polite or helpful. Buster's meds just became way more affordable.

Businesses with consciences should be rewarded. Spread the word!


a little evangelism of my own

Have I mentioned recently that I LOVE my iPAQ?? In case you want to gaze upon her lovely face, here she be.

I'd better cut this out or this blog is going to get reeeeally boring.

No Canada news yet. Just waiting, waiting, waiting. Dreaming of a townhouse on the Lakeshore line, wondering what it will be like not to celebrate Christmas there (as compared to not celebrating it in NYC).


To elaborate, what I'm referring to is the profound sense of alienation I feel this time of year. To be an atheist and a Jew (and not a conspicuous consumer) at Christmastime in the US is truly to be a stranger in a strange land. Even in New York City, with the largest Jewish population in the world outside of Israel, and a very sizeable Muslim population, I am still on the outside, looking in.

Since the Toronto area is so wonderfully diverse, and since many people's original cultures don't celebrate Christmas, I'm wondering to what degree Christmas dominates the psychic landscape. Do Canada's roots as a Christian country subsume the habits of more recent arrivals?


what i'm reading: reading lolita in tehran

I just (re) started Lolita In Tehran by Azar Nafisi. Once again I am reminded that, especially for women, geography is destiny. Not that I need reminding, it's something I think about all the time. There but for an accident of birth go I.

And, since right now all roads lead to iPAQ, I'm thinking of getting the book in ebook form, too. I would leave the paper book at home, where it would stay clean and undamaged, and not add weight to my backpack, and read the digital version on the subway.

This means, of course, that I'll want to get a spare battery, which Alan The Handheld Evangelist has advised me to do all along. The lesson here is always listen to evangelists.

Not really.


other people's lives

One of the things I value most about being a writer is being able to tell people's stories.

I've interviewed a few well known people - Chuck Close, Chamique Holdsclaw and Jean Driscoll come to mind - but usually I write about so-called "ordinary" people, who are well known only to those whose lives they've touched.

I've sat across the table or on the phone with dozens of survivors of rape and relationship violence, young women recovering from eating disorders, athletes with disabilities, adopted people, people with disabilities doing interesting and surprising things. Then I've tried to represent their stories to the world, fairly, sensitively, in a way that will educate and not exploit. And, with any luck, in a way that will make people want to read about them.

Recently it was my good fortune to meet Brooke Ellison, a brilliant woman who is a high-level quadriplegic. Christopher Reeve, who had the same injury level as Ellison, made a movie about Ellison's life, and I happened to write about her shortly before Reeve's death.

By coincidence, a few months earlier I had interviewed another person with the same injury. (There are only a few people in the world living with this level of quadriplegia, so speaking to more than one was a strange quirk of my writing niche.) Devin K-B is eight years old and one of the coolest kids I've ever met. I was able to introduce Devin and Brooke via email, which was extremely gratifying.

support the troops

Here's how you can.

i love the internet, reason #997,326,034

It figures Blogger.com would have an excellent, simple solution to my mobile blogging issue. It also figures that someone reading my blog would direct me to that solution.

I am happy again!

testing... 1, 2, 3 testing...

Now why did I think I couldn't try this until I had a wireless connection for my iPAQ? Duh. I'm at work, emailing from my home email account via webmail. Let's see how this works...

bad news!

Ack! I can't blog on my iPAQ! For some reason, Blogger.com doesn't communicate with Pocket Explorer, the browser on the iPAQ. This means I can't sit in Starbucks with my lovely iPAQ and my T-Mobile Wireless account and blog. I would have to compose a post in Pocket Word, then post it when I'm home and can sync with my desktop.

I'm annoyed.

Apparently once upon a time there was something called Pocket Blogger, but I don't know if it still exists. I'm investigating.

Meanwhile, enjoy this from the Simpsons, courtesy of Uggabugga. (Scroll down a bit.) This is what I thought Redsock would post, but I don't think he ever saw the comment.


a canadian opines

Kyle, loyal reader from Ottawa, has a new blog. Check it out!


provincial talk

I'm intrigued by these perceived differences in the provinces. (Read the comments.) Also in these US/Canadian correlations. Any thoughts?

the new phone books are here! the new phone books are here!

She has arrived! And I am in love.

