mercredi, janvier 31, 2007

because i can't

I can do many things, and I'm pretty good at a few of those things. But there's one gift that I didn't get ... the ability to sing well (loudly, on key, in the registers, and with the range I'd like).

Over the years, I've thought about the voice I'd want if I had this talent. It usually involved some combination of Chrissy Hynde (the Pretenders), Annie Lennox, and Shirley Manson (Garbage). But this Sunday, I was driving home when I heard the Cowboy Junkies' version of The Velvet Underground's "Sweet Jane," and I decided to forsake these sirens for a new favorite: Margo Timmins.

In case you've forgotten the song:

But it's not about one song. Several Cowboy Junkies songs have hit me in just the right way lately, including "Five Room Love Story," "Blue Moon," and "Misguided Angel."

If you haven't heard Margo sing "Misguided Angel" live, you're missing one of the experiences that make us human. Her hauntingly beautiful voice complements the heartbreaking lyrics perfectly. As someone else said ... "listen to the song. It might just change a few things for you."

The lyrics:
I said "mama, he's crazy and he scares me
But I want him by my side.
Though he's wild and he's bad,
And sometimes just plain mad,
I need him to keep me satisfied."

I said "papa, don't cry 'cause it's alright,
And I see you in some of his ways.
Though he might not give me the life that you wanted,
I'll love him the rest of my days."

Misguided angel hangin' over me
Heart like a Gabriel, pure and white as ivory
Soul like a Lucifer, black and cold like a piece of lead
Misguided angel, love you 'til I'm dead.

I said "brother, you speak to me of passion,
You said never to settle for nothing less.
Well, it's in the way he walks,
It's in the way he talks,
His smile, his anger, and his kisses."

I said "sister, don't you understand?
He's all I ever wanted in a man.
I'm tired of sittin' around the tv every night,
Hoping I'm finding a Mr. Right."

Misguided angel hangin' over me
Heart like a Gabriel, pure and white as ivory
Soul like a Lucifer, black and cold like a piece of lead
Misguided angel, love you 'til I'm dead.

He says "baby, don't listen to what they say,
There comes a time when you have to break away."
He says "baby there are things we all cling to all our life
It's time to let them go and become my wife."

Misguided angel hangin' over me
Heart like a Gabriel, pure and white as ivory
Soul like a Lucifer, black and cold like a piece of lead
Misguided angel, love you 'til I'm dead.
Here's the video.

Giant caveat: I'm glad I heard the song and read — and re-read the lyrics — before seeing the video, which has nothing to do with why the song resonates with me on so many levels. Just close your eyes and let Margo's voice and the story wash over you before letting the visuals color your understanding of the song.

mardi, janvier 30, 2007

the face of tomorrow

My Argentine friend Mercedes sent me a link to this project. I think it's fascinating.
The Face of Tomorrow: the Human Face of Globalization, photographs by Mike Mike
What is the face of London, New York, Paris? What does a Londoner, a New Yorker, a Parisian look like?

The Face of Tomorrow is a concept for a series of photographs that addresses the effects of globalization on identity.

The large metropolises of the world are magnets for migrants from all parts of the planet resulting in new mixtures of peoples. What might a typical inhabitant of this new metropolis look like in one or two hundred years if they were to become more integrated?

In Turkey and particularly in Istanbul, situated as it is at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, you can see how this process has been at work over the last thousand years as waves of humanity from Central Asia, Arabia, Greece and Rome have been absorbed. The resulting population is fairly uniform suggesting that if you could combine all the faces in a city right now you would be looking at the future face of that city.

The Face of Tomorrow attempts to find this face by taking photographs of the current inhabitants and compositing their faces to create a typical face. What we get is a new person - a mix of all the people in that city. A face that doesn't exist right now, but a face, it seems, of someone quite real — the Face of Tomorrow

forget the tofu

I'm happily an omnivore and a self-described butter fascist (if you're going to bother baking, don't give me margarine or crisco — give me butter!)

But my colleague Lorena has made some very, very tasty ginger cookies and pumpkin muffins that turned out to be vegan. They also turned out to be Moskowitz's recipes. In the end, if it's tasty, then I'm down.
Strict Vegan Ethics, Frosted With Hedonism
Published: January 24, 2007

ISA CHANDRA MOSKOWITZ, a vegan chef, does not particularly like to talk about tofu. Ditto seitan, tempeh and nutritional yeast.

“I think vegan cooks need to learn to cook vegetables first,” she said last week during a cupcake-baking marathon. “Then maybe they can be allowed to move on to meat substitutes.”

Ms. Moskowitz, 34, was born in Coney Island Hospital, lives in Brooklyn, and is a typically impatient and opinionated New Yorker. She can’t stand how slowly most cooks peel garlic, makes relentless fun of Rachael Ray and rolls her eyes at the mention of California hippies.

But as a vegan and a follower of punk music since age 14, she is also part of a culinary movement that helped turn the chaotic energy of punk culture of the 1970s and 1980s into a progressive political force.

“Punk taught me to question everything,” Ms. Moskowitz said. “Of course, in my case that means questioning how to make a Hostess cupcake without eggs, butter or cream.”

The charm of Ms. Moskowitz — in person, in her cookbooks and on her public-access television cooking show, the Post-Punk Kitchen ( — is that she makes even the deprivations of veganism and the rage of punk seem like fun. Like feminism that embraces makeup and miniskirts — the frivolous bits — Ms. Moskowitz’s veganism embraces chocolate, white flour, confectioners’ sugar, and food coloring.

Wearing a black “Made Out of Babies” T-shirt (it’s a friend’s band) above a red-and-white checked apron, she bent maternally over a batch of strawberry cupcakes. “Don’t you just want to pinch their little cupcake cheeks,” she said.

But can a cupcake be cute and punk at the same time? In the early days of punk, bands like the Sex Pistols were notorious for nihilism, anarchism and epic consumption of drugs and alcohol — none of which would seem to lead to tofu and chamomile tea. But as punk became more political (and as bands self-destructed) in the 1990s, many punks adopted a more profoundly rebellious stance: against drugs, against alcohol and against the whole habit of mindless consumption.

“It was about purifying the movement, about being poison-free,” said Ted Leo, of Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, who led the band Chisel in the 1990s. He became vegetarian in 1988 and has been vegan since 1998. Many punks became vegetarian to protest corporate and government control of the food supply. Veganism takes vegetarianism farther into cruelty-free territory by avoiding anything produced by animals: milk, cheese, eggs, honey, etc.

“I would love to live in a world where I knew the eggs came from happy chickens,” Ms. Moskowitz said. “But in Brooklyn? That’s not going to happen.

“Besides, eggs are the big lie in baking. All the books say they provide structure, but that’s kind of crap.”

At 16, Ms. Moskowitz dropped out of the High School of Music and Art in New York to follow bands, live in squats in the East Village and cook for social justice.

“I learned knife skills by cooking for Food not Bombs,” she said, referring to the activist group that protests corporate and government food policy. “But I also learned to love Julia Child and Martha Stewart. Vegan food can and must be pretty,” she said, pounding a fist on the butcher-block counter.

Ms. Moskowitz’s kitchen, like punk music itself, has a strong do-it-yourself aesthetic. Her husband, a carpenter, builds more shelves when the ingredients threaten to take over, the oven needs frequent coaxing to get up to temperature, and if Fizzle the cat wants to sit on top of the refrigerator, the cupcakes must move over and make room.

“Here is the hideous curdled face of vegan baking,” Ms. Moskowitz said, gesturing to a bowl of soy milk mixed with vegetable oil and cider vinegar. Baking, she said, has long been the final frontier for vegan cooks.

Her second cookbook, “Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World,” was published by Marlowe and Company last fall. Her first, “Vegan With a Vengeance” (Marlowe, 2005), has sold more than 50,000 copies.

“Omnivores” — that’s meat-and-dairy eaters — “can’t imagine baking without eggs and butter,” she said. “But we use cider vinegar instead of buttermilk for tenderizing, and really good shortening for the fat, and the rest just happens.” Nonhydrogenated shortening and margarine produced by Earthbalance and full-fat soy milk from Silk are her baking staples.

From them, instead of lumpy, penitential scones and muffins (the usual vegan baked goods) Ms. Moskowitz and her co-author Terry Hope Romero produce insanely fetching cupcakes with mousse fillings, butter cream frostings, chocolate ganache icings and sprinkles galore.

Ms. Moskowitz says that she has received passionate e-mail messages not only from vegans but also from parents of children allergic to eggs or dairy products, who are thrilled to find vegan baked goods that are not made with whole-wheat flour and egg substitutes and that actually taste good.

The next book by the two women, to be published in the fall, will be “the long-awaited vegan Joy of Cooking,” Ms. Moskowitz said. “Vegan food is everywhere.”

In the recipes below, North African spices lighten a rich vegetable stew with a peanut base; sweet butternut squash stands in perfectly for the sweet shrimp in an otherwise traditional Vietnamese spring roll.

Ms. Moskowitz and Ms. Romero both have been vegetarian since age 16, and vegan for almost that long. “It’s kind of like being gay, in that vegans tend to remember an ‘aha’ moment in adolescence or childhood,” Ms. Moskowitz said. “It happens when you realize that the lambs or chickens on your plate are the same as the ones at the petting zoo.”

It is also like being gay in that, 20 years ago, the notion of a vegetarian teenager was far more alien than it is today.

“People used to throw chicken nuggets at me in the cafeteria,” said Ms. Romero, who grew up in Plainville, Conn.

The number of adult vegetarians has remained steady at 2 to 3 percent, the Vegetarian Resource Group has found in 10 years of regular polling. But American teenagers have been taking up vegetarianism in growing numbers.

In a 2005 Harris Interactive poll for the group, 10 percent of girls ages 13 to 18 said they “never” ate meat, poultry or seafood.

In a 2006 poll of 100,000 college students by the food service giant Aramark, 30 percent of all students said that it was “very important” to them to have vegetarian food options on campus, up from 26 percent in 2004.

But punk vegans like Ms. Moskowitz and Mr. Leo acknowledge that they are still far outside the mainstream, and that the label “vegan” — unlike “vegetarian” — can still inspire a strong negative reaction.

