Saturday, June 21, 2008

Now Lemme Get This Straight

Today's the Solstice, the year's longest day and the last day of the 180 days project, which went the way of the dodo when foliage blocked the view. I couldn't even be mad about it because: Hello! Foliage! My friend drew a labyrinth on the lawn of a church, so I went and walked it on my way to work. At its center, I left a bottle I've carried with me since 1996. It used to contain amber oil but now holds bits of broken glass. A labyrinth invites us to leave something behind and take something away. I left the symbol of everything about me that broke when Morgan left. I took away the question of how I might feel smooth if I didn't feel jagged anymore. Symbolism aside, summer's here, and I feel better already. I smell great too. Why?

Perhaps it comes as no surprise that I'm practically nocturnal. Thus, every morning, I more or less tumble out of bed, get a pint of water, walk into a few walls, then try counting how many fingers I'm holding up. Most of the year, I do this in the dark, which is a real treat. Come springtime, I'm sick of myself, the stale indoor air and the too-cozy cucumber, shay or cocoa butter products I've been using all winter. I need something new to kick my ass and moisturize my skin. By spring, I crave grapefruit body wash. Orange, lemon or lime will do in a pinch, but grapefruit is the citrus bomb. Good thing it comes with this:

How to use: Pour onto moistened pouf, sponge, washcloth or hands. Work into lather and rinse. Avoid contact with eyes.

At 6:15 a.m., I can't be counted on to know that stuff isn't eyewash. But hang on! No self-respecting diva uses fewer than four products during even the quickest shower. What about the special needs of my glorious visage?

The Alba Coconut Milk Facial Wash may be the single most fantastic accidental discovery of my illustrious accident-prone career. A natural beauty can be careless about where she put her Pulitzer, but not about her skin. I was standing in the organic products ghetto at the grocery store in my home town, staring at a bunch of bottles because about twice a day I'm going to wash my face, and it might be nice to use something vaguely soap-like. Whatever, right? I love coconut-scented crap, so I thought I'd give this a try. Anyhoo, I would not care even the tiniest iota if this stuff were made of toxic waste because twice a day I put a dime-size drop of this goo in my palm, add water and slather all over my face, where it smells like DELICIOUS GIRL SCOUT COOKIES! Using Alba Coconut Milk Facial Wash is like washing your face with chocolately THIN MINTS WITHOUT YOU DOUBLING IN SIZE! Ooh, and it comes with thoughtful advice:

Directions for use: Apply a small amount of cleanser to palm and gently massage over face and neck. Rinse clean and pat dry. Avoid contact with eyes.

Sense a theme?


Saturday, May 24, 2008

All My Secrets But I Lie

The leaves now obscure view of the city across the river, which is just as well because leaves also damp noise. The construction on Route 18, now in its eight hundredth year, encroaches closer and closer upon the domain of the river people. Any day now, busboys will be driving bulldozers, if for no other reason than that if I wake up in a drainage pipe domecile and find a gassed-up Caterpillar plus keys, obviously that's a gift from God.

Pete and I are about to start work on the bathroom at his house. This means we're going to pull down tile and walls, replace all kinds of mossy, moldy things, retile, repaint. In between, unaffected fixtures will be plastic-coated to vapor-barrier perfection, and my homework is eye-popping exposure to Holmes On Homes. My new mantra is does it meet code? and I worship at the feet of Norm Abram, High Priest of the New Yankee Workshop. It's also possible the bathroom's too small a space in which to unleash our combined demo fury, and I'll spackle the kitchen because, dude, I totally rock the 100 grit sandpaper without chipping my high-gloss sea-green manicure.


Monday, May 19, 2008

The Sky Come Following Me

Pete, who forgets to be scared at the right moments, has taken a shift or two at the family toy store. For my sisters, this works out great because if they get mad at him they've got me as the off-premises enforcer and on-premises comic relief. On Sunday, the town turned out for a street fair. Pete and I brought crunchy snacks because things will go right and things will go wrong and my family members will - you're not going to believe this - forget to eat. Anyway, we worked like a team of huskies inside and outside the stores. I overheard stuff.

Woman: I have to say it. I don't like pizza.
Man: Well -

I ran out to the tent, where Pete and my niece Lois were describing gardening hats to young mommies pushing strollers. "He said, 'Well, it's not like you're a COMMUNIST.'" Later, clouds gathered and a monsoon drowned the street fair. We had a great time noshing on grapes and arguing with carrot sticks and making plans huddled around the salsa. When the sun came out, Pete and I walked home and took a nap.


Sunday, April 27, 2008

And Things Were Looking Like A Movie

A little while ago, Pete walked out to the fence to take that nightly picture we've neglected for the last week. As he framed this shot, he heard people talking, then saw them and their sleeping bags in the dark on the other side of this fence. Startled, he turned and walked back. Just then, a cop car materialized in the cul-de-sac and Pete waved. "There are people sleeping behind that fence," Pete said.

I wouldn't have done that, but Pete did because his tiny, middle-aged girlfriend sleeps 20 yards from this fence and he's alarmed. The river people were down closer to the bridge and at river level a few days ago. I haven't worried about them, but with a third night of rain predicted, I'm worried for them.

If they're still there tomorrow, I should make them sandwiches.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Days Are Lit Like Everyone

Pete and I have had a tough time remembering whose shoes are whose, let alone remembering to go outside and pad back in with pictures and shoes on our paws. Such pressure! It's so silly to fret when sun dapples our afternoons and yellow pollen coats our cars, which means that spring in the air and a rising prices at the pump turn a middle aged lady's fancy to hoofing it to work. And hoof it, I do! I should start carrying a camera, shouldn't I? I certainly thought so this morning, as I loped across the Albany Street Bridge over a Raritan River so smooth a single duck's paddling strokes rippled gently from center and side to side. So let's talk about space.