Alan The Handheld Evangelist came by last night to help me set it up. I'm pretty sure he would have ditched our dinner plans with our respective partners in order to spend the whole evening focused on The Thing. But we got a few things done, and we'll do more tonight. He's almost as excited as I am about it, which is really saying something.

I'm not, however, blogging from it right now. I'm home, and it's 7:30 a.m., and it's still much easier to type on my full-sized keyboard. But I'll soon be blogging from Starbucks (free T-Mobile Hotspot) and wherever else.

I'll try to keep the gushing over the iPAQ to a minimum, but no promises.


canada goes to hell

A reader sent me this great story.

political compass

Those of you who don't read the comments are missing lots of interesting Canada Facts, such as population densities, TV shows, correlations between Canadian and US cities, and unhealthy but tasty food, often brought to you by the helpful and friendly Kyle from Ottawa, along with political commentary and random profanity by Redsock, a/k/a Allan.

Kyle, as it turns out, is the only other person I know to mention Political Compass. I've sent the site to many people, but few seem to have heard of it.

I'll let Kyle explain:
It redefines "left-right" as a two dimensional "communist-capitalist/totalitarian-libertarian" spectrum. It placed me as "left-libertarian" which I think is fairly accurate of my political views. They also show current political leaders. Bush scored in the upper right hand corner of the "right-totalitarian" quadrant.
From the site itself:
There's abundant evidence for the need of it. The old one-dimensional categories of 'right' and 'left' , established for the seating arrangement of the French National Assembly of 1789, are overly simplistic for today's complex political landscape. For example, who are the 'conservatives' in today's Russia? Are they the unreconstructed Stalinists, or the reformers who have adopted the right-wing views of conservatives like Margaret Thatcher ?

On the standard left-right scale, how do you distinguish leftists like Stalin and Gandhi? It's not sufficient to say that Stalin was simply more left than Gandhi. There are fundamental political differences between them that the old categories on their own can't explain. Similarly, we generally describe social reactionaries as 'right-wingers', yet that leaves left-wing reactionaries like Robert Mugabe and Pol Pot off the hook.
Try it! It's an interesting exercise.



Who would leave a World Series Championship team to play for the Losers of Loserville? And why would anyone, least of all Pedro Martinez, want to play for the Mets???

our world and how it got that way

From 1987 to 1998, we were a family of four: Laura, Allan, Gypsy and Clyde. We adopted Gypsy from the ASPCA death row. She looked like a concentration camp victim with bits of fur attached. She turned out to be a magnificent Shepherd-Husky mix, gorgeous, and so smart it was scary. She was a dog whose beauty turned heads, and whose manner commanded great respect. Her love for us was very intense - and so was her will. She was a challenge, that's for sure! She was my best friend.

We had Gypsy not quite two years when we found another little dog on the street, sweet and cheerful and completely housetrained, despite being covered in mange and infections. By the time she was healthy enough to give away, the two dogs were in love. More importantly, Allan was in love! His little Clyde.

We think Clyde was a Jack Russell Terrier-Fox Terrier mix. She was one-third of Gypsy's size and the boss of the house. "The Girls" were inseparable. And that was our family.

Gypsy died in November, 1998. She was aging, her health was failing. It was horrible, it hurt like hell, but I knew we had tried everything we could, and I knew it was the right thing to do, that my final responsibility to her was to end her suffering.

The worst part of Gypsy's death was watching Clyde grieve. The little dog had never known life without her big friend. She was lost and bewildered. She would walk to where Gypsy slept to see if she was there, then look up at us, and our hearts would break all over again.

After about six months, we felt we were ready to get another dog to keep Clyde company. In April 1999, we adopted Cody, a chocolate brown mutt, maybe some kind of lab-shepherd-collie mix. Cody was the first dog we didn't actually find and take in from the street - someone else did, but she already had too many animals, couldn't keep her.

Cody was the perfect sister for Clyde - completely submissive. Clyde spent three days bullying Cody into deep submission, then, her point made, accepted her as her slave. Poor Cody! (There's something about Cody that makes everyone say: Poor Cody! It's just an act to get more treats.)

We thought this was the beginning of a new era: Cody and Clyde. Four months later, Clyde suddenly died. We were out of town when she got sick. I happened to call home, and we drove 17 hours back to NYC. She hung on til we got back. We rushed her to the hospital, and she never came home.

