Tuesday, March 30, 2010

He's Never Seen Trees

This morning, I drove into the parking deck, went up a flight and parked. As I gathered my book bag and umbrella, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a parade of underdressed ROTC students exit the stairwell, drop to their hands on tar covered with motor oil, chewed gum and broken glass and do pushups. I slammed my car door and they got up and ran off. It happened so fast, I didn't have time to draw a breath to yell, but I had questions. First: why were those kids wearing shorts in a driving 40 degree rain? Second: where was that army going to wipe its hands?

Shortly thereafter, a blogger I respect but with whom I occasionally disagree contacted me about health insurance reform. She'd found PIC on some index of bloggers writing on the topic. As Dad used to say, often and with great relish, Well, shit. You've got me there. I'm waiting to hear what kind of plan might involve both a serious academic and a crazy refugee from the art world and the costume shop. If she reads through PIC for more than a few minutes, I expect her to change the subject, edge away from me and loudly declare that she hears her mother calling. My feelings won't be hurt; I'm thinking the funny thoughts. Here's one: I might like her plan.


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Take the Short Road To the Answer

Things were different when we were kids. Everyone had to entertain him- or herself.

Pete: Remember that decorative brick wall in my house growing up?
Tata: Huh. Yes, I do.
Pete: My parents put it up one brick at a time. They made the bricks themselves. It took forever. Then some lunatic gave me a hammer.
Tata: Really?
Pete: Yeah, Ricky, the kid down the street gave me a toolbox with real tools for my third birthday. My parents took it away until I was a little older. I remember sawing the molding around the front door. Also, smashing the bricks with the hammer with my little brother.
Tata: Your Mom was the get-even type. Did Ricky's get a bouquet of tacks for Mother's Day?

My mother, raised by her grandmother, taught her children quaint old-fashioned traditions you simply can't explain to teenagers, I swear to Jebus.

Tata: I don't know if these were real eggs. They're hollow and decorated with real flowers.
Customer Mom: This has a hole in it. Oh, and another at the bottom.
Tata: That sort of argues for real. Did you ever blow eggs?
Customer Teen: What - I -
Tata: That's the correct term. You stick a straight pin through the shell at the top and make a slightly larger hole at the bottom and gently blow the contents of the egg out through the larger hole while making every effort to not pass out and crack the shell.
Customer Mom: What is the outcome of that?
Tata: Omelets and decorated eggs you can keep without a biohazard event. Oh, and your face feels all sparkly.

Miss Sasha plans to deliver her second child in June, which necessitates my least favorite of all life events: a baby shower. I tracked down my grandmother Edith's cousins.

Tata: Ellie, my daughter's having a baby. Can I send you and your sister invitations to the shower?
Ellie: No, thank you. We wouldn't have any interest in that. My sister is nearly ninety. We hate these things.

I burst out laughing.

Tata: I wish I could skip it. I hate them, too.
Ellie: Don't go! Why should you go?
Tata: I am the mommy. It blows, but there you have it.
Ellie: Arrive late, leave early and bring a good purse. But leave early.

The person throwing this party is the Fabulous Ex-Husband's current wife Karen, who also loathes baby showers.

Tata: Ellie'd rather be boiled in oil than show up to a baby shower. Me, too, but I'll be there.
Karen: I wish I could be anywhere else.
Tata: Once you answer the door, these things conduct themselves. Let's duck out for sushi instead.
Karen: What? I wish!
Tata: Life is short. Let's get spicy tuna.

I may yet get a bouquet of tacks.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

You Spill Up My Back

Tonight, we went to see our lovely niece Lois's high school performance of Bye Bye Birdie, in which Lois played the ingenue Kim. Before you get nervous: Lois has the high, clear voice her whole family shares and it was a delight to listen to her sing. The plays gender politics utterly blow, but the kids did a great job with the big musical numbers. Two of dozens could dance. Did I mention they sounded great? They sounded great. We left happy.

In the car, Pete said, "Well, that was...wholesome."
I said, "Next time, we have dinner in a strip club first."


Monday, March 15, 2010

At the Water's Edge In My Dream

Yesterday, Pete and I took our camera and had a frigging adventure. The man can take a picture that tells a whole story.

Midday, Donaldson Park from the Third Avenue Entrance. The water beyond the trees is the river.

We started at the park, where the park rangers had taped off the roadway. The river regularly floods and overflows into the park, which is why it is a park. The county forgot this and put in some very expensive, years-long renovations. They are about to be junk. People in town talk about the renovations in statements that trail off and nobody knows what to make of it all. Officially, I mean. We know these mistakes make for awesome, dramatic photos and fat, obnoxious geese. A whole herd of folks in rugged raingear turned up to see what they knew they'd see and what they'll see again: the floodplain, flooded.

The tree stood next to the old farm house around which the tiny town was built. Just out of frame to the left is a destroyed car barely visible under the treetop. Yes, we were driving by.

We drove around town, dodging fallen trees and crunching over branches. This house is about five blocks from where we live under trees just as tall. The roaring wind the night before had made Pete and the cats antsy.

Early afternoon: Easton Avenue in Somerset, which Trout described as "the canoe-thru Wendy's." Through the trees, the canal and the river are running at the same height as the road, which I can only remember seeing a few times before.

We had to plot and scheme to get to the grocery store in our hometown, about 2.5 miles away. Fortunately, we rode bikes on the back roads as teenagers, but we had to outwit lost yuppies who moved into town ten years ago. When we got to the fence above Easton Avenue, about a dozen other people were snapping pictures before storming the grocery store, where cashiers loudly exclaimed they thought we were crazy to be out in driving rain, which we weren't. The surface of the water is smooth.