Our model is some sort of reality TV personality. Please don't tell me who because I promise not to care. No, what's important here is that our model's spine looks like a spiral staircase and her toes could only be closer together if they were webbed. Women: I'm about to say something important. This momentousness may never happen again so please take note of both the date and what follows. Here goes: nothing says, "Infantilize me!" like standing around pigeon-toed and helpless. No man with a pulse and a say-so about your raise will take you seriously if you think this is an excellent posture to work, supermodel, work in your workplace, as in life. Strike this pose and you are toast, professionally.

It doesn't matter if you agree with me. It doesn't matter if you don't like it. You will not be respected if you make yourself look feeble. Don't bother exclaiming, "That's how the models all stand now!" Despite our darling's musculature, her feet make her look like a 98-pound weakling, unable to get out of even her own way, let alone up a flight of stairs or down to business.

Women, Miss Lynda Carter knew something thirty years ago working femmes may or may not know now: if you're going to bump up against big boys you'd better take up some space. Think I'm kidding? Let's experiment:

1. Sit in a booth with three male persons. No matter how big you are or how small they are, the menfolk will slouch, knees wide. If you cross your legs they will spread out wider. It doesn't matter if these are your brothers, cousins or James Brown's horn section; they will assume you are much smaller than you are, and the space under the table belongs to them.

2. Walk down a hallway where you know men will be walking in the opposite direction. Pretend for a moment you're fully human and walk straight ahead. When a man walks dead into you and looks surprised, say, "Excuse you" and walk on. Another man will thump into you. It's as if you're only visible to special people, possibly with night vision goggles. Try not to act shocked. Back in film school, you saw Delicatessen, and somewhere deep down you know you're edible.

echidne is in a bit of a mood, and as a no-wave feminist, I understand. Probably. My parents were feminists. My daughter is post-post-feminist. It's all so very over in a time when girls grow up and skip off to corporate jobs without a moment's thought as to what happened to both allow and force them to do so. In fact, we live in a time of enormously unexamined behavior, and for the most part, it's up to each of us to give ourselves a vigorous look-see. Though I'm no expert at anything other than looking or seeing, I'll help you get started. Stand up straight, shoulders back. Plant your feet parallel about shoulder width apart. Wear shoes that make you able and not unable. You've got to get some ground and stand it. Woman, take up some space.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Yesterday, Today And Tomorrow


Everything happened at once on Sunday and Monday. I couldn't go to Virginia last weekend and the guilt was tremendous. Daria, Darla and Dara packed the up the house, though the packing never seemed to end, and on Sunday night, Daria had to leave to get her children to school Monday morning. Darla's ex-husband drove down from Canada with a truck they packed all night. At about dinnertime yesterday, they closed up the house and Darla went home to Canada. Today, Dara went back to high school. We have said goodbye to Dad's house, and to our life with Dad. For us, it is over. For Darla, a new life begins.


Miss Sasha, Mister Sasha and baby Panky - now nearly four months old - are leaving their house in California right now. Miss Sasha reports the house is clean, the boxes are stacked in another truck they'll drive to San Francisco today. They have a plan, places where they have to report to the Air Force, and sights to see on their journey to North Dakota. They leave behind a forwarding address for packages that did not arrive in time, which turns out to be important. The birthday presents I mailed a week ago did not arrive. Let's hope weary travelers are greeted at their new home by felicitous gifts.


I am washing and drying crisp pinstriped sheets and luxurious bath towels at home this afternoon. Yesterday I had some dental work done, so this morning, I called work and said my head wanted to stay flat for the foreseeable future. When you sit up and your skull says, "No, no, you had it right the first time," you go back to bed too, right? Even Blogger refused to publish until now in the face of all this. The windows are open wide and a breeze perfumes the apartment. Sunlight dances along the surface of the gold organza curtains. This day was always coming. I can only let it pass through me on its way to Long Ago.

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Din Of Our Rice Crispies

I. I am a genius!

We dismantled Dad's kitchen and I ended up with a bigass container of dried black beans; by bigass, I mean a 7-quart Sysco restaurant container, and by beans, I mean of indeterminate age and/or magical power. For many long months, I stared at this container and waited for inspiration, which means breath of the gods and there's just not enough Gas-Ex, thank you. One day, a plan came to me. Pete laughed out loud, uncertain I'd do it. Two nights ago, we filled a quart bag with beans and went for a walk. The plan:

1. On a rainy night, fling beans near chain link fences everywhere.
2. Wait.
3. Watch out for falling giants.

The possible results:
1. Planting.
2. Composting.
3. Feeding outdoor critters.

We enjoyed furtively peppering lawns, alleys, empty planters and scrubby gardens with prospective beanstalks, which process became more entertaining the closer we walked to the center of town and spectators. No one asked us what we were doing. No one said, "You've literally beaned me." No. People watched as Pete and I walked by and I exhorted our little legumes to grow toward the sun, be free, be free! This public art project memorializing my father is called the Beany Benediction.

No cows will be harmed in the making of it.

II. I am an idiot!

As we prepared dinner last night, Pete asked if there might be garlic in my kitchen. This request surprised me. "I'm fresh out of fresh but I've got chopped, freeze-dried and a metric buttload of granulated. When I acquire Garlic In A Tube, I shall rule the Alium World. Mwah hah hah!" I cackled.

Pete sniffed the chopped and made a face. Pete stared at enough granulated garlic to temper the effects of beach erosion. Pete grabbed a freeze-dried chip slice and tossed it into his mouth. Five. Four. Three. Two -

Tata: What's the matter with you?
Pete: That was disgusting! Omigod -

And even though I watched him scrape the insides of his mouth with his fingernails I popped a freeze-dried slice of garlic into my mouth.

Tata: I'm not certain but my teeth may be on fire.