“Any time you confront a deeply ingrained societal norm, people are going to get upset,” Mr. Leo said.

Ms. Moskowitz agreed that the vegan movement is in need of a public-relations overhaul. “I can’t say there’s no self-righteousness in the movement, and also, a lot of the food is awful.”

She said vegans should stop whining about what they can and can’t eat, and start cooking. “When someone invites you to dinner, bring something delicious, and share it,” she said.

This peaceable approach — smoothing frosting over the rough edges of rage — might be the key to Ms. Moskowitz’s appeal.

“You can’t stay angry forever,” she said. “Either as a punk or as a vegan.”

Recipe: Devil’s Food Cupcakes With Fluffy White Filling and Chocolate Icing (January 24, 2007)
Recipe: Spicy Peanut Stew With Ginger and Tomato (January 24, 2007)
Recipe: Butternut Squash Rice Paper Rolls (January 24, 2007)

dimanche, janvier 28, 2007

haricots verts with champagne-shallot vinaigrette

Leo and I had this for dinner tonight with some broccoli & feta cheese quiche, herbed chicken & turkey sausage, and Côtes du Fermoux (rosé) wine.
Haricots verts are slender French green beans. If you use regular fresh green beans, cook them a minute or two longer.

1/2 gallon water
1 tsp salt, divided
1 lb haricots verts, trimmed
1/12 cup Champagne vinegar
1/12 cup finely chopped shallots
2/3 TBSP Dijon mustard
2/3 TBSP honey
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil

Bring water and 1/2 tsp salt to a boil. Add beans to pan; cook 3 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain and plunge beans into ice water; drain.

Combine remaining salt, vinegar, shallots, mustard, honey, and pepper in a large bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Slowly drizzle oil into vinegar mixture; stir well with a whisk. Add beans to vinegar mixture; toss to coat.

Yield: 4 cups (serving size: 1 cup)

CALORIES 67 (38% from fat); FAT 2.8g (sat 0.4g, mono 2.1g, poly 0.3g); PROTEIN 1.5g; CHOLESTEROL 0.0mg; CALCIUM 57mg; SODIUM 151mg; FIBER 4.2g; IRON 0.6mg; CARBOHYDRATE 10.9g

Adapted from Cooking Light, DECEMBER 2006

jeudi, janvier 25, 2007

inmate number 1187055

Remind me never to live in Georgia.
Outrageous Injustice: Genarlow Wilson, honor student and football star, had consensual sex with a fellow teenager. What happened to him next was a crime.
By Wright Thompson
DOUGLASVILLE, Ga. -- There is a cardboard box in Genarlow Wilson's old bedroom.

It rests on the floor of his empty closet, near the deflated football and basketball. It's filled with things he needed in his old life. Mostly, it's overflowing with recruiting letters, from schools big and small. A "Good luck on the SAT" postcard from the coaches at Columbia. From another Ivy League college, Brown, a note from the football coach: "You have been recommended to me as one of the top scholar-athletes in your area."

There's a questionnaire from the Citadel. A brochure from Elon. An envelope from Sewanee. College after college, all wanting the undersized but overachieving Genarlow Wilson to consider their football programs. One open letter, dated three months before everything in this box became a reminder of a life derailed, invites him to take a campus visit. It begins:

Dear Genarlow,

Here you stand, on the threshold of four of the most influential, challenging, and rewarding years of your life.

Being Inmate No. 1187055
Genarlow Wilson is standing on a threshold all right, at the end of the last hall of Burruss Correctional Training Center, an hour and a half south of Atlanta. He's just a few feet from the mechanical door that closes with a goosebump-raising whurr and clang. Three and a half years after he received that letter, he's wearing a blue jacket with big, white block letters. They read: STATE PRISONER.

He's 20 now. Just two years into a 10-year sentence without possibility of parole, he peers through the thick glass and bars, trying to catch a glimpse of freedom. Outside, guard towers and rolls of coiled barbed wire remind him of who he is.

Once, he was the homecoming king at Douglas County High. Now he's Georgia inmate No. 1187055, convicted of aggravated child molestation.

When he was a senior in high school, he received oral sex from a 10th grader. He was 17. She was 15. Everyone, including the girl and the prosecution, agreed she initiated the act. But because of an archaic Georgia law, it was a misdemeanor for teenagers less than three years apart to have sexual intercourse, but a felony for the same kids to have oral sex. Afterward, the state legislature changed the law to include an oral sex clause, but that doesn't help Wilson. In yet another baffling twist, the law was written to not apply to cases retroactively, though another legislative solution might be in the works. The case has drawn national condemnation, from the "Free Genarlow Wilson Now" editorial in The New York Times to a feature on Mark Cuban's HDNet.

"It's disgusting," Cuban wrote to ESPN in an e-mail. "I can not see any way, shape or form that the interests of the state of Georgia are served by throwing away Genarlow's youth and opportunity to become a vibrant contributor to the state. All his situation does is reinforce some unfortunate stereotypes that the state is backward and misgoverned. No one with a conscience can look at this case and conclude that justice has been served." Wilson's mother, Juanessa Bennett, certainly doesn't understand. She has just bought a new house the next county over, hoping that a change of scenery might do her good. The past few years have been hard on her. "You think, what in the world could I have done to God to make him punish me like this?" she says. "Am I that terrible a person?"

Her home feels empty without her son in it. He's not there to enjoy the five burgers for five bucks on Tuesday at the Sonic Drive-In, or chatting away on his telephone late at night. Now, she can only think about the past three years of their lives, and how everything is so different from before.

She points to a picture above her fireplace. There's a grinning 3-year-old boy in the frame, posing with big alphabet blocks.

"He was cute, huh?" she says, quietly.

She looks at the picture, but doesn't cry. There aren't many tears left. After it first happened, she says she cried so much she got an eye infection. Bumps broke out on her face, brought on by worry and grief.

"You need to stop stressing," the doctor told her.

She asked him how exactly she might do that.

"He didn't have an answer," Bennett says.

Now, she's numb. Now, she can only remember the boy he was and pray that when his ordeal is finally over, some of that boy will remain.

The image of a bright future dimming with each passing day is what infuriates so many people. Wilson should be held up as an example of a kid who was making it. His life should be protected by society, not destroyed. He was a good student, with a 3.2 grade point average. He was popular, the school's homecoming king, liked by students and teachers. He never got into any trouble with the law. He was a track and football star. His last two years, he was the defensive back assigned to cover Calvin Johnson, the former Sandy Creek High star who went on to Georgia Tech and is now projected as a top pick in the NFL draft. Wilson studied film, trying to figure out how to outsmart a better and taller athlete. He did well, coaches remember, limiting Johnson to four catches in two games.

Three years later, sitting in their office overlooking the field, finishing up another workday, Wilson's old coaches also remember a good but not great high school player who would have played college ball. They remember his last game, in the playoffs, way down in south Georgia. He got hit so hard on a kickoff return that he ended up spitting up blood on the sideline. The trainer shined a flashlight in his eye, figuring he had a concussion. Wilson grabbed his helmet, determined to go back in the game. He went to the hospital instead.

From drinking to smoking pot to acting like a cocky star athlete, Wilson now cringes at some of the mistakes he made in high school.

He admits he wasn't perfect. Far from it. He drank. He smoked pot. He'd been sexually active since he was 13. And a month or so after that final playoff game, he and some buddies were plotting a New Year's Eve bash. His mama heard them whispering in his bedroom that afternoon. She knew kids whispering usually meant trouble, so she went in and looked those boys up and down.

"Don't do anything stupid," she warned.

Something Stupid
Genarlow Wilson and his friends checked into the Days Inn right off Interstate 20. At some point in the night, according to court documents and evidence presented at trial, some girls came over to party with them. Bourbon and marijuana were consumed. One of the young men turned on a video camera.

Later in the evening, a 17-year-old girl began to have sex with the young men, first in the bathroom, then on the bed. Genarlow is captured on tape appearing to have sex with the girl from behind. Her hand is clearly visible on the floor supporting herself. Witnesses said she was a willing participant. The next morning, the girl awoke in a stupor, wearing nothing but her socks. She called her mother and said she had been raped. Police came to the room after sunrise and took the revelers in for questioning. Genarlow had already gone home -- he didn't want to miss curfew -- but the video camera remained.

On tape, the cops saw a 15-year-old girl, a 10th-grader, performing oral sex on a partygoer and, after finishing with him, turning and performing the act on Genarlow. She was the instigator, according to her mother's testimony. Problem was, the girl was a year under the age of consent. Local prosecutors called the act aggravated child molestation, following the letter and not the spirit of the law, which was designed to prosecute pedophiles.

A week later, on the first day of the second semester of his senior year, the police went to the school and arrested the boys. Wilson was charged with four felonies and taken from the building in handcuffs. Not long before, he'd been in the newspaper for being all-conference in football. Now, he was on the front page, branded a rapist and child molester.

"It was like I had everything one day," he says, "and the next day I didn't have anything."

For the next eight months, Douglas County District Attorney David McDade, who likes to wear an American flag on his lapel and play to his law-and-order-loving base, dangled plea bargains. The other boys didn't want to risk a jury, and one by one each took an offer and went to prison, including the other football player arrested, Narada Williams, who accepted five years with the possibility of parole.

In Douglas County, according to law professors following the case, admitting sins and begging forgiveness -- not insisting on your innocence -- is the road to mercy. Williams is already out of jail, in part because McDade wrote a letter to the parole board, praising Williams for being the first to plead guilty and "take his medicine." As for Wilson, McDade called him a "martyr" in the media.

If he had accepted the plea bargain, Wilson would've had to register as a sex offender and wouldn't have been permitted to live in the same house as his younger sister.

Wilson refused to admit to being a child molester. If he pled to or was convicted of any charge that put him on the sex offender registry, he couldn't live at home with his younger sister. He wouldn't accept that, so he waited for his trial.

The Saturday before it began, his last weekend as a free man, Wilson tried out for a local semi-pro football team. He wanted to be that other person once more, the one who could outrun all of life's problems. For two glorious hours, he sprinted and jumped and dived. When it was over, the coaches were impressed. They traded cell phone numbers, just another opportunity that would soon pass him by.

