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Tuesday, January 23, 2001

I had nothing as dramatic as a beautiful sunset to contemplate when I looked out the loft window late yesterday afternoon. The sky was a drab gray, about the same color as my mood. It was one of those Mondays when everything seemed to go bad. And I forgot to let things slide, take what comes, and not make every misstep into a train wreck.

It wasn't even work that did this to me! I did fine yesterday. The Boss left me alone, I got through everything I planned to, and I'm well set up to meet all my deadlines. Usually Mondays are a mess of interruptions and misdirections, but I had no reason to complain about how the day was going until that part of it was over. Then I had my little meltdown. It's the first in a while, so I think I forgot how to cope.

Little things, as usual, were the cause of all this, but if you pile up enough pebbles, it might as well be a boulder you're trying to get out from under. I'm even embarrassed to admit what kinds of things I'm talking about. Trying to untangle the plastic freezer wrap. Getting my sleeve wet in the dishwater. Not being able to unscrew the cap from the olive oil bottle.

Sounds pathetic, doesn't it? But when enough of those little inconveniences happen at almost the same time, it can feel as if the world is trying to tell you to give it all up, because you're not going to get anywhere anyway.

I'm pretty mellow when I'm around other people. I hardly ever let these little things get to me if there's anyone around to witness it. And I'm a great one for giving good advice about staying cool, working things out, letting the small stuff slide. People listen to me, because I sound as if I know what I'm talking about. I just can't keep the knots out of my own stomach or the crick out of my neck.

I'm so grateful there was an episode of Jazz on last night, to calm me down and take me away from my petty grievances. And I'm about half sick of the jazz aficionados trying to tell me what's wrong with the series. I know I didn't live through the period. I know that I'm no expert on jazz, or the history of the times. I wouldn't have known Coleman Hawkins from Lester Young before I started watching.

But hey! Don't tell me there's something wrong with a show because it spends too much time on Louis Armstrong and not enough on Kenny G. Don't tell me that Wynton Marsalis doesn't have a lot to offer about jazz, or that he doesn't convey as much with the rhythm of his voice as he does with his words. And don't, for heaven's sake, tell me that because a thing isn't perfect, because it has flaws, that it's worthless and should be thrown on the same trash heap with Three Sisters and Temptation Island. (And if you like those shows, substitute something you don't like.)

You know what? If you want to listen to the music, you can buy it and play it, or turn on the radio. This is about the history of the music, and the history of the country as expressed in the music. It's about the people who made the music. I like the talking heads. They're telling me things I didn't know and giving me ideas to think about.

There's a TV critic who writes for the local paper who has stopped watching Jazz because of some of the deficiencies I've mentioned. People have been writing and telling him what they don't like about the series, and he's printed their comments in his column as a kind of testimony. I guess it's his job to tell us what he thinks, but I'm amazed at how my perception of the documentary diverges from his. It's as if we're watching two different programs.

Okay, is that enough about me? Can I talk about politics now?

Something happened yesterday that reminded me why so many people fought so hard, against such odds, to try to get those Florida ballots counted. Our new president wasted no time stopping the government from funding international family planning programs that advise their clients on abortion (or even mention it as a possibility).

This can't be called an act of bad faith, exactly, because it's representative of what the man professes to believe. But it's nothing short of a calculated act of ill will, on his first day on the job, just after calling for unity and consensus. He knows that most Americans support a woman's right to choose. He knows that most voters in the election that somehow put him in that office chose candidates who believe in a woman's right to decide what to do with her own body. And yet his first presidential act, nearly, is a step toward undermining that right. It's a jarring reminder of the difference between pretty words and ugly deeds.

I'm not saying that reasonable people can't disagree on the abortion issue, although you seldom hear a reasonable discussion between people who disagree on that issue. It's one of the most polarizing questions of the age, and one on which there really is no middle ground. Politics being the art of compromise, this is a matter that is beyond a political solution. The only possible solution is a judicial one, which means packing the Supreme Court for an attack on Roe v. Wade.

There's only so much George W. Bush can do by executive order, whether he considers his electoral minority a mandate or not. The withdrawal of funding is a baby step, no matter how significant it is to the women affected by it. It's a symbol of what he would like to do to dismantle hard-won rights. Either he doesn't believe we'll fight to keep those rights, or it's a battle he thinks he can win. Wrong and wrong.


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