I sat on a chair in my kitchen, evidently waiting for the return of either common sense or blood to my extremities, as garlic still in my mouth continued hydrating. At no time did it occur to me to lean three inches to my left and spit out the tiny flaming tidbits singeing my tastebuds. For the rest of the evening, Pete and I randomly burst out laughing and moved a few inches further from each other. This morning, I woke up and the first thing I smelled was my own rank breath.

At work, I handed out emergency Altoids and promised I'd never do it again.

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Cartwheels Turn To Car Wheels

Some Saturdays, I get home from the family store motivated to scour my bathroom, vacuum the drapes and refold Rhode Island. I roll up my sleeves and make the most of it, when I have that kind of energy. Vrrooooom! I love things clean and sweet-smelling! I love the few minutes three times a week when the bathroom floor is gritless and cat-litter free!

Today, however, I want a nap. It is my very good fortune that today, I can have one!


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Don't Fear My Darling the Lion

New York Times Online:

White House Offers Grim Outlook for Medicare

I'll just tell you right now I can't read this article because I will suffer an aneurysm. God damn it, I cannot think rationally about depriving Americans of access to what little health care they have -

Okay, I read it and only went a little cross-eyed. Here's the howling mad part:
President Bush set forth his vision for Medicare in February, in a budget that proposed savings of more than $180 billion in the next five years. The House and the Senate rejected those proposals in budget blueprints adopted earlier this month.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the reports reflected policy decisions made by Mr. Bush early in his administration. The president inherited a budget surplus, but, rather than using it to shore up Social Security and Medicare, she said, he squandered much of it on “tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.”

Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, the senior Republican on the Budget Committee, said the reports showed that the looming crisis in entitlement programs “is not a phony issue, as some Democrats have stated, but a very real problem that is on our doorstep.”

The administration has lied to us so often it now sends someone out to say, "We're not lying"? If you're lying, and you say you're not lying, YOU'RE STILL LYING. I believe this is another effort to turn the fiscal clock back to the heyday of the robber baron, and I'm quite sure about 67% of Americans agree. Don't fuck with old people!

The lighting fixture that started our quest for color that honored Pete's late mother's taste in furniture.

In other Stuff You Won't Believe, Stop & Shop corporate headquarters has not responded to my email this time to find out if I'm a real human and actually talk like this, but the local store's manager called me at work. We talked about recycled stuff and healthier products and he tried to convince me that he was doing the best he could. Chitter chatter chitter chatter later, I asked him straight out, "Why did you call me? You're not going to convince me to buy Bounty and shut up." He actually tried telling me that all his product options were set at corporate and recycled products weren't available. I said, "The Stop & Shop across the river has an entire recycled and healthy products ghetto, which is bullshit because when customers are in the paper products aisle they can't see what their real options are."

He said, "They have that?"

I said, "Maybe you'd better go look and compare notes. Your store is in trouble when I can tell you what you can order and you don't know."

DING! Thus ends Round 2. I may have taken that one but anyone could still lose.

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Monday, March 24, 2008

The Boom-Boom Into My Heart

Pete often takes interesting pictures of this dull landscape. Tonight, as he chose his images, a sunset orange as pumpkin blossoms kissed the city goodnight. It was impossible to photograph and gone in an instant. On Monday nights, Discovery Home Channel runs a series of shows about painlessly greening up your life, which is great but miles from our thoughts as we skedaddled to Pete's house, where we've been plotting, scheming and plotting some more, and now our eeeeeevil plan is in higglety-pigglety motion.

We've smooshed everything together into the center of Pete's dining room, covered it in canvas and painted one hundred year old plaster walls an elegant and foreboding red. On the way to red, we first primed the walls with a dusty rose primer that gave me terrifying eighties flashbacks. Remember that Laura Ashley period in your life or the life of a misguided loved one? Brrrr. Red is the toughest color to work with because everything else bleeds through it. We painted and cut in and painted and cut in and painted and tried not to kill each other and pretended not to notice the way the old greenish-teal trim appeared to vibrate horribly in a red room. You see it there, lurking in the distance. Eradicating it in the dining room became my obsession. I can't tell you how many times I said, "Five more minutes! Five more! I can quit priming any time!"

We were undecided before but tonight we decided the trim should be white-white. When I saw the deep, velvet red next to the fresh, bright white, all I could do was cackle with joy. Joy! Tomorrow: we paint all the trim. Later, the radiator and a pipe will be silver.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Know When Or Where To Go

I'm packing to go back to Virginia again. The catsitter's coming tomorrow to adore Topaz and Drusy in my mournful absence. Tonight, I went to pick up snacks at the Extortion Mart across the street from the family store while Anya closed up. A six of San Pellegrino, carrot sticks and Sun Chips later, I found myself flummoxed in front of the toilet paper again when there wasn't a single recycled paper product on the shelves I'd complained held too few. Ten minutes later, Anya met me at my car a little flustered.

Anya: Where'd you go?
Tata: I had to throw a giant hissyfit, and those take time.
Anya: What happened?
Tata: I can't believe it! In that store, in March 2008, I didn't find a single recycled paper product in that aisle - not a napkin, not a tissue, not a paper towel, not a single roll of toilet paper. In 2008, there's no excuse for this.
Anya: You're not the only one who has this talk with them.
Tata: I marched to the checkout line but two people were at the courtesy counter so I turned around, interrupted their conversation and described my umbrage. I was umbrageous!
Anya: Is that a word?
Tata: Of course not, so it's not a cliche!
Anya: Did they say anything or did they hold still and hope you don't bite?
Tata: The one guy said he was a new manager from Somerset where they have lots of recycled products. I corrected him by saying there's a recycled product ghetto that was inadequate but better than nothing. Anyway, he looked really surprised so he went to look for himself. Fortunately the Express Line wasn't moving so when he got back he said I was right but he had the decency to look confused.
Anya: Are you inhaling at all? Because I haven't seen you breathe for a few minutes.
Tata: He said it's a small store. I said that makes it worse because people walk to the store but then they have to drive two towns away for recycled paper and what's that mean?
Anya: Dead dinosaurs weep!
Tata: He said corporate in Massachusetts made the decisions. I said they'd already heard from me, and I was fully prepared to have a conniption up and down the East Coast.
Anya: We buy our Marcal products at Costco.
Tata: Really? I've never found them there!
Anya: We buy them for the stores and our houses at Costco.
Tata: I'll look again. Anyway, I couldn't believe it. I just couldn't believe it and I couldn't even shut my mouth! Hey, did I drive by your house? I can't tell when I'm nearly hysterical.
Anya: No, it's actually two ahead.
Tata: Your block has nine houses. Yet I can't pick out the one in the middle.

