Next on tap – the Chinese Museum of Clean Air?

The sign beneath this outdoor water pump at the Beijing Museum of Tap Water supposedly warns visitors not to drink the water.

The sign beneath this outdoor water pump at the Beijing Museum of Tap Water supposedly warns visitors not to drink the water.

China, you may have heard, has been on a building blitz of gigantic proportions. Apartment buildings, skyscrapers, business parks, gated communities, monuments, museums, theme parks – all the infrastructure needed for burgeoning masses of proletarians turned consumers.

Among all these oversized projects is the humble Beijing Museum of Tap Water. It’s a most peculiar choice of museum subject, given that nobody in that huge, populous country enjoys plumbing that delivers potable water.

That’s right. No drinkable tap water in the whole country.

Even after it’s boiled, there’s too much sediment to drink the stuff. Even with filters, it’s too risky to imbibe.  No filter can eliminate all the pollutants coming out of Chinese faucets, which include sewage, heavy metals, lead, rust, nitrates, nitrites, bacteria, viruses, parasites and extreme levels of chlorine.

According to the website, the museum’s tap-water objects “… are presented in front of the visitors who will truly understand that tap water is hard-earned.”

Imagine what sort of exhibits might be displayed in a Chinese Museum of Clean Air – photos of skylines doctored to scrub away the murky fog that passes for air, an assortment of face masks and sets of lungs blackened simply by breathing. 



Is it something in the water? Has heat addled their brains, or petrochemical pollution poisoned their perceptions? Instead of the strong, brave, hero types of Texan legend, we’re seeing two examples this week of Lone Star paranoia run amok.

texas secedes

First, we have the pathetic sight of Capitol security guards confiscating tampons and maxi-pads from the purses of women wanting to attend legislative debate on the state’s proposed abortion restrictions (which passed). Supposedly, guards had been tipped off that “proaborts” might fling feminine hygiene products at lawmakers.

Next, we learn that an anonymous donor paid the $500,000 bond set for 19-year-old Justin Carter after cops arrested him for a sarcastic Facebook post. When a fellow “League of Legends” gamer called Carter insane, Carter unwisely replied, “Oh yeah, I’m real messed up in the head, I’m going to go shoot up a school full of kids and eat their still-beating hearts.”

For this, he was jailed for months after being charged with making a terroristic threat. He’s due in court for a hearing on Tuesday, July 16th.

No sir, Texans don’t cotton to sarcasm or assault with female unmentionables.

Now stupid remarks (ala Gov. Rick Perry) and letting gun-toting Texans exercise their Second Amendment rights with as few restrictions as possible, that’s different.

Let Texas go, as 100,000 people already have urged in a petition to the White House. And make it take Florida with it.





Me and my college boyfriend in 1972

Me at 20 with my college boyfriend in 1972

I was 28 the first time someone suggested I was no longer young.

He was an undergraduate at the university where I was a graduate student in journalism. We were waiting in lines to register for classes, as was done during those pre-digital days.

“Excuse me,” he said, “did you used to be a model?”

This was like asking a guy whether he used to be an athlete – a kind of back-handed compliment that hit the ego’s funny bone enough to twinge, but not so much as to hurt.

Until then, the question had always been “Are you a model,” something that started when I was 16 because I’d been tall and skinny during the Twiggy era and beyond. I never was a model, and although I’m still tall, my skinny days are long gone.

Next time the question of age came up, I wanted to score half off the price of a $12 lamp at Goodwill by taking advantage of its senior-citizen discount. The clerk didn’t think I looked old enough. She carded me to make sure I met the minimum age of 55.

My maternal grandmother, when that age, would not have been questioned. Her gray hair, shapeless house dresses and sensible shoes proclaimed her senior citizenship. My paternal grandmother, even with her dyed hair, manicured nails and stylish wardrobe, thought herself old when she hit 50.

I can’t imagine either of them would have been willing, at the age of 57, to take a job in Beijing for a year, as I did. They would have been physically able, but mentally unequipped.

“The very idea,” I can hear one of them say, “at my age!”

At the age of 61, I expect to live another 25 years or so. My parents, at 86 and 84, are unquestionably old, but they’re still active, pretty healthy and keenly attuned to current events.

When I reach that age, nobody will have to tell me I’m old. But I’m hoping that we Baby Boomers revolutionize old age as our demographic morphs into a Geezer Glut.

A few of my childless, single friends and I fantasize about eventually living together in a bad-old-broads commune. We’d pool our assets, buy a nice place where we could each have our own bedroom and bathroom, and divvy up chores according to ability and interest. At the end of each day, I’d be in a rocking chair on the porch or in front of the fireplace with a shawl around my shoulders, gumming a pot brownie while “Gimme Shelter” blasts through the earbuds of the latest audio gadget.

That’s my goal – to be old enough to know better, and still able to enjoy; to hear some whippersnapper in her 50s, shocked and appalled, scold me about being too old to behave like that.

Rock on, biddies, rock on.