It was such a shock. It seemed impossible that both our beloved animals were gone. I will never forget Allan and I standing outside the animal hospital, holding each other, sobbing, wracked with grief and disbelief.

And then there was Cody. We hardly knew why we had her.

Four months later, Cody and I found Buster, and we were once again a pack of four.

happy b day!!!

December 14, 1999. On this cold, rainy, December night, I was walking Cody. I had been out that night, so it was a little later than usual. Right in front of my building, I saw him: a dog, alone, walking slowly down the sidewalk, his head down. I watched him for a while, to make sure he wasn't with anyone. Then I ran back to the building and called Allan on the intercom. "Get your shoes on! There's a dog down here!" Allan, surprised, hesitated. "Get your shoes on! Get down here!"

Back on the sidewalk, I didn’t see the dog. For a moment I thought I lost him, but then he appeared, coming out of an alley onto the sidewalk, maybe 20 feet ahead of me. I knelt down and opened my arms wide, breathed deeply to calm myself. I waited with my arms open – and he came right to me. By the time Allan got downstairs, the dog was in my arms.

When we got him upstairs, we saw he was ravaged. He had almost no fur, and his exposed skin was gray (a healthy dog's skin is pink). He had open sores all over his body, both his eyes were infected, he was bleeding – he was a wreck. He was wearing a collar with no tags; the tags had been clipped off with a metal cutter. While we were marveling at him, he curled up in a ball, right next to my side of the bed, and went to sleep. He's been sleeping there every night, ever since.

In that dreadful condition, and alone, on the street – and Buster never had an accident in the house, not once.

Four months earlier, our little terrier-mix Clyde had died, suddenly, breaking our hearts. Cody really needed a friend. I had just recently remarked to my sister that the next stray dog that crossed my path would be ours.

It took us a long time to get Buster healthy; for a while we thought he might not make it. But he did, and he's turned out to be an extraordinary dog. He's the most loving, loyal, affectionate and certainly most obedient dog I've ever had. He wants nothing more out of life than to love his mommy and daddy and Cody.

Our special boy. He was always anxious. For the first few months, Buster was practically attached to my ankle. He would follow me around the apartment; no matter what I was doing, he had to be right beside me. He'd lie on the cold floor, when his warm cushy mat was only a few feet away, in order to be closer to me.

I'm a huge believer in crate training - I learned that lesson long ago - and Buster loved his crate, as most dogs with separation anxiety will. So he never destroyed anything and was always housetrained. But his separation anxiety and his obsessive attachment to me wasn't healthy for him, and it would certainly complicate my life as we went along.

Then, after he was physically healthy, we found out – the hard way – that Buster is seriously aggressive with other dogs. He may have been trained to fight as a puppy, or, as our trainer thinks, used as bait for other dogs to attack. (Grrr! makes me so mad!) A combination of an irresponsible so-called trainer, my trusting that person's supposed professional opinion over my own judgement, an already-hysterical owner of another dog, and Buster's own fear and anxiety, caused Buster to attack another dog. The dog wasn't critically injured (he needed some stitches in his ear), but it was incredibly traumatic.

In trying to split up the fighting dogs, Allan was accidentally bitten. He nearly lost a piece of a finger and spent four days in the hospital. The effect on Buster and his mommy were not physical, but more long-lasting!

Since then we've been through a lot with B. He's on medication and we've done a lot of special training. (With a different trainer, of course! She's a genius and a miracle worker.) Through some painful (for me!) retraining, he learned how to relax at home; he can let me out of his sight and no longer needs his crate. Outside, we avoid other dogs, but his reactions to them are more like a normal dog's, very manageable and not scary. New dogwalkers require some special training, but any patient person who understands dogs can walk him. And although it takes him time to accept and trust people – strangers can't pet him – it only takes a few controlled meetings (complete with treats and brilliant training methods), and he will be a friend for life.

But this will only go so far. Buster can never play with other dogs or ever be off his leash outside. This used to pain me, as all our dogs have been able to run freely in the park. But I finally came to accept it. This is the best life he can have.