My campaign of letter-writing terror begins anew Monday.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

When Kindness Falls Like Rain

This week, the temperature is supposed to be above 40 every day. This means I can walk to and from work again, which is grand news. I walked today and love what it does for my metabolism and morale. It makes all the difference between feeling confined indoors burning fossil fuels and getting out into springtime and new life. Today, I was sorry to read that Twisty's father died last week. That anyone endures this now inspires a familiar ache for me. I want to say, "I don't know how you feel because I am not you, but I know it gets better with time."

This weekend, we have the final garage sale of Dad's stuff. I expect we'll cry all Saturday. But it gets better with time.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

That Endless Skyway

Recently, Pete and I watched a documentary on PBS about Pete Seeger and the sloop Clearwater. I was stunned by the story because, like many children our age, my sister Daria, brother Todd and I participated in it. Daria reminded me that we and our neighbors rode on the Clearwater more than thirty years ago. This is where we learned about basic environmentalism and took to heart a love of green places. This, I remember now, is where I became a shameless treehugger, for which I will never have even a single moment of embarrassment.

Last night, my own Pete happened on another PBS fundraiser and we both stopped what we were doing. Channel 13 out of Newark - you know, where Sesame Street came from - was running The Power of Song. Once again, I was shocked speechless by what I remember of Pete Seeger's life and what I had forgotten.

In 1952, I believe it was, Pete Seeger was blacklisted for being a communist and didn't appear on radio or television - except for PBS - until the Smothers Brothers invited them on their show in 1967 and 1968. One of his biggest legal problems is that he would not sign a loyalty oath or swear that he was not a Communist. Funny thing: in February 2008, a math teacher at California State University at East Bay was fired from her new job for refusing to sign a loyalty oath that included promises of violence.
California State University East Bay has fired a math teacher after six weeks on the job because she inserted the word "nonviolently" in her state-required Oath of Allegiance form. Marianne Kearney-Brown, a Quaker and graduate student who began teaching remedial math to undergrads Jan. 7, lost her $700-a-month part-time job after refusing to sign an 87-word Oath of Allegiance to the Constitution that the state requires of elected officials and public employees.

"I don't think it was fair at all," said Kearney-Brown. "All they care about is my name on an unaltered loyalty oath. They don't care if I meant it, and it didn't seem connected to the spirit of the oath. Nothing else mattered. My teaching didn't matter. Nothing."

A veteran public school math teacher who specializes in helping struggling students, Kearney-Brown, 50, had signed the oath before - but had modified it each time. She signed the oath 15 years ago, when she taught eighth-grade math in Sonoma. And she signed it again when she began a 12-year stint in Vallejo high schools.
Each time, when asked to "swear (or affirm)" that she would "support and defend" the U.S. and state Constitutions "against all enemies, foreign and domestic," Kearney-Brown inserted revisions: She wrote "nonviolently" in front of the word "support," crossed out "swear," and circled "affirm." All were to conform with her Quaker beliefs, she said. The school districts always accepted her modifications, Kearney-Brown said. But Cal State East Bay wouldn't, and she was fired on Thursday.

In what fucking bizarro universe does a math teacher need to defend the goddamn State of California? And - wait for it - California officials can't agree on what the problem is.
Modifying the oath "is very clearly not permissible," the university's attorney, Eunice Chan, said, citing various laws. "It's an unfortunate situation. If she'd just signed the oath, the campus would have been more than willing to continue her employment."

Modifying oaths is open to different legal interpretations. Without commenting on the specific situation, a spokesman for state Attorney General Jerry Brown said that "as a general matter, oaths may be modified to conform with individual values." For example, court oaths may be modified so that atheists don't have to refer to a deity, said spokesman Gareth Lacy.

What the fuck is wrong with these people? The article goes on and on with the kind of bureaucratic back and forth anyone who's every tried to work with a state structure recognizes. Then she's fired, which raises the question: does anyone truly believe Medieval history and Comp Sci grad students are going to take up arms to defend anything? Of course not. That's why THEY'RE IN FUCKING COLLEGE. So what's that oath really intended to do?

Simple: to screen out people of real conscience.

"I feel that in my whole life I have never done anything of any conspiratorial nature and I resent very much and very deeply the implication of being called before this Committee that in some way because my opinions may be different from yours, that I am any less of an American than anyone else.

I am saying voluntarily that I have sung for almost every religious group in the country, from Jewish and Catholic, and Presbyterian and Holy Rollers and Revival Churches. I love my country very dearly, and I greatly resent the implication that some of the places that I have sung and some of the people that I have known, and some of my opinions, whether they are religious or philosophical, make me less of an American."

- Pete Seeger before the House Un-American Activities Committee on 15 August 1955.

We have been here before. We have seen this before and done this before. It was a tragic, terrible failure. And we can't wait to do it again.