Late afternoon: Donaldson Park from the Second Avenue entrance. The county has been renovating this park since Hurricane Floyd wrecked it in a way that looked pretty much just like this, except with fewer brand new backstops and soccer goals.

Less than five miles upstream, two towns sit below sea level. They get creamed in serious, fatal ways during and after nor'easters. It's hard to watch the same drama play out every seven or eight years. We put on boots and take pictures and join in the cosmic joke.


Monday, March 08, 2010

Love Will Come But Like A Refugee

Seriously, I have a house guest hangover. Sabrina's on a train to Secaucus. I'm draped over my desk, blurting, "I'm awake!" each time a co-worker trots past my desk. Pete, Sabrina and I talked all Saturday evening, all day Sunday and I wish I could have stayed home but I was afraid someone would talk to me, so I came to work, where people are used to me growling and baring my teeth.

Omigod. I'm exhausted! My hair, while really nice, is pointing towards magnetic north. I put on makeup this morning but it's like my face soaked up color and demanded more. I'm wearing a pink shirt. Why do I own a pink shirt?

This is better than when I used to wake up with strange people and mysterious tattoos - but not by much!


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

When My Cup's Already Overfilled

Resulting braciole.

Indeed, Central New Jersey is experiencing the kind of snowfall I have only seen a few times in my adult life, forcing me to face the hilarious contradiction of my current life. On one hand, I shoveled mountains of snow several times today to protect Pete from straining his back because I am strong and capable; on the other hand, there's no way I'm leaving the house until sidewalk and road surfaces are clear because if I slip I could significantly damage my hip. As Valkyries go, I've corralled a cranky horse. Never mind! From the stationary bike tonight, I watched the fox hunt scene in Auntie Mame, bolstering my confidence that things end well for the woman with the magnificent seat. If I do say so myself.


Tuesday, February 02, 2010

It Stands For Knife

Today, I went back to the physical therapy building for an appointment with the massage therapist. Massage on my right hip is like lemon-scented Hell on Earth, so I lay on the table, laughing to keep from screaming for just over half an hour. He was working on one blindingly painful spot, moved to the other side and asked how that side felt. I allowed as how it was uncomfortable but not like the other side, where I wanted to slap his ancestors. He laughed nervously, probably because he was twice my size and I have another appointment next week.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Daisies And Violets At Your Door

Though I awoke an hour before the alarm this morning thinking about it, I neglected to take chicken out of the freezer. I'm all in bits and pieces. Last week, an email arrived, and I was delighted to see these words in this order:
I am told that the truck is now placed in such a manner that we can squeeze by.

Yes, that's true. We are all hoping to squeeze by.

This sounds simple enough:

The Department of Sexual Assault Services and Crime Victim Assistance, New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault, and AmeriCorps are sponsoring a clothing drive for survivors of sexual violence. All donations will benefit female and male survivors of sexual assault whose clothing is collected as evidence. Items most needed include any size new or gently used pants, shirts, flip flops, and new underwear, socks, and general hygiene items, such as toothbrushes and paste, mouthwash, soap, deodorant, brushes, combs, and women's sanitary items.

The wording seems odd, doesn't it?

All donations will benefit female and male survivors of sexual assault whose clothing is collected as evidence.

Why doesn't that announcement skip mention of gender - we often function on the assumption there are two, both are described - and go straight to the survivors? Must be because we also assume only women suffer the pain and humiliation of assault, followed by confiscation of clothing by the police. We try not to think much about those women but we know they exist. We don't think of those men at all. The world is wide, though, and we are so small.

Last night, I made yogurt and polished my nails. These are small tasks, unremarkable in any picture large enough to squeeze shoulders through the frame. Just after Christmas, two people of my acquaintance went to the hospital for what are projected to be lengthy stays. Pete's lifelong friend neglected an abcessed tooth until infection coursed through his blood to his heart and brain. The ten year old daughter of my lifelong friend has a rare leukemia the family has seen before. Neither is local, or the casserole dishes would pile up in my kitchen, so my nails are red and my fridge is filled with fresh yogurt.

Now is the time to sit quietly and meditate on gardens we can plant come spring.


Thursday, January 07, 2010

And Now You Do What They Told Ya

Call me crazy, but I've always thought Caravaggio's Judith didn't want to get her hands dirty.
Let's review:

Yehudit (Judith) was a widow living in the city of Bethulia. The Assyrian King, Nabuchodonosor, sent his general Holofernes to punish the city. Holofernes went and cut off the water supply and laid siege to the city.

The city's elders were about to give up when Yehudit told them she had a plan. She went in her nicest clothes and jewelry to the camp of Holofernes. The general was taken with her beauty and invited her to a feast. Holofernes drank a lot of wine and got drunk.

Yehudit went back to his tent and, when they were alone, and Holofernes was passed out from the alcohol, she took his sword and cut off his head.

With the death of Holofernes, his army was in disarray and the Jews were able to mount an offensive and defeat the Assyrian army. The account of this story is in the book of Yehudit, which is part of the apocrypha and, while it was originally written in Hebrew, only the Greek version survived to be translated.

All my life, men have given me knives. Perhaps I was the only one who didn't know why.

These are the words, just a few words. I'd count them like daisy petals: He loves me. He loves me not. It always comes out even, though. Somehow, I find it in my heart to be surprised every time. Once I said to a man packing his bags to go, "You love you the most." Without blinking, he said, "Of course."

And that took away my breath.

In another life, I could sing the lives of the saints. In another life, after the ashes scattered in the wind, only the stories mattered. We don't listen to stories anymore. Stories interfere with the words we tell each other. We say words like protection and safety, when what we mean is keep your distance and love is infection.