Two days later, in February 2005, Genarlow Wilson walked into a courtroom. Two charges already had been dropped, and it was clear from the first witness that the rape charge wouldn't stick either. The aggravated child molestation, though, was on tape. Genarlow tried to defend himself against the assigned prosecutor, Eddie Barker.

"Sir," Wilson told him, "you don't even know me. I understand you're just doing your job, sure, but I mean, how would you feel if you were my age and you were put on the stand with these serious charges at this young age? I have a little sister. Why would I molest anyone, sir?"

"I'm not on trial here, Mr. Wilson," Barker said. "You're the one who did these acts, not me."

The day before the trial was expected to end, in the last night he'd ever spend at his home, Wilson went to a church down the street and asked the preacher to pray with him. He awoke early the next morning. He knotted his tie carefully and went to the courthouse. The trial finished that afternoon, and the jury came back with "not guilty" on the rape but "guilty" on the aggravated child molestation.

He looked at the forewoman. She was crying, seeming to understand they'd just undone a promising future. Indeed, when the jurors found out there was a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence, several were incensed. The prosecution told them to write a letter, then moved on to the next case.

Genarlow Wilson put his head in his hands and wept.

Deputies yanked him from his seat. Not long after, Prisoner 1187055 found himself in the predawn darkness, riding in a bus, surrounded not by his teammates but by murderers, thieves and rapists. Some were headed to the penitentiary for the second or third time.

A scared kid looked out the window as the bus chewed up pavement. He didn't know what it was going to be like, only that he didn't want to go.

Doing Hard Time
Wilson moves to the rhythm of the prison now, up early with the shift change, tidying his cell, sitting down to rest before chow, wearing white pants with a blue stripe. It has been 23 months.

These walls and bars haven't taken his youth, though. Not yet. When he smiles, it's the same one from that old photo on his mom's mantel. Bennett wonders how her son has managed to keep that light in such a dark place and how much longer he can hold out.

With nothing but time, he has taken stock of his old life. He doesn't like the person he was back then, the cocky star athlete with the world as his yo-yo. When he thinks about the kid on that videotape, with a Pittsburgh Pirates hat cocked just so, he cringes.

"It's embarrassing to me," he says. "You see yourself. ... 'Man, I acted like that?' "

He has followed his appeals from behind bars. He watched as the state legislature changed the law that put him there, then declined to make it retroactive, for reasons that still boggle the mind. That was a dark day.

He watched as B.J. Bernstein, his new attorney, filed a petition for writ of certiorari, asking the Georgia Supreme Court to review the case. The petition was denied, then set aside, then denied again, then appealed, then denied again. Those were darker days.

The first time the Supreme Court voted on Genarlow's case, it was 4-3. The four judges who voted against the black teen were white. The three judges who voted for him were black.

"I don't understand the Supreme Court," Bennett says. "Do these people not have hearts? Can they not look and see this isn't right?"

In its written decision, the Supreme Court called Wilson a "promising young man," a paragraph that he has read a thousand times. All the e-mails Bernstein gets in support of him, he has those, too. He reads them over and over, reminding himself that he once had a future and, one day, might have it again. It's not easy.

Other people's lives have moved on.

He has corresponded with Williams, his co-defendant and old high school teammate. Williams is enrolled in college now.

Wilson sat in prison and watched Calvin Johnson, the guy he once covered, become the best college receiver in the country and a soon-to-be millionaire.

"That has made my ambitions higher," Wilson says. "That makes me want to succeed even more because I don't want to be left behind."

The Halls of Power
In Atlanta, Bernstein makes her rounds at the state capitol. It's the first day of the legislative session and men in power ties click their wingtips over marble floors, lobbyists back-slapping each other in their little groups.

"He's sitting in jail," she says. "He's in jail every day they're sitting around chatting."

When Bernstein met Wilson, who had a different attorney for the trial, she saw that light in his eyes and didn't want prison to extinguish it. Truth is, she's a rescuer. One of her cats she found on the interstate. She stopped her car in the rain on a six-lane highway to save it. In her heart, she wants to save the world, starting with Genarlow Wilson. That means working pro bono, even as every small check the firm earns goes straight into the operating account. That means figuring out this strange power-brokers' dance.

It's frustrating work. No one involved believes Wilson should be in jail for 10 years.

The prosecutors don't.

The Supreme Court doesn't.

The legislature doesn't.

The 15-year-old "victim" doesn't.

The forewoman of the jury doesn't.

Privately, even prison officials don't.

Yet no one will do anything to free him, passing responsibility around like a hot potato. The prosecutors say they were just doing their job. The Supreme Court says it couldn't free him because the state legislature decreed the new law didn't apply to old cases, even though this case was the entire reason the new law was passed. One possible explanation is that Bernstein, an admitted neophyte at backroom dealing, simply didn't know enough politics to insist on the provision. That haunts her.

The legislature still could pass a new law that would secure Wilson's freedom, so Bernstein is pushing hard for that. One such bipartisan bill was introduced this week, pushed by state Sens. Emanuel Jones, Dan Weber and Kasim Reed. This is Wilson's best shot. "I understand the injustice in the justice system," Jones says, "and when I heard about Genarlow and started studying what had happened, I said, 'This is a wrong that must be righted.' Everyone agrees that justice is not being served."

Afterward, Bernstein can file a writ of habeas corpus, which could get him out of jail, but those are legal Hail Marys. She's a true believer, but if the legislature denies this latest attempt, she knows she might not be able to save Genarlow Wilson. Until it's over, nothing's off the table. Not even simple positive thinking.

Sitting at a midtown-Atlanta Chinese restaurant on a lunch break from all the political wrangling, she picked up her fortune cookie, smiled thinly and said, "Gimme a good one: Genarlow will be free."

She's still working every angle, from the capital to cookies, riding up an elevator to the 53rd floor of an Atlanta high-rise to see David Balser, the attorney who got Marcus Dixon out of jail. The Dixon case was similar: As an 18-year-old, he had sex with a 15-year-old girl and was sentenced to 10 years before the conviction was overturned.

Sitting in a conference room overlooking Stone Mountain, Balser listens. The light shines off his gold cufflinks, the high-thread-count shirt hanging perfectly off his shoulders. He's got a little salt in his pepper and a Virgin Islands tan. They talk media strategy. They talk last-ditch plans, including a constitutional amendment returning pardon power to the governor. When they're done, Balser walks Bernstein to the elevator.

"I think less is more, B.J.," he says. "You've got to get him out and solve the world's problems after that. Just get him out."

"I'm trying," she says.

"I have faith in you," he says.

Letter of the Law
Every story needs a villain, and in this one, the villain's hat has been placed squarely on the head of Barker, the prosecutor and a former college baseball player. Barker doesn't write the laws in the books to the left of his desk. He simply punishes those who break them.

"We didn't want him to get the 10 years," he says. "We understand there's an element out there scratching their heads, saying, 'How does a kid get 10 years under these facts?' "

In Barker's eyes, Wilson should have taken the same plea agreement as the others. Maintaining innocence in the face of the crushing wheels of justice is the ultimate act of vanity, he believes.

"I understand what he's saying," Barker says. "I think he's making a bad decision in the long run. Being branded a sex offender is not good; but at the same time, if it made the difference between spending 10 years as opposed to two? Is it worth sitting in prison for eight more years, and you're still gonna be a sex offender when you get out?"

Barker is quick to point out that he offered Wilson a plea after he'd been found guilty -- the first time he has ever done that. Of course, the plea was the same five years he'd offered before the trial -- not taking into account the rape acquittal. Barker thinks five years is fair for receiving oral sex from a schoolmate. None of the other defendants insisted on a jury trial. Wilson did. He rolled the dice, and he lost. The others, he says, "took their medicine."

While Bernstein works on every possible legal solution, the Douglas County District Attorney's Office has the power to get Wilson out of prison. If the prosecution wanted, this could all end tomorrow. The D.A.'s office says Bernstein hasn't asked. Bernstein says she has. Not that any legal he said/she said matters. Only the prosecutors' opinion does, and according to at least one legal expert, prosecutorial ego is more of a factor in this case than race. The folks in Douglas County are playing god with Genarlow Wilson's life.

"We can set aside his sentence," Barker says. "Legally, it's still possible for us to set aside his sentence and give him a new sentence to a lesser charge. But it's up to us. He has no control over it."

The position of Barker and the district attorney, McDade, who refused to comment, is that Wilson is guilty under the law and there is no room for mercy, though the facts seem to say they simply chose not to give it to Wilson. At the same time this trial was under way, a local high school teacher, a white female, was found guilty of having a sexual relationship with a student -- a true case of child molestation. The teacher received 90 days. Wilson received 3,650 days.

Now, if Wilson wants a shot at getting out, he must throw himself at the prosecutors' feet and ask for mercy, which he might or might not receive. Joseph Heller would love this. If Wilson would only admit to being a child molester, he could stop receiving the punishment of one. Maybe.

"Well," Barker says, "the one person who can change things at this point is Genarlow. The ball's in his court."

Hanging On To Hope
Back at Burruss, Genarlow Wilson is standing against the wall, looking out through the glass of the control room, peering between the bars, watching his attorney and another visitor leave. He has had plenty of people who want to talk to him, including a group of concerned legislators who plan on visiting this week, which finally feels like a real step toward freedom. Problem is, they always go home after an hour or two. He stays behind.

The worst is when his mom comes. She visited on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, bringing him news of the outside world and a smile. She told him about the new house she bought, just over the Cobb County line, finally out of Douglas. She doesn't want him moving back there when he's released. Saying goodbye, though, kills him. He watches her go and is taken back to his cell, where he can just imagine her in her car, imagining him in this prison.

"When she leaves, a part of me leaves," he says. "I just have to get myself back together because we've got a long way to go. I try not to think about doing the whole 10. I'm putting claims on going home this year."

Hope is all he has left. He believes in a system that has failed him. He believes in those powerful men in Atlanta. He believes in the kindness of others, and in the skills of Bernstein. He lets her work, spending most of his days in the prison library, reading all the books he can. Sometimes, he pretends he's a character, living in a fantasy world, not in a cellblock.

When the weather's nice, he can run laps around the yard, as if he's still on a football field, chasing down future first-round picks. The burn in his lungs feels like a time long past. It feels like freedom.