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Sunday, March 09, 2008

Every Purpose Under Heaven

It rained here for a day and a half, sometimes with impressive ferocity but it didn't seem like anything special. It was raining. Then it stopped. As anyone who lives on a river knows, your weather matters but what matters more is the weather upstream. For two days, upstream, it was monsoon season. This morning, Pete and I drove two miles to Mr. DBK's house on the other side of the river, and to cross we had to backtrack around a flood plain. The park glistened where the river broke its banks and settled, bringing hungry geese almost to the road's edge. We decided then that later we'd go out and take pictures. Turns out taking pictures along the river just before sunset is a bitch.

The Raritan is a wide tidal river of variable depth. Pete and I both remember big boats on the river when we were children, their starling horns renting the air. Now, even the unnamed university's boathouse is a ghost town and it's possible the crew program's been disbanded; in any case, the only little motor boats on the river seem to glow a little and commute back and forth to the Arthur Kill. That can be seen from space, you know.

Mighty Route 18, which skirts New Brunswick before zipping across the river and stopping in the middle of nowhere, has been under construction for three years. I can see construction from my living room window, and listening to it has been pretty awesome. It's got a great beat, but absolutely nobody can dance to it. Years ago, I read the plans and saw something I didn't understand: specs for a tunnel under Albany Street, which is to say the bridge I walk across into the city. There's no place at the edge of the river where anyone needs a tunnel. I waited and waited, and one day I found the construction had hollowed out a section of previously stable Route 18 and Route 27 merge space, wrecked the road surface and put in a set of concrete stairs to ...nothing. The sidewalk I walk on is cracking under the pressure. The tunnel itself is crushed and failing. Well, that's not true. Along the edge of the river live the homeless, and these concrete steps take one to the spot where people have always lived out of doors. There's trash everywhere. When Pete and I went down to look at the tunnel, we saw someone living in it.

The tunnel goes nowhere. We'll go take more pictures - but not of the river people. They don't need attention. Someone besides us should know of this wasteful bullshit, and the tunnel that serves no purpose but to destroy the bridge.

Note: Fucking Blogger won't upload pictures tonight. I'll add them to this post later.
Update: Images added Monday night. Blogger's help board was full of messages about this since early Monday morning, and Blogger kept mum. I guess you get what you pay for there.

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Sound That I'm Hearing Is Only the Sound


Tonight, I spent a couple of hours on a ladder at the family store, sanding and repainting walls so light a green the color is nearly indistinguishable from the gallery-white ceiling. For me, this was howling good fun. I love painting. I love the perfection of fresh, clean walls and wild possibilities, which is marvelous considering I'd locked myself out of my apartment while Bill Cosby was explaining Black people to Oprah. Note to self: flu leaves one too weak for ordinary activities like breaking and entering. Yes, I'm sure it was a little disconcerting for my neighbors when I was hanging halfway out my living room window and couldn't pull myself up the rest of the way. That'll never happen again. My feet will not again dangle!


My office is shaped like a z, with my cubicle dead in the center. I hear everything. I was emptying an ancient kardex file with a new co-worker and we were talking about technology.

Her: My new phone comes with a stop watch. I can take splits.
Tata: You can be all like, "This conversation is going in circles. Let's see how fast."

Just then, my phone rang. I ran for it and whacked my arm really, really well.

Him: You named a vendor record "ABBY NORMAL"?
Tata: Yep.
Him: I'm putting on the Ritz!
Tata: Hot. I'm hanging up now.

...which I said because I could hear him laughing from less than 40 feet away. You would not believe the bruise,


Friday, February 22, 2008

The Weather Outside Is Frightful

Drusy demonstrates exceptional flatness.

Yesterday, I dragged my new maroon bicycle down a small flight of stairs, across what passes for a lawn and into the street. Then I rode to work at the family store, pretending I didn't look or feel like Angela Lansbury in the opening credits of Murder, She Wrote. No, no! I am far more rugged and burly! I am fierce! I am also smaller than I at first appear, so dragging the bicycle down a twisting flight of stairs inside the family store exhausted me completely. Anya, laughing hysterically, said, "Plainly the workout is when you get off the bike." No kidding. She would not have enjoyed watching me walk the bike through her store full of beautiful things after closing, which I will never ever describe to her and hope she never sees.

Man, I hope I got all the little pieces!


Last night, it started snowing. This morning, I looked out my front window and said, "No way, I'm risking my life for the unnamed university. This cowgirl's going back to bed." When I woke up twenty years later, I shaved and looked outside again. Oh, those kids with their rock music and snow plows! There's a path out of the cul-de-sac by the river and Pete reports the roads aren't so bad. Still, my laundry's washed. As it dries it humidifies my arid apartment.


I'm making a shopping list. Cat litter, coffee, unbleached filters, hand soap, special overpriced shampoo for my overpriced hair, body wash, NyQuil, eggs, vegetables. It's raining outside, turning the slippery layer of pressed snow into slush. I hate this step in the thaw but let's be realistic. Siobhan and I have a date with Suzette for martinis tonight, and I am loath to get my paws wet. Staying dry will require ingenuity. I'm considering building my own diving bell.

Two days ago, Daria returned from Virginia with another carload of stuff that used to be Dad's. This time, more jars for jarring spring fruits and vegetables. In a few weeks, we'll stage a final garage sale, then our stepmother Darla will pack up and go back to Canada with her cats. I regard these new items with some nervousness. A time is coming when Dad's death and all events rippling through our lives for the last year will smooth out into the flatness of History. I am not sure how I feel about that and I can tell Daria isn't either. In the meantime, my grandmother's, then Dad's convection oven has a new home with me.

I do not know how to use it but I will learn that, too.