Artemesia Gentileschi understood Judith, because Artemesia was raped and painted with every enraged fiber of her being. This painting, Judith And the Maid Servant With the Head of Holofernes, captures the fear of being trapped so viscerally that one might not at first notice the maid servant stuffing the bloody head into a bag. Judith is afraid but not ashamed.

In a dining room cabinet with a glass door sits a pile of pen knives. One, given to me by a woman who loved me but could not stay, is a tiny mermaid keychain. It is the kind of treasure one might easily overlook.

I am not trapped on the wrong side of any line. It does not make me brave to say so.

Let us be perfectly clear: the people we hear talking about healthcare reform are the people who will neither benefit from it, nor will they suffer. The voices we hear and the writers we read will lose nothing. They are almost uniformly wealthy, and nothing will touch them. Then, there's everyone else; there's us. We can talk to one another, but no one will hear us. Our words interfere with the stories.

One by one, we must cross into the enemy's tents and test our courage. Each of us must draw the knife. Each of us must find her own reason not to live in fear anymore. I myself will listen past the words to the stories, and I will not back down.

I am not afraid and I will stand my ground.

What, then, is this ground?

What is it?

In another life, I could sing the lives of the saints. In another life, only the stories matter. In my story, reproductive freedom is a concern of the distant past, but that's not the end of me.

This law that limits the bodily autonomy of poor and middle class women - a fair-sized number of the people this law is supposed to help - will be enacted, if not word for word. It's going to kill women you and I don't know, but those women are real. Their stories matter, if not in the tangle of words.

I am sharpening my knives.

This evening, I looked around to see what an abortion costs. No one offered me anesthesia when I had mine, so I wasn't surprised to learn that it cost extra. Trust an old woman: pay it. From now on, I will never be without what it costs to prevent words from interfering with the stories of women around me. Make no mistake: this is not a conversation we should have to have, but we will. Because time has run out. Because words have come between us. Because I am sharpening all my knives.


Thursday, December 31, 2009

Tidings Of Comfort And Joy

In 2009, I struggled with questions for which I'm still awaiting answers. Life is very complicated - unless it isn't. As for the new year: I am hopeful that while our national discourse has taken a turn for the disastrously stupid and craven, in our own lives, we can think the smart thoughts and make the smart moves. For us - for you - here is what I wish -

In 2010 - and not a decade too soon - I want a political talk show host to finally turn to William Kristol and slowly, deliberately ask this important question:

"Bill, what the fuck is wrong with you?"

But our host can't stop there.

"Bill, what the fuck is wrong with you? You've been saying the exact same things about different brown people around the globe since the first time we had the misfortune of hearing your name. You are always wrong. You hate yourself and every living being. You stink of death and misery and I can smell you from here. For the sake of your favorite sky god, what the fuck is wrong with you?"

Balm, like the laughter of little children, it is!

In 2010 - and not a decade too soon - I want a political talk show host to finally turn to Thomas Friedman and slowly, deliberately ask this important question:

"Tom, what is the matter with you?"

But our host can't stop there.

"Tom, what's the matter with you? To call you stupid is to insult stupid people everywhere and to call those things you think ideas is to dignify suggestions to lick frozen flagposts. You have absolutely no idea what's going on in the world, the damage you're doing or the political use to which you've been put. If you had any decency you'd put out a Times supplement in which you hand wrote apologies to every literate man, woman and child in the world, drew pictures for the rest and never wrote another word. There's no excuse for your continuing to inflict yourself on a world desperate for adult interaction. What is the matter with you?"

Brings a tear to the eye, I know!

In 2010 - and not a decade too soon - I want a political talk show host to finally turn to Jonah Goldberg and slowly, deliberately ask this important question:

"Jonah, what in vomitrocious tarnation is your frigging problem?"

But our host can't stop there. No. Our host is on a roll.

"Jonah, what in vomitrocious tarnation is your frigging problem? Your ancestors roll over in their graves every time you touch a keyboard. Actual fascists wink when you leave the room. You're overdressed in pajamas and underdressed in a tux. No matter what your mom told you you are not a smart person. You just aren't. You're stupid and dangerous, and what is your frigging problem?"

Much like this magical moment -
- when for just an instant the truth was spoken, America heard it and laughed, laughter has the power to free us from the spell of tiresome, murderous trolls. I hope in 2010, many more heroes will slay evil with simple truths, delivered fearlessly. I wish this for you - for us - not just because it would be a pleasure and a delight to watch the venal meet justice on at least an Auntie Mame scale, if not on the Brothers Grimms', but because we need it now. We stand at the crossroads of history. Let us hope the messenger comes armed with both a punchline and a broadsword.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Eyes That Sparkle And Shine

I just gift-wrapped 35 bookmarks.

Sometimes I wish I still drank tequila.


Friday, December 04, 2009

Everything I Have In My Hands

The lengthy episode with the car - while amusing - has become expensive, inconvenient and frustrating. This morning, AAA instructed me to wait for the tow truck with my AAA card and my car's documents in hand. The truck driver put my car up on the rig. I asked if he wanted to see my documents, but he demurred: everything he needed was on his computer. As he drove away, I looked at the documents in my hand and thought, 'Huh. That's going to come up in conversation,' and the mechanic called to ask did I, by any chance, have them? If I weren't vain to the very core of my being, I'd consider sticking my head in the oven. But I won't: imagine compounding a shittastic day with split ends.

Exactly. I could be driven to suicide, but not if it messes up my hair. That's too much commitment.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

We Are Strangers In Your Silent World

Mom and I are back now from visiting Grandpa in his impossibly good nursing home. Mom baked him cookies this morning and we brought him coffee. Mom wandered off. I sat on the edge of his bed. He and I ate cookies, drank coffee and laughed.