He looks through the windows just a moment more, sadness in his eyes, then turns around. Wilson stares down the hall of his prison, waiting on a day when he can go home.

"I've got a real good feeling about what's going on," he says. "I feel like 2007 is it. This is my year."

His mom has the house ready for him because any day now, her baby's coming back. She just knows it. Over past the dryer, that's his new bedroom. She picked it because it's close to the garage, so he could come and go as he pleases. She thought he deserved that.

Everything's set, in case it's tomorrow. She left the rapper posters rolled up, figuring a man would be coming home. She set out his football trophies and his high school diploma, to remind him what he used to be. She hooked up a television and a stereo. An alarm clock is on the nightstand, so he can get himself up for school. Even the bed is made.

The only thing missing is her son.
Via Leo

mercredi, janvier 24, 2007

what's good for the goose is good for the gander

I don't agree with everything in the story (one name for one family, hyphenation as a cop-out), but I do think it's ridiculous that the process isn't the same for men and for women.
Take your wife's name? That'll cost you -- so ACLU steps in
By Carla Hall, Times Staff Writer
December 15, 2006
Long before they got engaged on a ridge in the Grand Tetons, they had talked about the future and children and names — specifically their own surnames. She loved hers. He wanted to shed his.

Diana Bijon asked her boyfriend if he would take her last name if they got married.

"I always hoped I would meet a guy who would let my kids take my name. My name dies with me, and my sister and I love my dad so much," said Bijon, 28, an ER nurse at UCLA whose father is a French emigre.

Mike Buday, estranged from his father, felt little attachment to his last name. He agreed to change it.

"Diana's father, to a certain extent, is a father figure to me," he said.

A couple of years later, when Buday, 29, proposed marriage while on a backpacking trip, Bijon reminded him about their previous conversation.

"I said, 'Remember we talked about names? Are you really going to take my last name?' "

Buday, unfazed, said yes.

"It was," he said, "not a big deal."

Not until he actually tried to take his fiancee's last name.

On the marriage license application, which now costs $70 to file in L.A. County, Bijon could simply fill in her last name or her soon-to-be husband's last name.

But if Buday wanted to become a Bijon, he would have to get an order of the court to do so — and not before he had filed a petition, paid $320, advertised public notice of his intention to change his name for four weeks in a local newspaper and then appeared before a judge.

"It strikes both of us — especially me — that this is not on equal ground," said Buday, now married to Bijon for more than a year but reduced to still using his, well, maiden name. "This is about gender equality."

The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California agreed. Today the organization plans to file suit against the state of California in federal court, arguing that the difficulty a husband faces when changing his name to his wife's violates the equal protection clause provided by the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.

"This is important to the couple and it's important symbolically," said the local ACLU's legal director, Mark Rosenbaum, who called the current license application "the perfect marriage application for the 17th century."

When the couple, who live in Marina del Rey, sent an e-mail about their plight to the ACLU — one of thousands of inquiries the group receives — the organization took on the case with gusto.

"Every step of that process reflects a process of subordination of the wife," Rosenbaum said. "You have to get permission of the state to choose the name of the wife, you have to pay for it … you have to let the public know…. And finally you have to go to court to get approval.

"If you want to set up a system to discourage couples from adopting the name of the wife, this is it."

Only six states allow either spouse to take the other's surname as a result of marriage.

It wasn't that long ago that women had to battle to keep their last name after marriage.

"Until the 1970s, women had to go to court to keep their maiden name or to change back to it after divorce or widowhood," said Hannah Cannom, an associate of the law firm of Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy who worked pro bono on the ACLU filing.

Now, it's a simple option in California for a woman to keep her name. But if the husband wants to change his last name, or if the couple wants to hyphenate their names or create a new one, they run into the same hurdles that the wannabe Bijons faced.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who famously combined his last name, Villar, with that of his wife — Raigosa — when the couple married in 1987, also had to go to court to change his name, the mayor's office confirmed.

"Since he changed his name as a person getting married, you would have thought someone else would have seen this before and wanted to take it up as something to change," said Christa Chan-Pak, another Milbank associate who worked pro bono on the filing.

After Buday and Bijon found out he couldn't automatically take her name, someone suggested that he try the Department of Motor Vehicles to get a name change. Buday only succeeded in cracking up the clerks at the Santa Monica DMV.

"They sort of scoffed at me and laughed," said Buday, a senior technical manager at an advertising firm. "The supervisor said, 'We don't do that. Men don't change their last names.' The surprising thing is all four people I interacted with were female."

Buday and Bijon decided to contact the ACLU after they realized the process that the name change would entail.

"We thought, 'Whoa, that's insane for two people who were getting married and trying to share a name," Bijon said.

Buday, who says he is not particularly traditional, never considered the convention of a woman changing her last name to be sacrosanct. And right after college, when he ran a business, he used his middle name as his last name for the venture.

"My primary value related to names is you need to have one name," he said. "The hyphenated name is a cop-out. A family, to be a family, should all have the same name.

"So I guess there is a traditional value in that. It's a little weird in my mind for the husband and wife to have different last names."

The couple, who married in August 2005, went to her parents first with their decision.

"When we asked my parents what they thought about him taking my last name," Bijon said, "they said, 'We'd be honored.' "

Buday's family was a little less enthusiastic.

"My brother said something like, 'That's weird.' "

Most of the couple's friends and colleagues have been supportive about their quest.

"We already do, in general, call ourselves Mr. and Mrs. Bijon. That's how our Christmas cards went out," Buday said.

back to square one

I'm looking for a roommate. (The last one was great, but his best friend just moved to San Diego and they got a place together.)

Anyhow, I've been posting my ad in the campus publications and avoiding Craigslist because I don't want to deal with the unwashed masses en masse.

This was one of the responses I got through the college bulletin board. I should say that this wasn't my first e-mail with the guy. But this was his response after I asked about what he was looking for in a living situation and telling him more about the room, my schedule (work, school, time with Leo), dog, etc.
Thanks for the mail respond,i will like to tell you my timeframe for looking
for a place i will be moving down there by febuary ending so i will liek to
look for a female and nice aprt to live well i do work as stylist for a
living,well i do need the room for some years okay i will like to tell ou
that i'm honest caring loviug faithful Loyal and trust worthy lady i don't
like when people are cheat on so i will like to the price of the Good so
that my dad can make out the payment as soon as possible
Argh. So, if you know me and know someone who's looking for a place to live, then please e-mail me. By the way, the room's $700 furnished, $650 unfurnished.

And the "price of the Good" is so high that ain't nobody able to afford it right now.

even al jazeera's covering it

I leave for my vacation in Argentina and Uruguay next week. As a tourist headed to notoriously expensive Punta del Este (described by the NY Times as "the Hamptons of the southern hemisphere,") I see the blockade as a good thing, because less people means:
  1. smaller crowds
  2. lower prices
But I don't like the potential buquebus hassles that the conflict may create as Leo and I make our way from Buenos Aires to Uruguay (and back).

Oh, and the next-to-last paragraph in this story is hilarious. As Leo put it:
wow, talk about not doing your research. all [s]he had to do was find one uruguayan to talk to and this sentence would not have made it into the article.
Anyhow, here's the deal on the Argentine / Uruguayan blockade ...
Argentine blockade irks neighbours
23:16 MECCA TIME, 20:16 GMT
Lucia Newman in Gualiguaychu, Argentina
A caterpillar is the only thing that can be seen moving these days on a road that leads to the bridge linking Uruguay and Argentina.

The Libertador General San Martín bridge would normally be packed with tourists and trucks, especially at this time of year which is holiday season in South America.

But for more than six weeks Argentine activists from the nearby town of Gualiguaychu have been blocking the international route to demand the dismantling of an enormous pulp mill under construction on the Uruguayan side of the Uruguay River.

The cause of the Gualeguaychu activists has attracted international coverage since they began their crusade more than a year ago to stop the Finnish pulp mill manufacturer Metsa-Botnia, from building the plant.

The Orion plant is the largest ever foreign investment in Uruguay and the government claims state of the art technology will prevent contamination. But residents of Gualiguaychu do not believe a word of it.

Tourism threat
"It's obvious to anyone that the pulp mills will contaminate our environment. I have five children and three grandchildren, I'm doing this for them," says Estela Vence who has lived in a donated bus since the road block began.

Javier Villanueva, another activist, told Al Jazeera the mill will also damage the local tourist industry.

"The main vacation spot of the Uruguay River would have a smoke stack for a backdrop," he says.

"We cannot market that, we value our clean air and clean water. Who would come here from the big city to relax… for a smoke stack?"

The road block, meanwhile, is severing the main land artery between Argentina and Uruguay, preventing tens of thousands of Argentines from getting to their favourite summer getaway, the Uruguayan beaches of Punta del Este, at the height of the season.

And the Argentine government is doing nothing to stop it, claiming the demonstrations are sporadic and not disrupting construction of the mill.

Uruguay is furious claiming the blockade is not simply an inconvenience for a few holidaymakers but the strangulation of its economy.

However the World Court turned down a request by Uruguay on Tuesday, lodged in December, to force Argentina to remove blockades on the roads between the neighbouring states.

Case history
The court also urged both sides to refrain from any action that would hinder a resolution of the dispute over the multimillion-dollar mill.

"This decision... places a responsibility on the governments of both countries to try to look for a solution in dialogue," said Hector Gros Espiell, representing Uruguay.

However Tabare Vazquez, Uruguay's president, has said he will not accept any mediation, even from the king of Spain.

The case began in 2006 when Argentina took Uruguay to the World Court in The Hague, accusing it of violating a 1975 bilateral treaty by not giving enough information on the mill.

The court said on Tuesday it was not convinced the blockades risked harming the rights claimed by Uruguay under the 1975 statute and had not delayed the mill's construction.

Growing apart
A judgement on whether Uruguay had breached the 1975 treaty, under which all issues regarding the water of the river must be consulted on and agreed by both countries, is expected within two years, according to the court.

"This is a decision that satisfies us... there's no proven damage done to Uruguay," Jorge Taiana, the Argentine foreign minister, told reporters in Buenos Aires.