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Peter Pan, Frankenstein Or Superman

Pete's a cyclist. He's sitting on the living room floor now, greasing a chain, and I'm not even talking dirty. Months ago, he tried out a friend's folding bike and for me it was like watching a fish get back into water. With the end of winter, he feels confined indoors, as do I. Some time ago, he decided that for my birthday we'd pick out a bicycle for me. We studied catalogs and the net. Today, we drove all over Central New Jersey, looked at a handful of bicycles and rode a few, too. I'd ride a bike, then he'd ride it. If it was comfortable for me it looked like a circus tricycle under him. Finally, we found one in Princeton for a price we liked and the bike lacked a mysteriously femmy paint job found on most of the women's trail bikes. The bike guy at the bike shop liked Pete's talk about cycling across Utah and when it turned out they'd had the same bikes growing up I declared them separated at birth.

The bike guy will build my bike and it'll be ready tomorrow. I'm so thrilled to pieces with the promise of getting outdoors I let them talk me into a helmet.

Pete: Go pick out a helmet.
Tata: I cannot deny my high-hair heritage. I can't wear a helmet!
Bike Guy: This one is less than $100 and won't obscure the hair.
Tata: I feel glamorous. Note my extreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeme beauty!
Bike Guy: It looks great.
Tata: I can't wear that. It clashes with my maroon bike. Got anything in silver?
Bike Guy: Here you go!
Tata: Dude, that was eight feet off the ground. You should audition for Cirque du Soleil.
Bike Guy: That one's got a visor. It comes off!
Tata: Pete, the silver helmet looks like it's going FAST!
Pete: It's going, all right.
Tata: See the thing that's keeping brains inside my head?
Pete: Ah, yep.
Tata: It's flattening my hair!
Pete: My dear, that'll never happen.

The kickstand comes separately.


Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Newsman Sang His Same Song

As I left the family store tonight, I stood on the sidewalk talking with Anya about a disk full of images for the website. I work on the store's website. The toughest art is getting good images of merchandise from manufacturers because artists and artisans are suspicious, for which we can't really blame them. This disk, then, would be a boon to me. It was in a bag in Corinne's car at Anya's house. I said I'd stop by and pick it up. Fifteen minutes later, I was sitting in my living room wearing pajamas when I remembered. Corinne is so used to this she wasn't even surprised when I called and said I'd forgotten before I even crossed the street.


Friday, February 15, 2008

You Better Shop Around

The Grand Am to which I will one day glue gold-painted macaroni.

A conversation.

Tata: You're good with babies. I believe in delegating. Wouldn't you like to go meet my grandson for me? He's still got that 'new person' smell.
minstrel: i loves me some babies. especially when i can spoil the living shit out of them and hand them over to their parents to calm down and do all the scut work.
Tata: I told Miss Sasha I'd take a special interest in the boy when he was old enough to drive his Grandma to the liquor store. My son-in-law is transferring to North Dakota by the second week of April, so I thought I'd visit during that week that is summer. Nobody listens anyhow. If you wave a cigarette around in the air, put on red lipstick and say "fuck" a lot, they'll think you're me. Wear a hat. It'll be hilarious! I quit smoking years ago and no one believes it for a minute!

Another conversation.

Tata: I'm thinking about sending every person I know in California over to my daughter's house one at a time to do a stirring impersonation of me evincing maternal interest. I'm not very motherly. I'm more the Let's Take the Kids For Tattoos type. The other day, I explained to my eight-year-old nephew how to cause volcanic reactions with common ingredients and my sister told him to NEVER LISTEN TO ME AGAIN. I said, "Sweetheart, I'll always have bail money." Filming these visits might finally get us our own HBO special.
minstrel: i could wear bright red lipstick and certainly say fuck enough to fool anybody.
Tata: Awesome. Road-test dialog like, "Sweetheart, I hope you kicked that greengrocer's bony ass," "I love you to pieces. Now, get the hell off me and do your own damn laundry," and "Mommy's had enough bullshit. Who's got the remote?" How do you feel about a red sequined dress with spaghetti straps before tea time? You could carry it off. I once arrived in the Milwaukee airport wearing it, fishnets and jump boots. They closed the schools.
minstrel: one notorious halloween party in vegas i had sadjian (a top drawer heterosexual female impersonator, dude was so good he held a female lead spot at the MGM's "Hello Hollywood, Hello) fix me up with a black and scarlett tina turner minidress, wig, springaltor spikes. i shaved the chest, the legs, everything, and went out. our doo-wop line was black boys in drag from the show, all i had to do to bring the house to its knees was look to my right, and growl into the mic "sing it girls". i can do red, in any shade.
Tata: Rock on, sister!

Paired socks stolen by the cats, found on the living room rug.

A third conversation.

Tata: I picture a parade of my friends arriving at Miss Sasha's house, impersonating me. And the subsequent phone calls...
Sharkey: Count me in. I won't even have to shave!
Tata: You'd look divine in red sequins.
Sharkey: I always have...
Tata: Sure, princess. And since Miss Sasha knows you, it won't at all surprise her when you show up in my clothes, put your feet up and say, "Darling, bring Mommy the scotch."

Drusy and Topaz chase a pen on a glass table.

Wanted: Pretend Me Nos. 3, 4, and 5. Applicants must be acquainted with my body of work, able to sit or stand for 30 minutes and smell suspiciously like fresh fruit. No experience being Me necessary. Strong English vocabulary a plus but fluency in any language is a bonus. Must live in California and have own transportation. Must wear red with aplomb and lack constricting personal dignity. Contact the management before happy hour to participate in this exciting project. And if you see Miss Sasha, zip it!