Buster and Cody. The amazing thing is, though Buster wants to kill every dog he sees, he adores Cody and is always sweet and gentle with her. When we found him, he was too sick to be aggressive, and while he was healing, he and Cody bonded and became family. By the time B was healthy and his aggression issues surfaced, B and Sweet Cody Brown were already in love. If we hadn't had Cody when we found Buster, Buster would never have another dog friend. Cody is his best (and only) dog friend in the world.


my island

Except New York.

I'm not emotionally ready to leave the City. I don't know if I ever will be. I still get choked up and teary when I think about it.

I'm ready to live someplace different. But I'm not ready to leave. It doesn't make much sense, but the two feelings coexist.

New York City is an island. It's an island literally, and now more than ever, it's an island metaphorically. During the Bush years, we New Yorkers have bonded even more closely in our outsider identity. Where we might have fooled ourselves into feeling more mainstream in the 90's, now we harbor no illusions. We are misfit Americans and proudly so.

I know my politics and world view are more mainstream in Canada, and that will be a relief, and a comfort. But also, in some crazy way, it will be a loss.

i want to leave now

I hope this doesn't offend anyone who is no rush to see me go. It's not that I want to get away from anyone. If you'll miss me, you can be sure I will miss you, too.

But I am ready. I am emotionally, mentally, psychologically ready to make the move. Our recent trip to look at apartments further gelled this state of mind.

I feel myself emotionally detaching from life here. I don't feel my usual fervor to work for change. Maybe this is partly a lingering post-election hangover of extreme disappointment. But much of it is a wish to no longer be part of this system. The war in Iraq, the war on women, on gay people, on children, on diversity, on personal freedom, the zeal to privatize and commercialize absofuckinglutely everything... It's like a huge mudslide, and our efforts to fix this legislation here or that cabinet appointment there is like tackling the mudslide with a spoon.

Not that we can or should do otherwise. Any spoonful saved is a victory.

But I have no energy for it now. I barely look at the emails from MoveOn and ACT. There are no emails from the Democrats because I took myself off their list. That all feels like my past now, and I stand facing a different future.


back in nyc

We've just returned from an extremely productive trip to Toronto and surrounding suburbs. We saw a lot of places, probably disappointed quite a few landlords, and made some excellent decisions on where we hope to live.

Let's see what we learned.

- We're definitely not going to rent in a high-rise building. It will be too difficult with our dogs, adding a level of stress and possible complications that we just don't need.

- We can afford to rent a beautiful townhouse in Mississauga. They are spacious, full of wonderful amenities like a fireplace, an extra bathroom, nice new kitchen, a tiny backyard, etc. We'll be able to get a three-bedroom, so we'll each have our own office. Yay!

- Public transportation to and from Mississauga is an issue. We didn't realize that most GO trains run only Monday through Friday, only during rush hours, and then only in the standard rush-hour directions. This is tough for people who work non-traditional hours as we do (and very much hope/intend to continue after we move). We'll have to figure something out with a combination of the trains, express buses and driving.

- Because of the above, we looked at places in our price range in other areas. This helped us rule out the eastern suburbs (Ajax, Oshawa, Pickering) as too wealthy and not geared towards rentals.

- We also looked at some home rentals in Toronto, and confirmed what we believed to be true. We could find affordable places in Toronto, but they would either be too small for us (brand-new townhouse on Bloor-Landsdowne) or some place we don't want to live (Eglinton-Dufferin, Bloor-Landsdowne, a few other places). They were decent places, if we were 23 years old and just starting out. But they were many steps down from where we live now, and we'd rather commute to the suburbs than live in them.

- We saw some houses for rent in Etobicoke (Bloor-Kipling and Lakeshore Drive-Royal Oak), which means we'd still be on the Toronto subway. One place was huge, with a fenced-in backyard, and in our price range. So that's a possibility, too.

- There is one exception to the GO train problem, and that's the Lakeshore line, which runs all hours, all days. It happens that my Number One area preference is also on that line: Port Credit. Port Credit was a fishing and port town before it was subsumed in Mississauga. It's the only place in Mississauga where we saw an actual town - with a main street you can walk, little pubs and independently owned stores - and it's only 20 minutes on the train to downtown, as opposed to 40 to most other nice Mississauga areas. And...

- We learned that there are some townhouses for rent in our price range in Port Credit! There are only a handful, and it would be an amazing bit of luck for one to become available right at the time we need it, but it could happen. And...