Reinaldo Gargano, the Uruguayan foreign minister, told local radio the court's ruling was a surprise.

"The decision says it's alright for people to sit down on deckchairs in the middle of the road and block the transit of goods, people, buses and vehicles," Gargano said.

The feud is unprecedented between two countries which have always regarded each other as family, sharing the same accent, same culture, and now similar centre-left governments.

But as activists in Gualiguaychu pledge to maintain their protest the two countries are now separated by more than just a river.

lundi, janvier 22, 2007

children of men

Leo and I saw "Children of Men" on Sunday. Without building the hype too much, I will say that it's the best movie I've seen in a very, very long time. I spent the last 30 minutes on the edge of my seat.

Based on PD James' book of the same name, Alfonso Cuarón's thriller hits all the right notes. The story is compelling and the actors are riveting. The political and social commentary are incredibly effective as subtext in this cautionary tale. The violence is shocking, but not at all gratutious. In the end, hope and terror, police state and resistance, and power and humor are juxtaposed with great effectiveness.

The premise: It's 2027 and women have been infertile for 18 years. Anarchy reigns and the earth's cities are in chaos.
Set in and around a dystopian London fractious with violence and warring nationalistic sects, Children of Men follows the unexpected discovery of a lone pregnant woman and the desperate journey to deliver her to safety and restore faith for a future beyond.
But don't take my word for it. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 91%. And the Onion's A.V. club had this to say:
Cuarón directs Children Of Men with remarkable long takes and indelible images, but it isn't the kind of craft that immediately calls attention to itself; Cuarón moves the story along with an intensity that makes it hard to pay attention to anything else. It's a film of astonishing immediacy, with all the urgency of a late-night phone call, but the human element drives it. Owen begins a broken man with little to sustain him beyond his relationship with a paternal Michael Caine, whose activism has devolved into a vague hopefulness and a routine of smoking pot, listening to music, and caring for his semi-comatose wife. By the film's end, Owen has been transformed and the possibility raised that the world might change with him. Cuarón has created a dire warning of the world that could be, but he's also made a film about faith, love, sacrifice, and all the other hard-won virtues that keep the world alive. It's a heartbreaking, bullet-strewn valentine to what keeps us human.

dimanche, janvier 21, 2007

you go, fugees!

This story, about refugee boys and their female soccer coach blew me away. The boys have endured unimaginable hardships and now face racism and poverty in Georgia. I'm pulling for them.

After reading their story (courtesy of today's New York Times), I plan to buy a T-shirt to help raise funds for the team and their families.
Refugees Find Hostility and Hope on Soccer Field
CLARKSTON, Ga., Jan. 20 — Early last summer the mayor of this small town east of Atlanta issued a decree: no more soccer in the town park.

Luma Mufleh, leading pregame stretches, requires a lot from her players, including a written pledge to follow a long list of rules.

“There will be nothing but baseball and football down there as long as I am mayor,” Lee Swaney, a retired owner of a heating and air-conditioning business, told the local paper. “Those fields weren’t made for soccer.”

In Clarkston, soccer means something different than in most places. As many as half the residents are refugees from war-torn countries around the world. Placed by resettlement agencies in a once mostly white town, they receive 90 days of assistance from the government and then are left to fend for themselves. Soccer is their game.

But to many longtime residents, soccer is a sign of unwanted change, as unfamiliar and threatening as the hijabs worn by the Muslim women in town. It’s not football. It’s not baseball. The fields weren’t made for it. Mayor Swaney even has a name for the sort of folks who play the game: the soccer people.

Caught in the middle is a boys soccer program called the Fugees — short for refugees, though most opponents guess the name refers to the hip-hop band.

The Fugees are indeed all refugees, from the most troubled corners — Afghanistan, Bosnia, Burundi, Congo, Gambia, Iraq, Kosovo, Liberia, Somalia and Sudan. Some have endured unimaginable hardship to get here: squalor in refugee camps, separation from siblings and parents. One saw his father killed in their home.

The Fugees, 9 to 17 years old, play on three teams divided by age. Their story is about children with miserable pasts trying to make good with strangers in a very different and sometimes hostile place. But as a season with the youngest of the three teams revealed, it is also a story about the challenges facing resettled refugees in this country. More than 900,000 have been admitted to the United States since 1993, and their presence seems to bring out the best in some people and the worst in others.

The Fugees’ coach exemplifies the best. A woman volunteering in a league where all the other coaches are men, some of them paid former professionals from Europe, she spends as much time helping her players’ families make new lives here as coaching soccer.

At the other extreme are some town residents, opposing players and even the parents of those players, at their worst hurling racial epithets and making it clear they resent the mostly African team. In a region where passions run high on the subject of illegal immigration, many are unaware or unconcerned that, as refugees, the Fugees are here legally.

“There are no gray areas with the Fugees,” said the coach, Luma Mufleh. “They trigger people’s reactions on class, on race. They speak with accents and don’t seem American. A lot of people get shaken up by that.”

Lots of Running, Many Rules
The mayor’s soccer ban has everything to do with why, on a scorching August afternoon, Ms. Mufleh — or Coach Luma, as she is known in the refugee community — is holding tryouts for her under-13 team on a rutted, sand-scarred field behind an elementary school.

The boys at the tryouts wear none of the shiny apparel or expensive cleats common in American youth soccer. One plays in ankle-high hiking boots, some in baggy jeans, another in his socks. On the barren lot, every footfall and pivot produces a puff of chalky dust that hangs in the air like fog.

Across town, the lush field in Milam Park sits empty.

Ms. Mufleh blows her whistle.

“Listen up,” she tells the panting and dusty boys. “I don’t care how well you play. I care how hard you work. Every Monday and Wednesday, I’m going to have you from 5 to 8.” The first half will be for homework and tutoring. Ms. Mufleh has arranged volunteers for that. The second half will be for soccer, and for running. Lots of running.

“If you miss a practice, you miss the next game,” she tells the boys. “If you miss two games, you’re off the team.”

The final roster will be posted on the bulletin board at the public library by 10 Friday morning, she says. Don’t bother to call.

And one more thing. She holds up a stack of paper, contracts she expects her players to sign. “If you can’t live with this,” she says, “I don’t want you on this team.”

Hands — black, brown, white — reach for the paper. As the boys read, eyes widen:

I will have good behavior on and off the field.
I will not smoke.
I will not do drugs.
I will not drink alcohol.
I will not get anyone pregnant.
I will not use bad language.
My hair will be shorter than Coach’s.
I will be on time.
I will listen to Coach.
I will try hard.
I will ask for help.
I want to be part of the Fugees!

A Town Transformed
Until the refugees began arriving, the mayor likes to say, Clarkston “was just a sleepy little town by the railroad tracks.”

Since then, this town of 7,100 has become one of the most diverse communities in America.

Clarkston High School now has students from more than 50 countries. The local mosque draws more than 800 to Friday prayers. There is a Hindu temple, and there are congregations of Vietnamese, Sudanese and Liberian Christians.

At the shopping center, American stores have been displaced by Vietnamese, Ethiopian and Eritrean restaurants and a halal butcher. The only hamburger joint in town, City Burger, is run by an Iraqi.

The transformation began in the late 1980s, when resettlement agencies, private groups that contract with the federal government, decided Clarkston was perfect for refugees to begin new lives. The town had an abundance of inexpensive apartments, vacated by middle-class whites who left for more affluent suburbs. It had public transportation; the town was the easternmost stop on the Atlanta rail system. And it was within commuting distance of downtown Atlanta’s booming economy, offering new arrivals at least the prospect of employment.

At first the refugees — most from Southeast Asia — arrived so slowly that residents barely noticed. But as word got out about Clarkston’s suitability, more agencies began placing refugees here. From 1996 to 2001, more than 19,000 refugees from around the world resettled in Georgia, many in Clarkston and surrounding DeKalb County, to the dismay of many longtime residents.

Many of those residents simply left. Others stayed but remained resentful, keeping score of the ways they thought the refugees were altering their lives. There were events that reinforced fears that Clarkston was becoming unsafe: a mentally ill Sudanese boy beheaded his 5-year-old cousin in their Clarkston apartment; a fire in a crowded apartment in town claimed the lives of four Liberian refugee children.

At a town meeting in 2003 meant to foster understanding between the refugees and residents, the first question, submitted on an index card, was, “What can we do to keep the refugees from coming to Clarkston?”

A Coach With a Passion
Luma Mufleh, 31, says she was born to coach. She grew up in Amman, Jordan, in a Westernized family, and attended the American Community School, for American and European expatriates and a few well-to-do Jordanians. There, Muslim girls were free to play sports as boys did, and women were permitted to coach.

Her mentor was an American volleyball coach who demanded extreme loyalty and commitment. Ms. Mufleh picked up on a paradox. Though she claimed to dislike her coach, she wanted to play well for her.

“For the majority of the time she coached me, I hated her,” Ms. Mufleh said. “But she had our respect. Until then, I’d always played for me. I’d never played for a coach.”

Ms. Mufleh attended college in the United States, in part because she felt women here had more opportunities. She went to Smith College, and after graduation moved to Atlanta. She soon found her first coaching job, as head of a 12-and-under girls soccer team through the local Y.M.C.A.

On the field, Ms. Mufleh emulated her volleyball coach, an approach that did not always sit well with American parents. When she ordered her players to practice barefoot, to get a better feel for the soccer ball, a player’s mother objected on the grounds that her daughter could injure her toes.

“This is how I run my practice,” Ms. Mufleh told her. “If she’s not going to do it, she’s not going to play.”

Ms. Mufleh’s first team lost every game. But over time her methods paid off. Her players returned. They got better. In her third season, her team was undefeated.

When Ms. Mufleh learned about the growing refugee community in Clarkston, she floated the idea of starting a soccer program. The Y.M.C.A. offered to back her with uniforms and equipment. So in the summer of 2004, Ms. Mufleh made fliers announcing tryouts in Arabic, English, French and Vietnamese and distributed them around apartment complexes where the refugees lived.

For a coach hoping to build a soccer program in Clarkston, the biggest challenge was not finding talented players. There were plenty of those, boys who had learned the game in refugee camps in Africa and in parking lots around town. The difficulty was finding players who would show up.