Tata: This is a good cookie!
Grandpa: This is a good cookie!
Tata: Pretty good coffee, too!
Grandpa: You can't usually get coffee this good!
Tata: And how about this cookie? This is a good cookie!
Grandpa: Your mother bakes a good cookie!
Tata: I like this coffee!
Grandpa: It's good coffee!

As conversations go, it's one of my favorites.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Everything Under the Sun Is In Tune

I wasn't much different as a teenager than I am as showboating old bat. In August of 1979, I was at the pool in a friend's backyard and my friend's older brother had a supercute best friend in a very convincing blue Speedo bathing suit. I had taken diving lessons since the Mesozoic, so I stepped up to the diving board, took a few swift, sure steps, made my hurdle, did something zany with a few somersaults, pointed toes and sliced gracefully through the water. Aaaaand I swam into the side of the pool and broke my front tooth.

In retrospect, it was at this exact moment I should have realized comedy would be my life.

The cute boy helped me find the broken tooth. My friend's mother made one in what Mom remembers as a long series of "Mrs. LongItalianLastName, Domenica's okay, but - " calls. The dentist glued my tooth back together. A few months later, I was holding a ladder while a guy I'd just met hung decorations in the high school cafeteria when I recognized his butt. You would think a kid who spent all her waking hours in costume would have the sense to reach for a trenchcoat and false mustache, but no.

Tata: You're friends with Nipsy?
Imminent Unrequited Love Of My Young Life: Yep.
Tata: You swim a lot at his house?
IULOML: Sometimes. Why?
Tata: Remember a girl with a fancy dive and an exciting faceplant?
IULOML: Yes, I do.
Tata: That was me. Hey, I'd like to crawl in a hole, now.

Soon after, I spent two years picking leftovers out of my braces, so my high school years were like a catalog of dentalwork failures. Six years ago, I got braces again. That'll put a crimp in your adult sex life. Stop laughing! Three years ago, I had capped four teeth damaged by braces and moral sloth. Immediately, one came apart: the one I broke with my enormous ego and a concrete wall. I have my own dentist now. He's pretending all his patients go through gallons of epoxy. He glued it back together, and again three weeks ago.

Tata: Okay okay okay, I am in such a MOOD. A few days ago, I thought I was imagining my tooth was loose, but no. The cap came off in my hand. I was so mad I actually cursed my own ancestors, which means yours are cursed, too.
Daria: That explains the noises in my attic and my children speaking in tongues.
Tata: But the cap went right back on like a puzzle piece and everything was fine while I waited for the dentist. But then the dentist needed to take the cap for a couple of days to clean off the glue.
Daria: So you stayed home and whistled?
Tata: No, I went to work and scowled like George Harrison.
Daria: OH MY GOD! You snaggletoothed it for TWO DAYS?
Tata: Yes, and my job involves talking to lots of people, so I mastered the fine art of talking to people like they're actually standing five feet to their right, not to mention facing away from them in meetings. It's a good thing people already thought I was insane or it might bother them when I walk up to them backwards.
Daria: I can't breathe!
Tata: So he glued it back together and then I bit down on some frozen dark chocolate with 85% cocoa content. It's full of antioxidents, you know, and my tooth broke into three pieces.
Daria: I know how mad you were then. You don't have a Louisville Slugger anymore, do ya?
Tata: Nope.
Daria: Then your dentist's probably safe. Is it fixed yet?
Tata: It is not, and here's the best part: we're going to Cape Cod to fix Mom's front door and you know who cares more about my teeth than I do? Mom does. And our Mom's mean. She's going to stare at me. I'll have the heebee jeebies!
Daria: Your best chance is to bring extra wine and hope Mom gets crosseyed.
Tata: I thought my best chance was to dress up as someone Mom would ignore, like police officers and car salesmen. But your way is better.

For the first time in my life I look forward to getting dentures.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Be There, I'll Be Around

Tata: Knock knock!
Pete: What?

Pete: You awake? Still napping?
Tata: Is it dinnertime and you're making me a sandwich?
Pete: I am!
Tata: And it will contain bacon?
Pete: It will!
Tata: I'm about to have a great evening.


Thursday, October 08, 2009

Da Da Da Deee Da

We're doing what?

NASA plans to crash a rocket into the moon early Friday, blasting a huge hole in the lunar surface to search for hidden water.

The explosion, scheduled for 4:30am Arizona time, is expected to visible with from Earth using amateur telescopes, according to NASA.

It's also expected to be aired live by NASA-TV and on www.nasa.gov/ntv.

According to NASA's website, the Centaur rocket will make impact at the Moon's south pole.

Scientists tell Scientific American Magazine that they expect the blast to be so powerful that a huge plume of debris will be ejected.

A spacecraft will fly through the debris plume, sending data back to Earth before crashing into the lunar surface and creating a second debris plume, according to NASA's website.

Why blast a hole in the moon? NASA wants to see if any water, ice or vapor is revealed in the cloud of debris. If there is, that might provide supplies for a future manned moonbase.

Countdown to the rumor that the moon had nukes trained on Israel in 3... 2... 1...


Sunday, October 04, 2009

Have No Fear Of Escalation

Previously on Poor Impulse Control:
On Saturday, Pete had a delightful encounter at the toy store.