- While having a cup of coffee in Port Credit, we impulsively stopped in at a Remax agent (just next door to the coffee place), and learned that Remax also handles rentals, paid for by the landlord. Agents can be on the lookout for us. We had no idea that was possible! The agent was very nice and his initial database search turned up a few things we'd definitely look at. That might prove to the best cup of coffee we ever had.

- We also looked a little in Brampton. We saw two huge homes there, both with huge backyards, finished basements, and more space than we would know what to do with - both semi- in our price range. However, the transportation issues might be too difficult to live in Brampton. We still need to investigate further, but we're leaning towards ruling it out.

We also had dinner with our new friends BC and R, which was great. Other than that, Allan drove, I navigated and made phone calls, we ate a lot of high-fat food and had a good, if somewhat tiring, time.

Now I am more anxious than ever to hear from Immigration!


heading north for a few days

Tomorrow morning we are off to check out apartments in Mississauga. Can't wait! See you all on Friday.

still they write

More email from right wingnuts. This guy says he was depressed when Clinton won in 1992 and 96, but he didn't go into therapy or "threaten" to leave the country. (Psst... this is not a threat, repeat, this is not a threat, this is an actual emergency...)

What's amazing here is that someone thinks Clinton is to the left what Bush is to the right. Karl Marx himself would have to run for president to get the equivalent of Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Ashcroft. Clinton was barely a Democrat. Or maybe he was exactly a Democrat - and why so many progressives stopped voting Dem in those days.

And no, the neocons didn't go into therapy over Clinton. They just set out to systematically destroy him.

While briefly checking out this guy's blog, I noticed he derides dismay over torture at the Guantanamo Bay prisons. Apparently concern for human rights is not a moral value; conservatives support torture.

I can only hope this attitude sickens many conservatives out there, if only because it makes American servicepeople much more likely to receive ill treatment if they are captured. The blogger also calls the detainees "terrorists", though no one has seen or heard one iota of evidence of this.


"having drinks at the same bar"

Once again, Mr Zinn nails it. While I'm still in the US - and after I leave - I pledge to do everything in my power to stop this insane war. What could be more important?

if only

Great site!!

Having worked at corporate law firms for the past 15 years, I can easily imagine the cease-and-desist letters zipping to the webmasters right now. More power to them!


"the president's been studying his howard johnson placemat"

A reader asked if I saw The Daily Show after W's visit to Halifax. Well, I just watched the re-run. As much as I hate to find anything W says amusing, credit is due to a speechwriter, as Bush thanked the people of Halifax "who came out to wave - with all five fingers". Cute!

Stephen King was also on, plugging his book Faithful, a chronicle of the Boston Red Sox's 2004 season. For the same thing, only better, check out The Joy of Sox. It's free, better written, plus you'll learn a lot about government lies and media whores. Baseball and left-wing politics - what more can you ask for in a blog?

texas north

A loyal reader from Ottawa intrigued me with his comment about Alberta. What's it like there?

why i prefer canada, reason number 35,264

Today's poll in the Toronto Globe And Mail:
Do you feel that Canada should participate in the U.S. ballistic missile defence program?

Yes 5306 votes (20%)

No 21347 votes (80%)
No matter that it's an unscientific survey. If you can show me a poll in any mainstream American media that shows 80% of respondents against anything military, I'll stay.


translation needed

What does anyone make of this column by Barbara Ehrenreich? I a huge fan of Ehrenreich's, always have been. (She's also a fellow union member.) I'm confused about what she's saying here.

Is she sarcastically deriding the idea of leaving the US because we find ourselves at such odds with the mainstream? She compares staying in the country of one's birth to staying in a bad marriage, and I can hardly imagine Barbara Ehrenreich advocating that.

However, this:
Of course, some of your friends and family may choose to remain behind. There are people who take a somewhat inflexible view of "patriotism," just as there are people who never give up on their first, childish, seventh-grade object of infatuation. Perversely, these diehards think it's their RESPONSIBILITY to remain in their country of origin just as it becomes an international source of terror and a mockery of democratic governance. Whether out of masochism or misdirected altruism, they feel OBLIGED to stay and straighten things out.
makes me wonder. Is she implying that progressives should stay and fight? That it's our obligation?


world aids day

HIV hasn't gone away. Honor those we have lost by working for change.