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

All the Money Ere I Had


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

This Tightrope's Gotta Learn How To Bend

Pete drove me to work this morning so I could walk home in the snow storm we could feel coming. He has known me a little, he has known me all my life, so he expected a call and a change of heart that did not come. I walked home into strong flurries while cars churned in paralyzed traffic, my face wet and my mind free. I have been very concerned with conversations. What is said. What goes unspoken. What we leave hanging in the air. This one between Sadly, No! correspondent Mister Leonard Pierce and a stranger plays on my mind.
He’s sitting next to me in the lobby of the Omni Shoreham, typing furiously into a Sony laptop. He has a striped shirt with a popped collar and an ‘80s haircut he cribbed from Shadoe Stevens. For a long time, he says nothing; even when some steak-and-brandy fatass rumbles through the joint and disconnects the cable to his computer, he just eyefucks him and mutters to himself. But after a while, we strike up a conversation, borne of the boredom of waiting. His name is Tony, and he’s a stockbroker.

Why is Tony so mad?

“That fuck-stick Romney dropped out. That just leaves us with McCain.”

You don’t have any affinity for the Senator, then?

“He’s a weak sister. He won’t have the guts to invade Iran.”

Iran must be ripe for invasion. It seems like we’ve been waiting forever. But what of Iraq?

“Iraq is over. Iraq is somebody else’s problem now.”

The problem of the Iraqis, I would guess.

“Whatever. It doesn’t matter. Iran is the issue. Iran has the Islamic bomb.”

A bomb that follows a religious ideology is a terrifying concept indeed; but what about Pakistan?

“Pakistan is our ally. But even if they weren’t, Iran is the destination.”

Not according to my travel agent. But what makes you say that?

“Iran is where the money is.”

What money?

“Look, Iraq has been good to us. Everybody knows that. Construction, defense, telecoms, it’s a whole new market.”

It’s a real success story.

“You’re telling me. But compared to Iran, it’s nothing.”

A trying five years for nothing. But what do you mean?

“It’s a bigger country. It’s a richer country. It’s a country with a market class and a rich and developed economy. It wasn’t living under Stalinism like Iraq. Once we get our hands on those markets, we’re finally going to see a payoff for all the effort we’ve put into the wars.”


“Well, America.”

America put in the effort, but you’ll get the payoff.

“Not if that fucking McCain gets in.”

Well, we can only hope.

“That’s the problem with the conservative movement these days. Too much hope.”

I could not excerpt because every line offers me a new reason to wonder what the fuck is wrong with Tony that the words sovereign nation ring hollow, that people's lives are utterly meaningless, that he stupidly believes he'll always find himself on the sunny side of oppression. He won't, and he won't understand what he is and what he's done until he's forced to choose which of his children goes to the crematorium.

No one does.

The other day, I stood in the family store as a man with a heavy accent walked around in circles. He wanted a particular Buddha head statue, and when one of my sisters bargained him to a standstill, he spoke to me again about the town. He said, "It has such potential." I froze.

"NO," I said. "It's a small town, and it's going to stay that way. Some our families have been here for more than 100 years, there's no more land, and we have no stupid ideas about expansion."

"I just got here," he apologized, confused by my refusal to consider soulless prefab sameness. Some people will always fold and leave, but most people here like the small town feel, and temptation isn't tempting. If you want that crap, go where they already have that.

"My great-grandfather bought one of the first houses on South Fourth. I will never buy coffee from Starbucks or eat at Papa John's. Quiznos just went bust on the Main Street. Why should anyone eat that crap when Mom and Pop restaurants serve real food and support real families?"

"I'm sorry," he said. "I didn't think."

"Thank you," I said, "for supporting a local business."

Tonight, I listen for the gentle whisper of snowflakes striking the ground.

It can feel like distant thunder.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

That You'll Wait For Me

Daria's going to have some sort of seizure when she can't call me five times a day. Today, she called me at the library. Later, she called the family store.

Daria: Have you seen those Olive Garden commercials with the rolled lasagna?
Tata: I have not!
Daria: I saw that and decided to make it myself. Where's Pete?
Tata: Working at his own job. Whatcha doin'?
Daria: Making lasagna rolls, and I'm making up the recipe as I go. What temperature should the oven be? Everything's already cooked. Some people say 350, some say 375.
Tata: You're not cooking the lasagna. You're tanning it. I'd go 350 for a Jersey Shore tan and 375 for Miami Beach. If it comes out looking like pasty Maine, your oven's broken.

Any other week, I might've gone as Ipanema as 450 on that lasagna but last weekend, Siobhan accidentally set deep dish canneloni en flambe under a broiler, peeled off the char and served it to a crowd; naturally, I was concerned. And carcinogenic. Some time later, Daria called again.

Daria: Hey...a funny thing just happened. The lasagna rolls came out great and I thought, 'I'll just call Dad - oh no I won't.' You know we put his picture in a frame and put up the inscription from the Different Drummer in the living room. So I went out in the living room and told him about the lasagna rolls.
Tata: Did he critique your sauce?
Daria: He didn't! I was surprised because I, you know, forgot.
Tata: Ten times a day, Dar. I think of something he'd find interesting or funny and - hoo boy.
Daria: Hey! Fifi took a bite out of a centerpiece apple - like, a week ago. You know what I'm eating that you're not?
Tata: You found a brown bite mark on a piece of fruit and can identify which of your little children went macrobiotic? Break it to me gently. What are you eating?
Daria: Yep. We spend a lot of time at the dentist.
Tata: I bet you do.
Daria: Delicious lasagna rolls. Duh!

But it was too late for envy. I'd already eaten.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Is That the Question?

Two days.

Struggling a bit to get the 5,000 things done I need to do before I desert the joint for week. Today, I made arrangements for car service. Tomorrow, I have to call Grandpa and get my teeth fixed, work two jobs and Nair my facial hair. For crying out loud, I can't let people see me in daylight with an unsubtle mustache! I'm too young for the jade green feather boa and matching faux shearling bolero jacket.

A little old lady's got to have her standards.