Pete: I looked up and there was this little girl, about nine or ten. She looked like your niece.
Tata: Which one? Lois?
Pete: Lois! Light blond hair, blue eyes, skinny. She was wearing a little girl t-shirt, a little girl sweater, jeans and sneakers. And a big fake mustache like that movie critic -
Tata: Gene Shalit?
Pete: Yeah! She was completely serious, so I said, "Can I help you, sir?" She cleared her throat and said in a deep voice, "Yes."
Tata: GET OUT!
Pete: I didn't smile or anything, I just kept going. "Would you like me to gift wrap this for you, sir?" and she said, "[deep voice] That would be nice." She was alone in the store but her mom kept peeking her head in from outside.
Tata: I'm so happy! Did you recognize the little girl?
Pete: How could I recognize her? She was in disguise!
Tata: Omigod, you should have taken a picture!
Pete: I wanted to but I would've had to let on I knew she wasn't a grown man.
Tata: Then what happened?
Pete: She got into a van with her parents and her sister and they took off.
Tata: I'm so jealous! I wish I'd seen her. Oooh, you know who are going to be mad they missed that? Anya and Corinne! My sisters are going to be steamed!
Pete: She's my favorite customer ever.

Last night, my sisters hosted a book signing party at the toy store for local heroes who've written a new book. Pete made tortellini with spicy arugula, spinach and basil pesto, truly beautiful fruit and cheese platters, humus and vegetable trays that'd make you sigh, bruschetta and toast rounds. I worked the cash register and gift-wrapped for the gift store and kept an eye on my niece Lois, who was tending the informal banquet but has never waited tables. One of my brothers-in-law tended bar. My mother hovered nearby, anxious to help. Everyone was very busy, so it was at an odd, slack moment when Pete looked across the counter and asked the question of the evening.

Pete: Have you ever worn a mustache about town?
Little Girl: Yes, I have.
Pete: This is the one! I knew it! She came into the toy store wearing a mustache and speaking in a low voice.
Tata: You're my hero.
Pete: I love that story! I tell it to everyone!

Pete ran off, while I chatted with the little girl, her friend and a familiar looking woman. At the other end of the store, I saw Pete push through the crowd with my my sister Corinne, telling her, "That's the girl with the mustache!" and Corinne nodding happily. Presently, Pete reappeared at my side and asked the next best question of the evening.

Pete: What are you going to be for Halloween?
Little Girl: Frida Kahlo.
Tata: Frida Kahlo!
Pete: Who is that?
Tata: A famous, dead Mexican artist.
Little Girl: She had the unibrow. Like mine.

And then I realized what I should have known all along: she's me.

Tata: My aunt used to take me to museums so I could read her the Latin signs.
Little Girl: You can just sound them out.
Tata: I know! Do you do theater?
Little Girl: I am an excellent actor.

And then, as little girls do, the little girls ran off. We remain delighted, and now we know her name.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Where Do You Dare Me To Draw


Pete stands in the doorway in new boxer shorts and a t-shirt.

Pete: ...I was thinking we could go the grocery store and AutoZone and stop at the farm stand on the way back. You're looking at me funny.
Tata: Am I? I guess I'm a little distracted.
Pete: I'm wearing your underwear, aren't I?


Tata: I'd like to buy a case of this wine so my neighbors shopping at the drug store stop clutching their children when I buy three bottles at a time.
Young Liquor Store Clerk: Here you go. That's $54.75.
Tata: Thanks. My Handsome Prince just ran off to look for gluten-free beer, so I'll just stand here ...and ...look purty.

Then we laughed for different reasons.


Auntie InExcelsisDeo: ...and you, in your sweat pants -
Tata: These aren't sweat pants. They are stunt pants. I'm wearing them over jeans to keep my hip warm, but look - zip, zip, zip and they come right off!
Auntie I.: Don't they all!


Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Piper Blows And the Audience


In 1979, I stood near the uneven bars with my arms outstretched! Thank Christ a yearbook photographer was standing nearby!

In a fit of poor judgment, I joined Facebook. One of my sisters promptly published horrifying, nostalgic photos. I loathe nostalgia. Well, good to know that on one day in my life I had nice knees.


Saturday, August 29, 2009

You Live the Faster You Will

As the machine released, the tech wrapped her arms around me and urged, "Don't faint! Don't faint!" I said, "I'm not a fainting kind of girl. I'm a whining and complaining kind of girl." She laughed but guided me to a chair. I stopped there. She urged me forward and sat me down. "Don't faint!" she repeated. I did not faint. I hate mammograms.

My insurance company used to send postcards reminding me to schedule a mammogram. I would've been happier to receive Blue Cross's gloating pictures of a drunken Cancun adventure, but no. Shitty test. Next, I had to get a prescription for the test from the gynecologist, which by the by involved also holding still for a pap smear, and then making an appointment with the radiology people. Last time I went, the receptionist was angry I didn't have an authorization number from the insurance company. I said, "Why would I need authorization when I'm getting pushy bulk mail insisting I show up and parade around topless in a clinical setting?" Then I spent half an hour on the office phone, getting that number before taking an eight-picture test that turned into ten, then twelve. I should've fainted that time. Instead, I started leaning on the gynecologist to write prescriptions for MRIs instead. Rumor has had it for a long time that MRIs are the future of breast cancer detection, and when the cost comes down, women will have painless tests. The gynecologist wouldn't do it. He said my insurance company wouldn't allow it. So I showed him: I didn't make another appointment for three years. I bet he's red-faced!

Some of the women in my office line up their medical tests over the summer because then parking is easier in a college town. This year, I gritted my teeth, followed their example and got a prescription for the mammogram. I called the insurance company for the authorization number.

Tata: I need an authorization number.
Rep: No ya don't.
Tata: I do! Last time, I had to call you from the office, where they were very perturbed.
Rep: That was a couple of years ago, right?
Tata: Uh. Yeah.
Rep: You changed insurance companies!
Tata: I didn't. You changed your name and pretended to be someone else. You didn't even change your phone number or try talking with a funny voice.
Rep: And you don't need an authorization number.
Tata: I'll give it a try, but I think perturbed receptionists are in both our futures.