Many of the players come from single-parent families, with mothers or fathers who work hours that do not sync with sports schedules. Few refugee families own cars. Players would have to be self-sufficient.

On a June afternoon, 23 boys showed up for the tryouts.

From the beginning, the players were wary. A local church offered a free basketball program for refugee children largely as a cover for missionary work.

Others simply doubted that a woman could coach soccer.

“She’s a girl — she doesn’t know what she’s talking about,” Ms. Mufleh overheard a Sudanese boy say at an early practice.

She ordered him to stand in the goal. As the team watched, she blasted a shot directly at the boy, who dove out of the way.

“Anybody else?” she asked.

In Brutal Pasts, a Bond
Jeremiah Ziaty, one of those early players, is a typical member of the Fugees.

In 1997, in the midst of Liberia’s 14 years of civil war, rebels led by Charles Taylor showed up one night at the Ziatys’ house in Monrovia. Jeremiah’s father was a low-level worker in a government payroll office. The rebels thought he had money. When they learned he did not, they killed him in the family’s living room.

Beatrice Ziaty, Jeremiah’s mother, grabbed her sons and fled out the back door. The Ziatys trekked through the bush for a week until they reached a refugee camp in the Ivory Coast. There, they lived in a mud hut and scavenged for food. After five years in the camp, Ms. Ziaty learned her family had been accepted for resettlement in Clarkston, a town she had never heard of.

The United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants in Washington estimates that there are now more than 12 million refugees worldwide and more than 20 million people displaced within their own nations’ borders. In 2005, only 80,800 were accepted by other nations for resettlement, according to the United Nations.

The Ziatys’ resettlement followed a familiar script. The family was lent $3,016 for one-way airline tickets to the United States, which they repaid in three years. After a two-day journey from Abidjan, they were greeted in Atlanta by a case worker from the International Rescue Committee, a resettlement organization. She took them to an apartment in Clarkston where the cupboard had been stocked with canned goods.

The case worker helped Ms. Ziaty find a job, as a maid at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in the affluent Buckhead section of Atlanta, one that required an hour commute by bus. While walking home from the bus stop after her first day, Ms. Ziaty was mugged and her purse stolen.

Terrified of her new surroundings, Ms. Ziaty told her son Jeremiah never to leave the house. Like any 8-year-old, Jeremiah bristled. He especially wanted to play soccer. Through friends in the neighborhood, he heard about tryouts for the Fugees.

“When he tell me, ‘Mom, I go play soccer,’ I tell him he’s too small, don’t go out of the house,” Ms. Ziaty recalled. “Then he would start crying.”

Ms. Ziaty relaxed her rule when she met Ms. Mufleh, who promised to take care of her son.

That was three years ago. At age 11, Jeremiah is a leader of the 13-and-under Fugees, shifting among sweeper, center midfielder and center forward.

Other members of the Fugees also have harrowing stories. Qendrim Bushi’s Muslim family fled Kosovo when Serbian soldiers torched his father’s grocery store and threatened to kill them. Eldin Subasic’s uncle was shot in Bosnia. And so on.

The Fugees, Ms. Mufleh believed, shared something intense. They knew trauma. They knew the fear and loneliness of the newcomer. This was their bond.

“In order to get a group to work together, to be effective together, you have to find what is common,” she said. “The refugee experience is pretty powerful.”

• • •

Ms. Mufleh made a point never to ask her players about their pasts. On the soccer field, she felt, refugees should leave that behind.

Occasionally, though, a boy would reveal a horrific memory. One reported that he had been a child soldier. When she expressed frustration that a Liberian player tuned out during practice, another Liberian told her she didn’t understand: the boy had been forced by soldiers to shoot his best friend.

“It was learning to not react,” Ms. Mufleh said. “I just wanted to listen. How do you respond when a kid says, ‘I saw my dad shot in front of me’? I didn’t know.”

As a Jordanian in the Deep South, Ms. Mufleh identified in some ways with the refugees. A legal resident awaiting a green card, she often felt an outsider herself, and knew what it was like to be far from home.

She also found she was needed. Her fluent Arabic and conversational French came in handy for players’ mothers who needed to translate a never-ending flow of government paperwork. Teachers learned to call her when her players’ parents could not be located. Families began to invite her to dinner, platters of rice and bowls of leafy African stews. The Ziatys cut back on the peppers when Coach Luma came over; they learned she couldn’t handle them.

Upon hearing of the low wages the refugee women were earning, Ms. Mufleh thought she could do better. She started a house and office cleaning company called Fresh Start, to employ refugee women. The starting salary is $10 an hour, nearly double the minimum wage and more than the women were earning as maids in downtown hotels. She guarantees a 50-cent raise every year, and now employs six refugee women.

Ms. Mufleh said that when she started the soccer program, she was hopelessly naïve about how it would change her life.

“I thought I would coach twice a week and on weekends — like coaching other kids,” she said. “It’s 40 or 60 hours a week — coaching, finding jobs, taking people to the hospital. You start off on your own, and you suddenly have a family of 120.”

Off to a Rough Start
On a Friday morning in August, the boys come one by one to look for their names on the roster at the public library. Many go away disappointed, but six do not.

The new players are:
  • Mohammed Mohammed, 12, a bright-eyed Iraqi Kurd whose family fled Saddam Hussein for Turkey five years ago and who speaks only a few words of English.
  • Idwar and Robin Dikori, two rocket-fast Sudanese brothers, 12 and 10, who lost their mother, sister and two younger brothers in a car crash after arriving in Clarkston.
  • Shahir Anwar, 13, an Afghan whose parents fled the Taliban and whose father suffered a debilitating stroke soon after arriving in this country.
  • Santino Jerke, a shy 11-year-old Sudanese who has just arrived after three years as a refugee in Cairo.
  • Mafoday Jawneh, a heavyset boy of 12 whose family fell out of favor after a coup in Gambia, and who has a sensitive side; his older brother ribs him for tearing up during “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”
Ms. Mufleh is uncertain of her team’s prospects. She will have to teach the new players the basics of organized soccer. There are no throw-ins or corner kicks in the street game they have been playing.

In her occasional moments of self-doubt, Ms. Mufleh asks herself: Can I really get these boys to play together? Can I really get them to win?

• • •

The Fugees’ first practice this season is on a sultry August afternoon, with thunderclouds looming in the distance. After 90 minutes of studying, the team runs for half an hour and groans through situps, push-ups and leg lifts.

But the Fugees have no soccer goals. The Y.M.C.A., which sponsors the team, did not place the order, despite a $2,000 grant for the purpose. Ms. Mufleh quietly seethes that a team of wealthy children would probably not have to wait for soccer goals. She likens practice to “playing basketball without a hoop.”

The team’s first games portend a long season. The Fugees tie their first game, 4-4. In their next game, they surrender a lead and lose, 3-1. The team isn’t passing well. Players aren’t holding their positions.

On a sweltering afternoon in early September, the Fugees prepare to take the field against the Triumph, a team from nearby Tucker. Even before the game, there is a glaring difference between the Fugees and their competition. The Triumph have brought perhaps 40 parents, siblings and friends, who spread out with folding chairs and picnic blankets and are loaded down with enough energy bars and brightly colored sports drinks for an N.B.A. team.

Though this is technically a home game, no one is on the Fugees’ side. During the course of the season, only one Fugees parent will make a game.

The Fugees lead, 2-0, at halftime. In the second half, they put on a show: firing headers, bicycle kicks and a gorgeous arcing shot from 30 yards out. Even the parents of the Triumph gasp and clap in appreciation. At the final whistle, the Fugees have won, 5-1.

“Not bad,” Ms. Mufleh tells her team. “But next week will be a much better game, O.K.?”

A Call for Change
Ms. Mufleh has a list of complaints about the Fugees’ practice field: little grass, no goals. Neighborhood children regularly wander through the scrimmages, disrupting play.

But after a gang shooting in an apartment complex behind the field in late September, she concludes that the field is not safe. She cancels practice for two days. Fed up, she storms into Mayor Swaney’s office, demanding use of the empty field in Milam Park.

When Lee Swaney first ran for City Council in Clarkston more than 15 years ago, he did so as an unabashed representative of “Old Clarkston” — Clarkston before the refugees. It was certainly the more politically viable stance. Because few of the refugees have been in the country long enough to become citizens and vote, political power resides with longtime residents. The 2005 election that gave Mr. Swaney a second four-year term as mayor of this town of 7,100 was determined by just 390 voters.

As mayor, Mr. Swaney has frequently found himself caught between these voters and the thousands of newcomers. But he has also taken potentially unpopular steps on behalf of the refugees. In 2006 he forced the resignation of the town’s longtime police chief, in part because of complaints from refugees that Clarkston police officers were harassing them. Mr. Swaney gave the new chief a mandate to purge the Police Department of rogue officers.

Within three months, the chief, a black man of Trinidadian descent named Tony J. Scipio, fired or accepted the resignations of one-third of the force.

Soccer is another matter. Mr. Swaney does not relish his reputation as the mayor who banned soccer. But he must please constituents who complain that refugees are overrunning the town’s parks and community center — people like Emanuel Ransom, a black man who moved to Clarkston in the late 1960s.

“A lot of our Clarkston residents are being left out totally,” Mr. Ransom says. “Nobody wants to help,” he says of the refugees. “It’s just, ‘Give me, give me, give me.’ ”

Mr. Swaney encourages Ms. Mufleh to make her case at the next City Council meeting. So in early October she addresses a packed room at City Hall, explaining the team’s origins and purpose and promising to pick up trash in the park after practice.

Mr. Swaney takes the floor. He admits concerns about “grown soccer people” who might tear up the field. But these are kids, he says, and “kids are our future.”

He announces his support of a six-month trial for the Fugees’ use of the field in Milam Park.

The proposal passes unanimously. At least for six months, the Fugees can play on grass.

Getting Back in the Game
Early on the morning of Oct. 14, Jeremiah Ziaty is nowhere to be seen. The Fugees have a 9 a.m. game an hour from Clarkston, against the Bluesprings Liberty Fire, one of the top teams. Ms. Mufleh had told her players to meet at the library by 7.