Tonight, I emailed the cruise line and asked them for my heart's one desire: to be able to sit daily on an exercise bicycle and watch All My Children. I realize technology is in a time of mad flux and that virtually anything is possible for a price, so on a sea-faring contraption, shouldn't I be able to pedal my way to fitness while keeping tabs on fab thing Greenlee? I believe I should be able! We'll see if the cruise line agrees.


Monday, January 21, 2008

For You Follows Wherever I Go

Yesterday and today.

Working to get ahead of the week away from the family store. I feel kind of responsible for the online aspect of what happens to Anya's and Corinne's livelihood, though I know that's silly. They could replace me in a flash with someone ten times as code savvy and they probably should but they don't. I offer twice a week; they turn me down, so it may be more difficult than it at first appears to determine who is responsible for whom.

The other day, Pete looked up from reading a cookbook and made an audacious suggestion. "How about we make bread?" Bread takes forever! Dinner was so near! How could we make fresh bread? I stuttered and backed up, believing this endeavor could only end in tears. Pete persisted, measuring flour, baking powder, salt, a little sugar and a whole bottle of beer into a big bowl and smoooooshing it together until it looked relatively dough-like. Fifty minutes int the fuuuuuture, we had fresh bread. Later, he read me recipes like stories. Oh, those ingenious leveners!


Saturday, January 19, 2008

Everything I See Is Red

I made the mistake of setting up to write this as Julia Child introduced Alice Waters on Julia's series on master chefs. I don't think I've had many clearer invitations from the universe to shut up and learn something.

I believe I might accept.


Friday, January 18, 2008

On the Ceiling If You Want


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

You Got It, Now You Know

My hair has grown out for the last year, which means when I wake up in the morning or from a nap, there's a nest on top of my head. One morning, I looked in the mirror and decided to call storm chasers: Hello, fearless IMAX guys? My hair is on the rampage. Last week, Pete and I began playing a new game called How Crazy Is My Hair? Here are the rules: my hair does whatever the hell it feels like, and Pete assesses the insanity. "Pete, how crazy is my hair? Is it Son of Sam-Crazy or Ed Gein-Crazy?" If I'm feeling movie madness: "Is it Errol Flynn-Crazy or Joan Crawford-Crazy?" And there's always politics: "If my hair is crazier than Giuliani, I'm getting a restraining order against my head."

It's just a game. Or is it?

At 7:17 a.m., I dropped off Pete at his house and drove to work with the camera in the car. I should carry one all the time, really. Two blocks from the bridge over the Raritan, I fell in line two cars behind... behind... Flying Spaghetti Monster, that's a truck full of portapotties. I pressed the ON button on the camera, aimed, zoomed, zoomed some more and took this crappy picture just as the light turned green. The truck turned right. I held my breath as it rounded the corner, then I drove straight over the bridge into town. That's New Brunswick in the distance, in all its self-loathing glory; in fact, those are several of the same buildings pictured above from a different angle. No truck drivers were harmed in the making of this post. The same cannot be said of my head.


Monday, January 14, 2008

All the Stars Are On the Inside

This afternoon, I stumbled into the dentist's office because I wished I were on drugs and had two fangs filed down. This came with a heaping helping of my favorite moment in life: being paralyzed with fright as the dentist swings a needle the size of a telephone pole from somewhere near the ceiling to the gum and rams home the plunger! Twice! Then, for ten minutes, I grip the handrests and try not to punch my dentist square in the face as he drills, then drills, then drills some more on teeth so sensitve I haven't eaten ice cream in seven years.

It goes to show you how different things can be from what you imagine and fear. Yes, I felt like I was going to throw up as that needle approached my face but my dentist is so good with the needle I barely felt the first one, which made the agony of the second one an invigorating surprise. Then he left the room to let the anaesthesia take effect. Fortunately, Bohemian Rhapsody was playing on the radio as I lost all feeling in my face. Beezebub has a devil put aside for me! For me! For me!Say that three times fast as your lips go numb!

Later, I stumbled home, trying not to offend people with the stupid expression on my face. It was exciting, all right. I couldn't tell, as I walked home, if I'd rinsed off all the alginate or if my nose dripped. Eight long, freezing blocks later, I was home and as far as I could tell on General Hospital, Lulu had been kidnapped by Jax's brother but Jax was being played by a wrinkly non-triathalon running/biking/swimming hunkalicious Aussie so I lay flat on my couch to see if everyone got better looking at a 90 degree angle. Next thing I knew, Drusy was standing on me and Pete was asking what we should do for dinner.

Poor Lulu. I wish I cared.


Sunday, January 13, 2008

To Wish These Days Would End

Yesterday and today.

Last night, Darla said PIC included little personal detail recently. I allowed as how I'm working really hard at the unnamed university job and at the family store. Further, when I get home, my brain is still tired from the December slog and it's all I can do to seductively mumble at Pete "Gaaaaaaaaaah" before I either snore or toss all night. Thus, though I may be desperately attractive, in pixel form, I might be a trifle dull. Of course, I apologize - or I would, but no self-respecting bitch would, and I like Elton John.

Today, Pete and I drove out to Daria's, where for no good reason, Pete, Daria and I dipped pretzels into crab, clam and honey-mustard dips while discussing our diets. It was time well spent, I'm sure. Pete toured the local Home Depot while Daria went through her closet for clothing I can marinate in umbrella drinks whle on vacation at the end of this month. Yes, pets, I'm leaving you for a week. No, your mother and I still love you, we just need this time apart. You're still special!

Siobhan and I are going on a Barenaked Ladies cruise. No, I can't stop singing If I Had A Million Dollars. The plan is to spend mornings on an exercise cycle, afternoons on a deck chair, evenings in a bar, and the whole time holding a chic glass containing alcohol and tropical fruit. At other points, I might visit islands and see the band, while holiding a chic glass containing alcohol and tropical fruit. If I end up in a life boat, there had better be a tiki bar. Will I drown?