Nevertheless, I made an appointment and went yesterday. Have you been to the doctor lately? They have a new demand: photo ID. I'd forgotten my prescription because weeks had passed, so I felt a twinge of guilt when this happened:

Receptionist: I need to scan your driver's license.
Tata: You what? What would you need that for?
R: We need to verify your address.
Tata: To repeat, why would you need to do that?
R: Well, we don't have to do that.
Tata: And you're not going to, because I am who I say I am, and live where your records say I do. Which you just asked me and I confirmed.

I didn't say anything else, because last year the State of New Jersey was prepared to take away my license if Motor Vehicle Services, the IRS and Homeland Security couldn't agree on what my name was, so I had no doubt that my medical records now have to match my passport. Then the receptionist called my doctor's office across the street, where the doctor mysteriously wanted to look at my old report before faxing a replacement scrip. I waited half an hour and the scrip still hadn't come, probably because my doctor is one of the few I've seen who actually listens to his patients. Then the tech took me anyway, because the scrip was bound to come sometime. I'm sure it did, but I was probably already at home, snacking nervously. I can't wait until next year.

Images courtesy of I Can Has Cheezburger?


Thursday, July 02, 2009

Everything I See Is Red

Today is not a good day for my sister to be a controlling bitch.


Monday, June 22, 2009

Stretch A Band Between His Toes

On Saturday, Pete had a delightful encounter at the toy store.

Pete: I looked up and there was this little girl, about nine or ten. She looked like your niece.
Tata: Which one? Lois?
Pete: Lois! Light blond hair, blue eyes, skinny. She was wearing a little girl t-shirt, a little girl sweater, jeans and sneakers. And a big fake mustache like that movie critic -
Tata: Gene Shalit?
Pete: Yeah! She was completely serious, so I said, "Can I help you, sir?" She cleared her throat and said in a deep voice, "Yes."
Tata: GET OUT!
Pete: I didn't smile or anything, I just kept going. "Would you like me to gift wrap this for you, sir?" and she said, "[deep voice] That would be nice." She was alone in the store but her mom kept peeking her head in from outside.
Tata: I'm so happy! Did you recognize the little girl?
Pete: How could I recognize her? She was in disguise!
Tata: Omigod, you should have taken a picture!
Pete: I wanted to but I would've had to let on I knew she wasn't a grown man.
Tata: Then what happened?
Pete: She got into a van with her parents and her sister and they took off.
Tata: I'm so jealous! I wish I'd seen her. Oooh, you know who are going to be mad they missed that? Anya and Corinne! My sisters are going to be steamed!
Pete: She's my favorite customer ever. "[deep voice] That would be nice."
Tata: I love that you didn't tell her to take off the mustache or pretend it wasn't there. That's the most fun: seeing something coming and letting the adventure unfold.
Pete: And it was way better than my other idea: there's a man wearing a little girl suit and forgot to cover his mustache.
Tata: Hmm, suddenly this has gone all Cinemax.


Friday, June 12, 2009

Or I'm Still Alive And There's Nothing I Want

First thing yesterday morning, the genteel older gentleman who sits next to me smiled sweetly and said something so bitchy all I could do was stare at him until my eyeballs parched. Thus, I was discombobulated by 7:35 A.M. At lunchtime, I could not find my strawberry banana yogurt in the refrigerator no matter how many times I searched, but there was a vanilla yogurt of the same brand on a different shelf. I stared at the contents of the refrigerator. Once again, until my eyeballs parched. So I ate that other yogurt, because obviously one of my co-workers must've innocently eaten mine.

While he made dinner last night, I mentioned this odd occurrence to Pete, who has had run-ins with guilty co-workers. Pete growled. Pete gnashed his teeth. It was like Where the Wild Things Are with julienned radishes. Dinner was pretty good, too, with cute little meatballs rolled like the heads of his enemies. So imagine my chagrin when I emptied my messenger bag and found the salad I never ate and the strawberry banana yogurt I never put in the fridge.

This morning, I put a vanilla yogurt back where I found it. I am torn between writing a note of apology and wiping clean my fingerprints. I will say this: it was a very tasty yogurt, and I truly enjoyed it, but I recall it even more fondly, knowing it was pilfered. Yes, delicious, delicious stolen yogurt. I can't wait until someone comes to my desk and tells me a story.


Monday, June 08, 2009

With the Scenery Flying By

Saturday morning, Pete and I climbed the long flight of concrete stairs to the train platform and walked a long way to an empty space against the wall. I heard an accordian and took the camera out of my bookbag. "Pete," I said, "it is totally crucial that you take a picture because nobody believes that everywhere I go there's theme music. If we're very lucky, you'll also capture the back up dancers." Of course, you may be inclined to say, "Ta darling, those are people having their own lives. Your presence is a coincidence. Stop being so Center Of the Universe about it." Shaaaa. Have you met me?

This is the only picture Pete took all day of something that wasn't moving so obviously that's the one out of focus. But it is important! All hail the bowl of Veselka's borscht, the bowl of soup so sublime it must be experienced to be believed, and no shimmering verbiage approaches its epic yumminess. The ordinary bowl cannot contain it! The challah must sop its brothy goodness. Behold the borscht - and know that when you stare into the borscht, it stares into you!

The coffee was also pretty good.

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Friday, May 08, 2009

The Bad Times Are Clean Washed

On the advice of the physical therapist, I started slowly.

Wednesday, I Pete drove me to work and I walked home. My steps were smooth and even. I had no pain to speak of, and I climbed the long, steep hill into town with surprising ease. This small triumph inspired a new goal; today I walked to and from work. This morning, sunlight bathed the streets in ways I'd never noticed before. Not far from my house, I turned back to look for cars and saw rays of light form a huge, coursing stream coming straight at me. I half-heartedly fumbled for the camera, knowing I'm not the kind of photographer who could capture that. I'm not much of a photographer at all. When I took this picture of dew on the lawn in front of Johnson & Johnson's Interplanetary Headquarters, I knew it was silly, and naive, and cliched, but I couldn't not do it. I could not contain my joy.