Ms. Mufleh usually leaves players behind if they aren’t on time. But she knows Jeremiah’s mother is now working nights at a packaging factory; she gets home at 3 a.m. and won’t be up to wake Jeremiah. So the coach orders the bus driver to the Ziatys’ apartment. Jeremiah is sound asleep. Awakened, he grabs his uniform and fumbles toward the bus.

From the outset of the game, the Fugees, and especially Jeremiah, seem groggy. They fall behind, 1-0. But in the second half, they tie the score, fall behind, and tie it again, 2-2. Jeremiah is now playing fearsome defense. With minutes to go, the Fugees score. They win, 3-2.

“We played as a team,” says Qendrim Bushi, the boy from Kosovo. “We didn’t yell at each other. Last game, when they scored, all of us were yelling at each other. And Coach made us do a lot of stuff at practice. That’s why we win. Only because of Coach.”

As the Fugees leave the field, a man on the Bluesprings sideline yells to them, “I’d have paid money to watch that game!”

• • •

The Fugees have a knack for inspiring such strong reactions, both positive and negative. After one game Ms. Mufleh thought for a moment she was being chased by a rival parent.

“We’ve heard about your team,” the man said when he caught up with her. “We want to know what we can do to help.”

The rival team donated cleats, balls and jerseys.

Then there was the game in rural Clarkesville last season at which rival players and even some parents shouted a racial epithet at some of the African players on the Fugees.

After being ejected from a game against the Fugees in November, a rival player made an obscene gesture to nearly every player on the Fugees before heading to his bench. And opponents sometimes mocked the Fugees when they spoke to each other in Swahili, or when Ms. Mufleh shouted instructions in Arabic.

There were even incidents involving referees. Two linesmen were reprimanded by a head referee during a pregame lineup in October for snickering when the name Mohammed Mohammed was called.

Ms. Mufleh tells her players to try their best to ignore these slights. When the other side loses its cool, she tells them, it is a sign of weakness.

Ms. Mufleh is just as fatalistic about bad calls. In her entire coaching career, she tells her players, she has never seen a call reversed because of arguing.

The Fugees are perhaps better equipped to accept this advice than most. Their lives, after all, have been defined by bad calls. On the field, they seem to have a higher threshold for anger than the American players, who often respond to borderline calls as if they are catastrophic injustices. Bad calls, Ms. Mufleh teaches her players, are part of the game. You have to accept them, and move on.

On Oct. 21, Ms. Mufleh is forced to put this theory to the test. The Fugees are on their way to Athens, an hour’s drive, for their biggest game, against the undefeated United Gold Valiants. A win will put them in contention for the top spot in their division. Ms. Mufleh sets out in her yellow Volkswagen Beetle, the back seat crammed with balls and cleats. Her team follows in a white Y.M.C.A. bus.

Just outside Monroe, Ms. Mufleh looks to her left and sees a Georgia State Patrol car parallel to her. She looks at her speedometer. She isn’t speeding.

The brake light, she thinks.

Ms. Mufleh noticed it early in the week, but between practices, work and evenings shuttling among her players’ apartments, she neglected to get it fixed. The trooper turns on his flashing lights. Ms. Mufleh eases to the side and looks at her watch. If this doesn’t take too long, the team will make the field in time to warm up.

It isn’t so simple. Because of a clerical error, a ticket Ms. Mufleh paid a year before appears unpaid. Her license is suspended. The trooper orders her from her car. In full view of her team, he arrests her.

In the bus, the Fugees become unglued. Santino Jerke, in the country only a few months, begins to weep, violating the unwritten team rule that Fugees don’t cry. Several of the Fugees have had family members snatched by uniformed men, just like this. They have been in the United States too little time to understand court dates or bail.

Ms. Mufleh tells the team’s manager and bus driver, Tracy Ediger, to take the team to Athens. They know what to do. They can play without her.

Coachless, though, the Fugees are lost. Athens scores within minutes. And scores again. And again. The final score is 5-0.

After the game, Ms. Ediger drives the team back to Monroe. She puts together the $800 bail for Ms. Mufleh and signs some papers. In a few moments, the coach appears. Later, Ms. Mufleh says she thought at that moment about all the times she had told the Fugees to shake off bad calls, to get back in the game, to take responsibility. She walks straight to the bus and her players.

“This was my fault, and I had no excuse for not being there,” she tells them. “I should have been there and I wasn’t, and the way it happened probably messed you guys up.”

Ms. Mufleh asks about the score.

“It was a really hard team, Coach,” says Idwar Dikori, the Sudanese speedster.

“Were they better than you?”

“No!” the Fugees shout in unison.

“Come on, guys — were they?”

“No, Coach,” Robin Dikori says. “If you were there, we were going to beat them.”

Back in Clarkston that night, Ms. Mufleh takes some sweet rolls to the family of Grace Balegamire, a Congolese player. Grace’s 9-year-old brother has heard about the arrest, but doesn’t believe it.

“If you were in jail,” the boy says, “you wouldn’t be here.”

Ms. Mufleh explains that she gave the people at the jail some money and promised to come back later, so they let her out.

“How much money?” he asks.

“Enough for 500 ice creams.”

“If you pay 500 ice creams you can come out of jail?” he asks.

Ms. Mufleh grasps the boy’s confusion. The boys’ father is a political prisoner, in jail in Kinshasa, under circumstances that have drawn condemnation from Amnesty International and the Red Cross. The government there has issued no word on when, or if, he will be released.

At the Ziatys’ home, the arrest has a similarly jarring effect. Jeremiah locks himself in his room and cries himself to sleep.

Battling to the End
It’s late October, and with just two weeks left in the season, a minor miracle occurs in the arrival of two 10-foot-long cardboard boxes: portable soccer goals for the Fugees. The administrator at the Y.M.C.A. finally put in the order. Ms. Mufleh and Ms. Ediger assemble the goals in Milam Park.

The goals and the new field offer Ms. Mufleh new opportunities to coach. On grass, players can slide-tackle during scrimmages, a danger on the old, gravelly field. A lined field makes it easier to practice throw-ins and corner kicks. And goals: well, they provide a chance for the Fugees to practice shooting.

A disturbing trend has emerged in recent games. The Fugees move the ball down the field at will, but their shots are wild. They tie two games despite dominating play.

Perhaps the Fugees are missing shots for the reason other teams miss shots: because scoring in soccer, under the best conditions, is deceptively difficult. But Ms. Mufleh also wonders if the absence of goals for most of a season doesn’t have something to do with it.

Even so, the Fugees end the regular season on a misty Saturday with a 2-1 victory, to finish third in their division with a record of 5-2-3, behind undefeated Athens and the Dacula Danger, a team the Fugees tied. The season finale will be a tournament called the Tornado Cup. To a player, the Fugees think they can win.

“What makes us work as a team is we all want to win bad — we want to be the best team around,” Qendrim says. “It’s like they’re all from my own country,” he adds of his teammates. “They’re my brothers.”

• • •

The Tornado Cup comes down to a game between the Fugees and the Concorde Fire, perhaps Atlanta’s most elite — and expensive — soccer academy. The Fugees need to win to advance to the finals.

Standing on the sideline in a sweatshirt with “Soccer Mom” on the back, Nancy Daffner, team mother for the Fire, describes her son’s teammates as “overachievers.” One is a cellist who has played with the Atlanta Symphony. Her son wakes up an hour early every day to do a morning radio broadcast at his school.

The Fire are mostly from the well-to-do Atlanta suburb of Alpharetta. They have played together under the same coach for five years. They practice twice a week under lights, and have sessions for speed and agility training.

Over the years, the parents have grown close. During practice, Ms. Daffner says, she and the other mothers often meet for margaritas while the fathers watch their sons play. The team has pool parties and players spend weekends at one another’s lake houses. In the summer, most of the players attend soccer camp at Clemson University. Ms. Daffner estimates that the cost of playing for the Fire exceeds $5,000 a year per player, which includes fees, travel to tournaments and, of course, gear. Each player has an Adidas soccer bag embroidered with his jersey number.

There is one other expenditure. The parents of the Fire collectively finance the play of Jorge Pinzon, a Colombian immigrant and the son of a single working mother. He isn’t from Alpharetta, but from East Gwinnett County, a largely Latino area outside Atlanta. Fire parents go to great lengths to get Jorge to games, arranging to meet him at gas stations around his home, landmarks they can find in his out-of-the-way neighborhood. Jorge is the best player on the team.

Ms. Mufleh gathers the Fugees before warm-ups.

“Play to the whistle,” she tells them. “If the ref makes a bad call, you keep playing. O.K.? You focus on the game and how you’re going to win it. Because if you don’t, we’re going to lose your last game of the season, and you’re going home early.”

Just before the opening whistle, some of the Fugees see a strange sight on the sideline. A teacher from the school of Josiah Saydee, a Liberian forward, has come to see him play. Some older refugee children from the complexes in Clarkston have managed rides to the game, an hour from home. Several volunteers from resettlement agencies show up. For the first time all year, the Fugees have fans.

The Fugees come out shooting — and missing — frequently. They lead, 1-0, at the half. In the second half, it’s as if a force field protects the Fire’s goal. After a half-dozen misses, the Fugees score again midway through the second half, to lead by 2-1.

Then, with just minutes to go, Jorge Pinzon of the Fire gets free about 25 yards from the Fugees’ goal. He squares his shoulders and leans into a shot that arcs beautifully over the players’ heads. Eldin Subasic, the Fugees’ Bosnian goalie, leaps. The ball brushes his hands and deflects just under the bar, tying the game.

The final whistle blows moments later. The Fugees’ season is over.

“You had them,” Ms. Mufleh tells her team after the game. “You had them at 2 to 1, and you wouldn’t finish it.”

The Fugees are crushed.

“We lost, I mean, we tied our game,” says Mafoday Jawneh, the sensitive newcomer to the team. “It was so. ...” His voice trails off. “I don’t know what it was.”

An Unpleasant Holiday Gift
The holidays are a festive time in Clarkston. Santa Claus arrives by helicopter at City Hall. The mayor is there to greet him, as are some of the Fugees.

They have other concerns besides Christmas. The Fugees have held two carwashes in town, to raise $1,000 to go to a tournament in Savannah in late January. They have come up $130 short, and Ms. Mufleh tells them that unless they raise the money, they are not going. When one player suggests asking their parents, Ms. Mufleh says that any player who asks a parent for tournament money will be kicked off the team.

