Wednesday, July 18, 2007


I am at the vertex. The endpoint. That is, the intersection of the angle.

Or perhaps I should call it the startpoint, since the two "rays" emanating in splayed directions are of my flesh. My son and daughter both left Evanston yesterday, to different compass points, both literal and figurative.

One traveled east, one northwest, so the hypotenuse of this triangle (were it not obtuse) would cross Lake Michigan like a ferry, taking the watery shortcut to avoid that long drive through Chicago along I-94.

It’s a shortcut the three of us (plus husband) once took, sailing from Wisconsin to Michigan, letting the wind whip through our hair on the deck of the Badger before debarking for the sandy campsite in Ludington State Park.

But Meredith left by land, at night, in a friend’s parents’ Lexus SUV with a black leather interior for the Ten Thousand Lakes music festival in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. The irony of driving a luxury vehicle to a faux Woodstock likely didn’t register with her carload of friends, so accustomed are they to comfort. They will camp in the woods, afloat in music and greenery.

Wesley and a friend took a bus east to what once was the city of Detroit, to help a pioneering architect build a house in what once was a neighborhood at Pierce and St. Aubin. It is hardly a city, hardly a neighborhood, anymore. They are erecting what will be the 5th house in two square blocks. Across the street is a whore house. Across the street is a crack house. They are different houses. Someone has broken into the shed where they keep their building materials, poisoning the water supply. They are camping in an abandoned apartment building which was filmed for the movie 8 Mile. One of the other squatters claims to have invented Techno Music, and who’s to say he didn’t?

Back here in Evanston, kids gone and my husband napping, I have the family computer to myself. I unpack the ipod I got for my birthday. Ipod rhymes with god, and I've noticed that's the way apple treats it in the literature. Never "the" ipod, only "ipod", as if it is omnipotent, not in need of an article to denote specificity. And now that I finally open the box, and inject music into this deity, I know why.

I spend hours worshipping: loading it with the songs that I don’t think my children already have—Gato Barbieri and Eddie Vetter. I drag myself to bed reluctantly, only stopping because the music isn’t free. I sleep deeply until a fury of crashing and scraping rattles me awake. Above my head, roofers are shoveling off the old roof tiles that were nailed there 16 years before, when Meredith was 2 and Wes was 6 and we were rebuilding our house after a fire.

Here at the vertex, I throw on clothes and strap on ipod to walk the dog—the only child remaining at home. We three are in the middle, ipod, dog and me: music and vernal camping to the northwest; techno and urban squatting to the east.

We are the endpoint, or the startpoint. We walk together, the routes I once pushed a stroller. Or rather, I bop to Toad the Wet Sprocket, dog trots and ipod rides my pocket. Later, my children will call me at work. Right now I follow the sidewalks, explore the alleys and register their absence. I scratch the dog's ears and he laps at my hand. Ipod sings and dog pants. It’s an old, sentimental observation: dog is the mirror image of god.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

(or a shout-out to my gails...)

Dear Gail and Gail and Gail, etc:

Like you, my name is Gail Siegel.

I happen to be a writer, and every once in a while I google my name to make sure that a story has been published, or to see who is linking to my work. Inevitably, I run across one or another of you other Gail Siegels out there. I get your emails, inviting me to a golf game, or a luncheon in New York. I politely decline.

This is not a new problem. Decades ago, in college, Gail Anne Siegel’s grandmother called me one night. I knew it was a grandmother, but she didn’t sound like my grandmother. She seemed a kindly old woman, and I trust she eventually found her granddaughter.

On-line, I will sometimes see a reference very close to what I've done in a past job, and wonder, just for an instant, Is that me? Once upon a time, I, Gail Siegel, worked on child product safety issues! Many years ago, I, Gail Siegel, took photos of an art exhibit for the Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations in Ann Arbor! I have been to Israel. I had a boyfriend named Lonnie, in 6th grade. My daughter—whose last name is not Siegel—considered attending Evergreen, where Gail Siegel works.

But the woman out there who is married to Lonnie, or taking photographs, or living in Israel or Olympia, or working on a safety newsletter is not me. They are likely not each other, either. They are some other Gail Siegels, who very well may be living lives just a few degrees removed from my own, like a fraternal twin or fraternal quadruplets, separated at birth--or a postulated parallel universe. Or they may be some Gail Siegels with less in common with me than, say, an Ed Schwartz.

I do know a man named Ed Schwartz who convened a club of Ed Schwartzes years ago. These Ed Schwartzes all had a propensity to write letters to the editor. The potential for confusion was enormous. They get together now and then, and I’m sure they can keep each other straight in the flesh, if not in newsprint.

Indeed, at the local newspaper, I often have to deal with two John McCormicks. There is the young, crabby, John McCormick who has cursed me out in the hallway of the County Building. There is the older, jovial John McCormick, who peppers his chit-chat with jokes. I never mix them up in person, or on the phone.

But the internet—it guarantees bewilderment. Thus, it is because of you, you legions of Gail Siegels out there, that I generally remember to use my middle name (Louise) in order to keep from being confused with you. Certainly, you are kind and decent people, who do honorably by my/our name. Yet, you may prefer to be differentiated from me.

Since your names pop up from time to time, I wanted to acknowledge you, and to wish you well.

And to note this: I'm pleased that I haven't yet read any of our obituaries.