Tuesday, May 05, 2009

But Really, I'm Not Actually Your Friend

The physically delicate older gentleman seated eight feet behind me in my office at the unnamed university has been experiencing gastic dismay on a daily basis. At 1:30 each afternoon, I email Lupe.

Tata: PU! Again! It can't be a surprise. Why doesn't he Beano so there'll be no gas?
Lupe: I can't breathe!
Tata: YOU can't breathe?! Ellen just walked by, and in accordance with Smelt It vs. Dealt It, she didn't look at me but plainly thinks I have the stomach funk!
Lupe: You're killing me!
Tata: Do you know how much havoc I could wreak in the library with a cigarette lighter right now?

I hate to kick a sick guy when he's down, but after a week and a half of sitting in someone else's toxic cloud I've had enough. And when I say that, I live downwind of a garbage dump visible from space, and I've had enough! Today, I brought in a Glade air freshener so my office doesn't smell like farts, it smells like apples, cinnamon and farts.

Tomorrow, I'm spraying him with Oust.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

To Get Back Home Sleep Pretty

Outside, we have fog and mist this morning. My hair is angry and rebels against the bond of the ponytail holder. A barrette gave up long ago. It writes when it can but its letters are filled with regret.

Last night, we shopped for groceries while outside a downpour carved new paths in tentative landscapes to the creeks and down to the river. We brought in our grocery bags as lightning flashed and thunder rumbled distantly. Soon after, the downpour turned torrential, so we counted ourselves lucky to be home and snug indoors. I examined the register tape like tea leaves for portents of success or failure. It was only then I noticed I'd forgotten, alas, orange juice.


Saturday, April 18, 2009

The News I Need From the Weather Report

Outside, the day is bright, clear and warm. The avenue has been by turns thronged and empty. Decorative pear trees began today to shed their blossoms, so everywhere fragrant petals drift through open doors. Fortunately, last night, the family stores cleaned their carpets. Some people who resemble my sisters are going to have conniptions tomorrow.

The sunlight on my skin feels like my reward for surviving the winter. Last night, I told Pete that when one day I can't climb stairs anymore I want the stair lift to play the Bewitched! theme. Today, sunlight alone makes me blissfully happy.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Sina Mali, Sina Deni

Sometimes, you watch and listen for a very long time, then suddenly you know how to fix exactly what's wrong, and how to do it. Watch this:
...the Obama administration is shaping up to be robot-friendly. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates released yesterday his proposed cuts to a variety of military technology programs, and it looks like good news for unmanned systems.

While some high-profile programs like the F-22 Raptor are being scaled back, and the manned vehicles that are part of the Army's Future Combat Systems program are going to be re-bid, Gates specifically left funding for "robotic sensors" and unmanned vehicles like the Predator. He also suggested increasing the initial fleet of Littoral Combat Ships - the LCS is designed to carry a number of mission modules to be deployed in the littoral area of the ocean (relatively shallow water, near shore, where most mines are deployed), and among those modules are AUV systems.

Okay okay okay, now take this trip down Recent Memory Lane:
This is an ingredient-driven outbreak; that is, potentially contaminated ingredients affected many different products that were distributed through various channels and consumed in various settings. The recalled products made by PCA, such as peanut butter and peanut paste, are common ingredients in cookies, crackers, cereal, candy, ice cream, pet treats, and other foods. Consumers are advised to discard and not eat products that have been recalled. To help consumers identify affected products, FDA has initiated a searchable database of recalled products that is updated daily or as additional recalls are identified. To date, more than 2,100 products in 17 categories have been voluntarily recalled by more than 200 companies, and the list continues to grow.

In January, the recall list was expanded to include some pet-food products that contain peanut paste made by PCA. Salmonella can affect animals, and humans who handle contaminated pet-food products also are at risk. It is important for people to wash their hands – and to make sure children wash their hands – with hot water and soap before and, especially, after handling pet-food products and utensils.

Any management consultant will tell you you should never tailor a job to the employee, and I fear we've tailored our governing to the governors. No, no, no. Maybe that worked during the cold war, but after a while everything gets stuffy and our needs as a people and employers have changed. So here is my brilliant idea: let's put the American Wehrmacht in the hands of the scientists, social workers and bureaucrats. What? you ask. Isn't it? It is not. Obviously, underfunded environmental nerds will wage eco-friendly war, when they're done eating their free-range tofu pops, and social workers know how to wring $1.50 out of a buck. They're old hands with compassion and bake sales. This, I truly believe, is the way to wage war: cheaply or not at all. Scientists are used to having their funding yanked the moment they discover something promising, which would really motivate them to either commit genocide economically or force them to quit it and invent something useful. And that would be good for everyone.

The really brilliant part of my brilliant plan: put the Pentagon in change of Healthcare, the EPA and Education. The generals have proven they can deliver - um - something. We need little children trained to read? Send in the Army Corps of Engineers. Those children will be reading in no time. We need healthcare for everyone, shore to shore, in America? Dude, who sees the big picture like the Pentagon! What do we need like a global war on polluters? The Pentagon has proven it can handle the gazillions of dollars we're dumping into it at a rate that year after year exceeds the military budgets of the whole rest of the planet combined. Let the Pentagon keep its literally unimaginably ginormous budget and give us what we as employers really need: laser-like focus. Think of it: Pentagon hospitals, nursing homes, organic co-ops and animal shelters. Suddenly mission creep might mean sexay-sexay expanded Social Security, Unemployment and Welfare. I'm telling you it's a match made in Heaven, and it would be brilliantly good for everyone.