She tells them, “You need to ask yourselves what you need to do for your team.”

• • •

“You need to ask yourself what you need to do for your team,” Jeremiah Ziaty says.

He is at home in his kitchen, talking with Prince Tarlue, a teammate from Liberia, making a case for a team project. Some of the boys are to meet at Eldin Subasic’s apartment. They can knock on doors in town and offer to rake leaves to raise the money to get to Savannah. No need telling Coach, unless they raise enough cash. Prince says he is in. Grace is in, too. Some older boys in the refugee community offer to help out as well. Late on a Sunday morning, they set out.

That afternoon, Ms. Mufleh’s cellphone rings. It’s Eldin, who asks if she will pick up Grace and take him home. They have been raking leaves all day, he says, and Grace does not want to walk home in the dark. Oh, Eldin adds, he wants to give her the money.

“What money?” she asks.

“You said we needed $130,” he tells her. “So we got $130.”

• • •

Ms. Mufleh and Ms. Ediger, the team manager, spend the holiday vacation visiting the players’ families. On Dec. 26, Ms. Mufleh receives a fax on Town of Clarkston letterhead.

Effectively immediately, the fax informs her, the Fugees soccer team is no longer welcome to play at Milam Park. The city is handing the field to a youth sports coordinator who plans to run a youth baseball and football program.

Questioned by this reporter, Mayor Swaney says he has forgotten that in October the City Council gave the Fugees six months. A few days later, he tells Ms. Mufleh the team can stay through March.

In early January, Ms. Mufleh logs on to Google Earth, and scans satellite images of Clarkston. There are green patches on the campuses of Georgia Perimeter College, and at the Atlanta Area School for the Deaf, around the corner from City Hall. She hopes to find the Fugees a permanent home.

mercredi, janvier 17, 2007

going global

I grew up eating gado gado and satay, but I'm no expert on making Indonesian food. Yet.

Epicurious' "Going Global" section also has lots of other highlights, by country and/ or region. The bottom of each article has links to recipes, more information about spices/ unique ingredients, etc.

I'm thinking I'll try some of these in the coming months:

enjoying the present

Demographers say that we've reached a tipping point.
For what experts say is probably the first time, more American women are living without a husband than with one, according to a New York Times analysis of census results.

In 2005, 51 percent of women said they were living without a spouse, up from 35 percent in 1950 and 49 percent in 2000.
I'm part of the 51%, and I've also been married. I don't see myself in a permanent state of singledom (in marital status or housing situation). But I have enjoyed the past few years.

We live in a culture that assumes that we'll get married. As a young woman, I gauged my relationship's success by whether or not I could see myself marrying the person. Having gotten married for the worst possible reason — to save a relationship that should've ended organically (and years earlier)— I must admit that I no longer look at my romantic relationships in terms of the final destination, but in terms of the journey.

Nowadays, I'm nearly a year into the best relationship of my life. I'm happy with our present and interested in a long-term future with Leo. But I was still surprised when a male colleague asked me "if [I] had a ring yet" when I shared these facts with him over lunch last month.

I'm not scared of marriage, but I've been on both sides of the divide and know how it can change a relationship. Getting divorced was the hardest thing I've ever done. Having come out on the other side relatively unscathed and much happier, I have to agree with what one woman in this article said: "Once you go through something you think will kill you and it doesn’t, every day is like a present."

Here's to enjoying the present. (And to building a future.)
51% of Women Are Now Living Without Spouse
January 16, 2007

For what experts say is probably the first time, more American women are living without a husband than with one, according to a New York Times analysis of census results.

In 2005, 51 percent of women said they were living without a spouse, up from 35 percent in 1950 and 49 percent in 2000.

Coupled with the fact that in 2005 married couples became a minority of all American households for the first time, the trend could ultimately shape social and workplace policies, including the ways government and employers distribute benefits.

Several factors are driving the statistical shift. At one end of the age spectrum, women are marrying later or living with unmarried partners more often and for longer periods. At the other end, women are living longer as widows and, after a divorce, are more likely than men to delay remarriage, sometimes delighting in their newfound freedom.

In addition, marriage rates among black women remain low. Only about 30 percent of black women are living with a spouse, according to the Census Bureau, compared with about 49 percent of Hispanic women, 55 percent of non-Hispanic white women and more than 60 percent of Asian women.

In a relatively small number of cases, the living arrangement is temporary, because the husbands are working out of town, are in the military or are institutionalized. But while most women eventually marry, the larger trend is unmistakable.

“This is yet another of the inexorable signs that there is no going back to a world where we can assume that marriage is the main institution that organizes people’s lives,” said Prof. Stephanie Coontz, director of public education for the Council on Contemporary Families, a nonprofit research group. “Most of these women will marry, or have married. But on average, Americans now spend half their adult lives outside marriage.”

Professor Coontz said this was probably unprecedented with the possible exception of major wartime mobilizations and when black couples were separated during slavery.

William H. Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution, a research group in Washington, described the shift as “a clear tipping point, reflecting the culmination of post-1960 trends associated with greater independence and more flexible lifestyles for women.”

“For better or worse, women are less dependent on men or the institution of marriage,” Dr. Frey said. “Younger women understand this better, and are preparing to live longer parts of their lives alone or with nonmarried partners. For many older boomer and senior women, the institution of marriage did not hold the promise they might have hoped for, growing up in an ‘Ozzie and Harriet’ era.”

Emily Zuzik, a 32-year-old musician and model who lives in the East Village of Manhattan, said she was not surprised by the trend.

“A lot of my friends are divorced or single or living alone,” Ms. Zuzik said. “I know a lot of people in their 30s who have roommates.”

Ms. Zuzik has lived with a boyfriend twice, once in California where the couple registered as domestic partners to qualify for his health insurance plan. “I don’t plan to live with anyone else again until I am married,” she said, “and I may opt to keep a place of my own even then.”

Linda Barth, a 56-year-old magazine editor in Houston who has never married, said, “I used to divide my women friends into single friends and married friends. Now that doesn’t seem to be an issue.”

Sheila Jamison, who also lives in the East Village and works for a media company, is 45 and single. She says her family believes she would have had a better chance of finding a husband had she attended a historically black college instead of Duke.

“Considering all the weddings I attended in the ’80s that have ended so very, very badly, I consider myself straight up lucky,” Ms. Jamison said. “I have not sworn off marriage, but if I do wed, it will be to have a companion with whom I can travel and play parlor games in my old age.”

Carol Crenshaw, 57, of Roswell, Ga., was divorced in 2005 after 33 years and says she is in no hurry to marry again.

“I’m in a place in my life where I’m comfortable,” said Ms. Crenshaw, who has two grown sons. “I can do what I want, when I want, with whom I want. I was a wife and a mother. I don’t feel like I need to do that again.”

Similarly, Shelley Fidler, 59, a public policy adviser at a law firm, has sworn off marriage. She moved from rural Virginia to the vibrant Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, D.C., when her 30-year marriage ended.

“The benefits were completely unforeseen for me,” Ms. Fidler said, “the free time, the amount of time I get to spend with friends, the time I have alone, which I value tremendously, the flexibility in terms of work, travel and cultural events.”

Among the more than 117 million women over the age of 15, according to the marital status category in the Census Bureau’s latest American Community Survey, 63 million are married. Of those, 3.1 million are legally separated and 2.4 million said their husbands were not living at home for one reason or another.

That brings the number of American women actually living with a spouse to 57.5 million, compared with the 59.9 million who are single or whose husbands were not living at home when the survey was taken in 2005.

Some of those situations, which the census identifies as “spouse absent” and “other,” are temporary, and, of course, even some people who describe themselves as separated eventually reunite with their spouses.

Over all, a larger share of men are married and living with their spouse — about 53 percent compared with 49 percent among women.

“Since women continue to outlive men, they have reached the nonmarital tipping point — more nonmarried than married,” Dr. Frey said. “This suggests that most girls growing up today can look forward to spending more of their lives outside of a traditional marriage.”

Pamela J. Smock, a researcher at the University of Michigan Population Studies Center, agreed, saying that “changing patterns of courtship, marriage, and that we are living longer lives all play a role.”

“Men also remarry more quickly than women after a divorce,” Ms. Smock added, “and both are increasingly likely to cohabit rather than remarry after a divorce.”

The proportion of married people, especially among younger age groups, has been declining for decades. Between 1950 and 2000, the share of women 15-to-24 who were married plummeted to 16 percent, from 42 percent. Among 25-to-34-year-olds, the proportion dropped to 58 percent, from 82 percent.

“Although we can help people ‘do’ marriage better, it is simply delusional to construct social policy or make personal life decisions on the basis that you can count on people spending most of their adult lives in marriage,” said Professor Coontz, the author of “Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage.”

Besse Gardner, 24, said she and her boyfriend met as college freshmen and started living together last April “for all the wrong reasons” — they found a great apartment on the beach in Los Angeles.

“We do not see living together as an end or even for the rest of our lives — it’s just fun right now,” Ms. Gardner said. “My roommate is someone I’d be thrilled to marry one day, but it just doesn’t make sense right now.”

Ms. Crenshaw said that some of the women in her support group for divorced women were miserable, but that she was surprised how happy she was to be single again.

“That’s not how I grew up,” she said. “That’s not how society thinks. It’s a marriage culture.”

Elissa B. Terris, 59, of Marietta, Ga., divorced in 2005 after being married for 34 years and raising a daughter, who is now an adult.

“A gentleman asked me to marry him and I said no,” she recalled. “I told him, ‘I’m just beginning to fly again, I’m just beginning to be me. Don’t take that away.’ ”

“Marriage kind of aged me because there weren’t options,” Ms. Terris said. “There was only one way to go. Now I have choices. One night I slept on the other side of the bed, and I thought, I like this side.”

She said she was returning to college to get a master’s degree (her former husband “didn’t want me to do that because I was more educated than he was”), had taken photography classes and was auditioning for a play.

“Once you go through something you think will kill you and it doesn’t,” she said, “every day is like a present.”

Ariel Sabar, Brenda Goodman and Maureen Balleza contributed reporting.