Some Time Travel


This was one of the first pieces of furniture we owned, and our TV, with antenna, showing a broadcast re-run of the Addams Family. Note no cable, no VCR, and no CD-player, just an amp and a turntable. The Sony Walkman Pro is on the bottom shelf.

In the mid-1980s I was a broke, over-worked graduate student at the University of Utah and it was here that I discovered Dr. Who. The local PBS station played two of the old, serialized episodes at 10 pm, and it was the one hour a day I allowed myself as a break in my studies. My first Doctors Who were Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker. I’ve enjoyed all the doctors, though.

When I saw the recent news that the next regeneration of the doctor is to be played by a woman, it was on Twitter, from the BBC. I cried. We’re not talking misty-eyed, either—I had tears rolling down both cheeks. Until I saw the announcement I didn’t realize it meant anything to me.

And then I saw a re-post of the news that the creator of Dr Who wanted a female doctor back in 1986.

1987, University of Utah

In the parallel timeline where the new doctor in 1986 is a woman, I decide to stick it out at the University of Utah, despite the lack of any female professors or half-way decent mentorship. In that world, dammit, I bust my ass, got my PhD, and finish by 1992.

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After that, my first teaching position is at a small liberal arts college in New England, and we move there with our two cats. My husband starts his own software company.

We don’t have our first kid until a couple of years after that, and my husband never joins Microsoft. He works for himself. In this timeline, the Xbox is never invented.

By the early 2000s, I’m teaching someplace else. I’ve dutifully been publishing articles in algebraic topology, but I take a year off to have a second kid and write a middle-grades science fiction novel. My husband takes his enthusiasm for the potential of new, more powerful mobile devices and changes the focus of his business. By the time Apple introduces the iPad, his company is on its third generation of tablets.

When Twitter launches in 2009, my publisher suggests I establish a presence there. I’ve written two picture books and four YA novels by then. I’m very busy with teaching, advising, and book tours. I tweet about my black cat Hilbert, and my two vizslas Rágógumi and Káposzta, but not every day. Only careful readers of my books know about my love/hate relationship with cooking, because the characters in them fumble the eggs, burn the toast, and serve creamed chipped beef on toast which no one eats. I do not invent the hashtag ragecook. And while Káposzta, called Kápi for short, is photogenic, I’m still packing lunch and driving to piano lessons, so I don’t have time for a daily photo of him.


I saw "Men on Boats"

What I saw:  “Men on Boats”  at the Playwright’s Horizons Theater, off-Broadway on the south side of West 42nd Street, between 9th and 10th (not to be confused with the Signature Theater a closer to 10th Avenue on West 42nd on the same side of the street, where I showed up and confused the house manager, who had not even heard of “Men on Boats,” but did encourage me to come back and see “Small Mouth Sounds,” which I’ve read good things about but might not have time to see before it closes).




What I wore: stupid sleeves, white jeans, smirk, mascara, damp hair crammed into falling-down ponytail, Puma sneakers that are scuffed in a way that shows off my bunions, little purple Kate Spade purse for my glasses, wallet and keys, white cotton cabled poncho that I bought from a vendor at the horse show last weekend.


What I did beforehand: noodles and beer, cappuccino and cookie.

Who went with me: 127 strangers, who arrived after me, every one. 


How I got tickets: online for either $40 or $45 (when I got to will call, all they had under my name was a receipt for $40 and a receipt for $45 but no ticket, so they had to print one. And in my flusterment, I discovered that I what been walking around with the top button of my blouse undone, so, really, maybe it wasn’t just the sleeves that were the embarrassment).

Why I saw this show: the cast’s first names, in alphabetical order, are Birgit, Danaya, Danielle, Donetta, Elizabeth, Hannah, Jocelyn, Kelly, Kristen, and Layla. 

Where I sat: Row BB, seat 16 (second row, on the end). The theater was chilled to 2° K. Good thing I had my poncho!

Things that were sad: I try to see a show every week, and one of the arbitrary, unwritten rules I have for this regular undertaking is that I do not research things before I see them. I believe that art should always be self-explanatory. It means I sometimes see a play about Einstein, when I am totally done with Einstein-as-a-metaphor. However, when I sat down and discovered that this play is about John Wesley Powell and his exploration of the canyons of the American West, I realized that I should have invited The Graduate, who did a NOLS course canyoneering in the Rockies. Alas.

Things that were funny/not funny: I believe most Shakespeare productions would be improved as claymation movies, of course, just as operas should all be performed by marionettes, and while I enjoyed all the very funny female performers in this play, I longed to see it cast entirely with children. I would have even accepted the substitution of “Shoot!” for every one of the utterances of “Shit!”

What it is: A mostly funny play, in one act, about adventurers, with dialog that mixes contemporary vernacular with a smattering of the highfalutin lingua franca of the late 19th century white American explorer.

Who should see it: canyoneers, boaters, adventurers, fans of the recent Ghostbusters, Americans, and bacon lovers.

What I saw on the way home: three children, walking without an adult down West 42nd in the dark, clapping an improvised rhythm of their own invention.


I saw the new “Ghostbusters”

What I saw: the new “Ghostbusters” at the Bow-Tie Cinema on Main Street in the village of Mount K., in Westchester County, where New Yorkers go live when they want to be surrounded by other white people, or they want a yard.

What I wore: baggy boyfriend khakis with the ankles rolled up, hot pink TomboyX undies, TomboyX “Divided We Stall” t-shirt, hair crammed into elastic, black suede Puma sneakers with striped socks, Danner belt, no makeup, glasses.

What I did beforehand: Pilates, riding lesson, tried to upload the new Flash player to my computer, watched the latest Carpool Karaoke with Michelle Obama on my iPad because I couldn’t  update the Flash player on my computer.

Who went with me: the Bacon Provider and some families.

How I got tickets: online, using Fandango

Why I saw this show: because American misogynists try to ruin everything

Where I sat: fourth row, on the end

Always popcorn
Things that were sad: I laughed loudest and longest.

Things that were funny: soup jokes, hearse jokes, aquarium jokes, jokes about academia, and everything that Kate McKinnon does onscreen. 

Things that were not funny: the woman of color in this movie is the non-scientist-Ghostbuster, and assholes on Twitter treated her like shit, too. 

What it is: funnier, scarier, and better than the 80s original, this movie features excellent and silly special effects, costumes that will be really fun for cos-players and trick-or-treaters, and female scientists who kick supernatural butt. 

Who should see it: everyone. 


What I thought about on the way home: my middle child loved Mr. Bean, and years ago we took the kids to see the Mr. Bean movie (1997). There is a scene in that movie (as in this one) about giving someone “the finger,” and my middle child, then no more than 5 years old, had a lot of questions about “the finger.” I explained that it means, “I hate you. So punch me in the face.” 

I won’t look at some of the other reviews of this “Ghostbusters” movie, since so many reviews have been written by woman-hating man-babies who can’t envision a world where women are funny, important, powerful, and central to a story. Instead, I’d like to offer them “the finger.”