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NJ makes bad census

I checked the latest census data. You would think that New Jersey had gotten about as crowded as it can get. You would think.

You would be wrong.

Some distressing state facts:

  • Essex County, the county where I live, has more people than any one of the following: North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Delaware, Alaska, Vermont, and the District of Columbia.
  • NJ, all 8,722 square miles of it, is the ninth most populous state.
  • It is the 4th-smallest state.
  • There are 1,134.5 people per square mile.
  • I personally know the .5 person in my square mile.
  • There are 6,299 people per square mile in Essex County.
  • Hudson County, at 12,957 people per square mile, has roughly the same population density as Singapore. Now that's scary. But then again, we are talking Jersey City here, right? Must be that new financial center that did it.

Compare the above to these facts about Virginia:

  • Virginia, a state of 42,769 square miles, has 1.3 million fewer people than NJ.
  • Its population density is 179 per square mile.
  • Virginia is the 13th-largest state.
  • There are 610 people per square mile in Chesterfield County, one of the counties I'm looking at moving to.
  • You can't see New York City from anyplace in Virginia, but you can see New York City trash in their dumps. (They hate NY.)

This is why I want to move, as well as the fact that when Christie's debts come due, NJ is going to have the highest tax burden in the nation. Our former governor left our state with so much debt, our grandchildren will be paying it off.

All in all, when you type in "population density india mexico" you get a bunch of websites that make you remember Kurt Vonnegut's story about overpopulation and state-sanctioned suicide, "Welcome to the Monkey House." The one where they developed a pill that numbed you from the waist down, so no one ever wanted to have sex again. That man has a sick, sick mind. Must be why I read all of his early works, and only stopped when he started writing the same book over and over again.--MAY



Yo-Yo Ma rules

I saw Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon tonight. Wow. This movie should be required viewing for all grade-school girls. Now I know why people say if you think Xena is cool, watch any Michelle Yeoh movie. Talk about your strong female characters!

What a wonderful movie. But if you rent the DVD, take my advice: Don't use the dubbed English. Change the language to Mandarin and watch it with English subtitles. The dubbed version sucks. Makes you want to yell, "Look! It's Godzilla!"

It took me all of a minute and a half to realize I could change the language to Mandarin.

Crouching Donkeys, Hidden Elephants

I watched a bit of the transition of power in the Senate today. I must admit to some pretty loud snickering and gloating and, if truth be told, there is something I'd like to say to Trent Lott and all the Republicans: Neener, neener, neener!


I can't help it.

Although I must say, watching Tom Daschle speaking to the Senate today left me with this thought: Who let that accountant become Senate Majority Leader?

I mean, really--does the guy look like he belongs behind a desk at H&R Block or what? No, maybe a little higher up--maybe in the finance department of a major corporation--with or without the glasses.

The good news is that Strom Thurmond is no longer third in line for the Presidency. The bad news is that Strom Thurmond is still a Senator. The guy is deaf, senile, thinks he's still married to his ex-wife and needs his staff to answer all of his questions for him, but he won't step down. That isn't public service. That's abuse of office. Hm. Senators. Abuse of office. What was I thinking? Never mind.--MAY



Things that go bang in the night

I've lived in apartments a really long time, and I've been pretty lucky as far as neighbor noises go--I really haven't had much to deal with except for the last neighbors in my last apartment. The guys upstairs are pretty good about noise in the evening, although I'm still working on trying to make them understand that when they say goodnight in front of the door at 3 a.m., they may as well be standing beside my bed, since my bedroom is on the other hall side of the front door.

So you see, I missed a lot of, well, neighbor noises of, er, a certain origin, shall we say? At least, until I was here for a couple of months. One night, I was reading in the Chair That Swallows You Whole in the living room, and I heard the neighbors next door knocking a bit on the wall. "Hm," I thought, "they must be hanging a picture or something." I gave it no more thought, and went on reading. The knocking continued long enough to seep back into my conscious mind. "That's odd," I thought, "they're taking a really long time to hang that picture." Then the fact that the knocking noise was rhythmic suddenly sank in.

The lightbulb went off. Duh Moment. (I really am this slow sometimes. I can't help it. I never had roommates, and my parents split when I was five, so I never had to deal with this.)

Anyway, after that, I just tend to not notice when I hear my neighbors, ah, hanging pictures. But I noticed tonight, and thought I'd just share with you all, since I've never been able to think of a polite way to suggest to them to move their headboard away from the wall. So just say, "Thank you for sharing."

You're welcome.--MAY



A cat, asleep in the sun

Mark Twain once wrote that you can tell the comfort level of a house by the number of cats sunning themselves in its windows. My cats are both out on my balcony now, one asleep, one just hanging out. They had a tough day--I let them out front to explore for nearly an hour, and they had to deal with monsters like the mailman and a neighbor coming home for lunch. Ergo, Tig is asleep in a chair on the balcony.

If you ask me, nothing looks more content than a sleeping cat. I think the expression should be "Let sleeping cats lie", because although a sleeping dog looks relaxed, it doesn't look nearly as boneless and content as a sleeping cat.

Mind you, this might be my cat bias creeping in. I freely admit that I like cats better than dogs, and I further admit that I see nothing wrong with that. I think the absolutely cutest thing in the world is a kitten. Puppies are cute, but kittens define the word. I especially like it when kittens attack those invisible things that kittens spend their days attacking. I have it on good authority that they've been defending us from alien invaders all these years--alien invaders that can only be seen by kittens, and can only be defeated by kittens. I understand there's going to be a propaganda film later this summer that charges that cats are working for alien invaders and dogs are defending the earth from them, but don't you believe it. I know what's really going on. But I can't tell you my sources, you'll just have to believe me.

Look, it works for psychics, why shouldn't it work for me?

You've lost that burning feeling

Okay, so a friend of mine got to see a Burning Man festival in Texas last week, but it wasn't the Burning Man. So he started to explain to me what it was, and I forestalled him by telling him that I knew perfectly well what it was, and that I'd be interested in seeing the last few hours of the festival if I didn't have to put up with everything that came before, when I began to wonder--how many of you know what the Burning Man is? Is it so unusual to know about this event? (Notice how cagily I refuse to even hint at what it is, save for the title.) I'm guessing Harry knows what it is, and maybe a computer geek or three that I know, but that would be it. Oh, and someone out in Seattle. C'mon, 'fess up--how many of you know what it is? E-mail, please. I can't read your mind. Yet.--MAY



The truth may set you free, but it sure pisses a lot of people off

Something a friend wrote to me in an e-mail really stuck with me today. We were talking about friendship. Which got me to thinking about friendship in general and in specific, since my relationships with many of my friends have undergone so many changes this year.

I don't think that friendship necessarily comes from a common background, or a relationship that goes back a long time. It's more complicated than that. I've got cousins I've known all their lives, and they're not my friends. I've met people with similar interests who I wouldn't be friends with if it was a paid job. I think true friendship is far deeper.

I think when you're younger, friendship is easier because it's at a much more shallow level. Teenagers generally don't sit around thinking deep thoughts. Their lives are nowhere near as complex as our lives tend to be. And the same goes for college-aged friendships. You're still on a relatively shallow level, only now you sit around at the end of the party, deeply buzzed or drunk, Thinking Great Thoughts and talking until dawn. But the relationship, if you really think about it, revolves around social events and your social life. "Hey, what are you doing Friday night? Where are we going on Saturday? What's up this weekend? Are you going to the <bar name here> on Thursday?"

So it isn't until much later that we get to realize a deeper relationship, one built on mutual likes and dislikes, respecting one another's choices and thoughts, and a support network that you generally are unable to give when you're just a child yourself. It took me a long time to realize why my friend in Richmond became my best friend. We met as adults with a pretty good idea already of who we were and what we wanted out of life. We spent six weeks at a writer's workshop living across the hall from each other. During those weeks, we discovered that we liked each other a lot. We've spent the last eleven years expanding on those discoveries.

I realized a few years ago the secret to our friendship: She takes me for what I am. She doesn't judge me. She doesn't belittle me. She doesn't try to force me to think the way she does. We don't have to think the same way about the same things. And I try to do the same. When we tease each other, there is no sting to the teasing.

I wish I could say the same about my friendships that are currently dead or dying. Because another thing I discovered as I grew older is that your heart is an amazing thing. It can expand to love as many people as you want to. There is no limit to how many friends you can hold in it. But there is, I've discovered, a limit to how many times people can put cracks in it and expect it to rebound for them. Scar tissue always grows thicker and harder than the original tissue it covers.

Someone told me not long ago that I have a talent for friendship. I believe that that's true. But I also have a heart that's gotten a bit more scar tissue recently. And that's just a shame.--MAY



And the rain rain rain came down down down

So the deluge hit last night, and I was up listening to, and sometimes watching, the storm. Sometimes I didn't even have to look out the window, I could just look up at the door to my balcony to see the rain coming down. Inside. When I went to bed last night, I was wondering if I'd wake up to a flooded kitchen.

You see, I live in an apartment complex owned by a man who owns a lot of apartments in this county, and I've known of him through various experiences my friends had in his apartments. I know that he likes to cut corners and doesn't spend any more money than he has to, and I knew that going in. On the flip side, he charges significantly less rent than many other apartment owners in this town. So when I was told that the parking lot floods, and that I had to sign a release for my car if I wanted to rent here, I just signed it and made a mental note to move my car in the event of heavy rains. Later, I bought my Jeep and rented a garage, and the problem became moot. A heavy rain is now an opportunity for me to watch, fascinated, as the parking lot behind my apartment floods and the water rises higher and higher up the cars parked there. I saw it about halfway up the wheels before I finally went to bed. And I sponged off a few streams of water that were coming down the inside of my kitchen door before going to bed as well. And left a towel on the bottom of the door just in case.

So then at about 8:00 this morning, I heard the super talking to someone and heard the rain coming down in buckets and figured that perhaps the front of the apartments were flooding, too. Well, they were, but not my building. Apparently the first building on the street side's first floor apartments were flooding. Oops. Glad I didn't rent there. The water would have to rise about, oh, twelve feet in order to flood my apartment. I think I'm safe.

One of my neighbors told me that his car got flooded, and wondered what the landlord was going to do about it. I told him nothing, that he'd signed a release with his lease. He decided to go check what he'd signed. He could have saved himself the effort.

When I went to my garage this morning, I discovered that it, too, had flooded a bit. The only things I have in there are my Jeep and two boxes of mudflaps that I need help putting on, and a couple of empty boxes that the soft top came in. My mudflaps are on wooden platforms, because there was evidence of flooding when I first got the garage, and my Mama didn't raise no dummy.

So. I guess I managed to stay dry during the worst of this, but on the whole, I think I prefer a gentle spring rain to a long period of deluge.--MAY