Monday, April 06, 2009

I'd Be Running Up That Hill

NEW JERSEY (AP) - Local woman Tata LongItalianName had nothing to say Monday night in what friends, relatives and acquaintances declared was a near miracle.

"Holy crap! Pour some adult beverages and put an APB out on missing bass players!" exclaimed Siobhan Pseudonym, a long-time "associate" of Ms. LongItalianName. "Those bass players didn't just get up and walk away!"

"My sister Domenica? Has nothing to say? Was she conscious?" asked Daria MarriedSomeDude. "Was she eating - because sometimes that's the only way to tell."

Ms. LongItalianName touched up paint in the attic, worked on website construction and scratched her three cats for two hours Monday night without uttering a word. Those who've known her longest expressed surprise.

"She what?" asked Kim LongItalianName, Tata's mother. "Hallelujah!"

Ms. Pseudonym hurried to assure the public there was no cause for concern. "She can't help herself. She'll be complaining again by breakfasttime."


Thursday, January 01, 2009

Out With An Honest Tongue Now

If there's anything amusing about New Year's it's the phone calls.

Tata: Saskatoon?
Tata: That's great news! You should hang up and I'll leave a message with instructions for how to hide a body and elude capture. Which you will need tomorrow.
Tata: Have your lawyer call me at home - just like last time. Happy New Year!

The phone - jeez, the phone! Daria's house is 15 miles west of mine. We should have walkie talkies.

Tata: A light snow is falling here so I called to hear about your frozen monsoon.
Tyler: It's sunny here. At least I think it is. Do you want to speak to your sister?
Tata: Nah. The storm is coming from the north so it's going to blizzard where you are any minute now.
Tyler: Really?
Tata: Yup. Tell her to call me back in ten minutes so I can mock her high-heeled snow shoes.

I may need one of those head sets that usually tells me someone's a colossal dick.

Daria: Darla's coming in tonight. I'm standing in a liquor store. She wants a box of wine.
Tata: Get the pink stuff. She likes it and it goes with your downstairs bathroom.

Skywriting? Bat signal?

Daria: Todd called an hour ago. He and Bette went to the Hentons' for New Year's. He said they invited Todd and Bette for spaghetti and meatballs. I said, "Spaghetti and meatballs? That's not New Year's food."
Tata: That's Tuesday food.
Daria: I mean, what's that? Spaghetti and meatballs. Last night, we had sushi and three kinds of fondue. It's a party. You might eat spaghetti and meatballs on New Year's Day to nurse your hangover maybe.
Tata: Yeah, but only if the meatballs are quiet.

If everyone's this interesting I might quit hanging up randomly.

Sharkey: Hello?
Tata: The number you have dialed is out of order.
Sharkey: I know it's you. 
Tata: Press 1 for English, press 2 for Pig Latin...


Sunday, December 28, 2008

Or In A Suit And A Tie

My brother Todd's wife Bette, as photographed by Daria last summer in the Cape house. Plainly, Bette benefits from the black and white setting on the camera and a surfeit of grapefruit.


Thursday, December 04, 2008

Why She Was Totally Chenille

I can't contain myself even a moment longer. Don't try to stop me! I have to say it! Neil DeGrasse Tyson is completely, totally, undeniably, hilariously, 100% scrumptious.

That is all.


Sunday, November 30, 2008

With Diamond Eyes

What could be sillier than Adam Ant?

How about when the secret toy surprise is the brass ring?


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Und I Did

From the New York Times.
About Dick Cavett: The host of “The Dick Cavett Show” — which aired on ABC from 1968 to 1975 and on public television from 1977 to 1982 — Dick Cavett is also the coauthor of two books, “Cavett” (1974) and “Eye on Cavett” (1983). He has appeared on Broadway in “Otherwise Engaged” “Into the Woods” and as narrator in “The Rocky Horror Show,” and has made guest appearances in movies and on TV shows including “Forrest Gump” and “The Simpsons.” Mr. Cavett lives in New York City and Montauk, N.Y.

Apropos of nothing, I would totally pay anything to hear Dick Cavett shout, "HE WAS A LOW-DOWN, CHEAP LITTLE PUNK."


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Or Study Anthropology So What

My cousin Sandy's whirlwind wedding is midday Saturday. Three members of my horrified family have called and asked the same ominous question.

Terrified relatives: What are you wearing?

It didn't sound dirty when they said it, either. I've said all along I'll wear emerald satin pajamas because I am an uncaring bitch but also because I have the shoes and pizzazz to carry it off. Two days ago, as temperatures sank, I started feeling a bit more tropical. Though I wouldn't go as far as Carmen Miranda's fruit turban for an afternoon wedding, I'm going to try on every samba-related halter dress I can find tonight. Perhaps because I hate trying on clothing and dislike mediocre mall shopping in general, this dress on Katy Perry fills me with glee.

I've done meaner things to bridemaids.

You will be pleased to hear I scoured Sandy's registry at Target over a week ago for wedding gifts from Pete and me. Pete took one look at the list and waved a white hanky. Then he muttered something about plumbing and skulked around the basement tool bench for an hour, leaving me to assemble something like a gift to be delivered wherever Sandy lives now. I don't know where. It starts with a U. Anyhow, I picked out a sewing kit, a waterproof mattress pad and weights. The shipping charges were hilarious, because shipping weights is heavy, if you didn't know, so when I got to filling out the online gift card, I was, let's admit it, somewhat peeved - but still anxious to be helpful:

Happy Wedding! This collection of items is usually only found in an evidence locker. Don't get caught!

I hope they have their own rubber gloves.


Sunday, November 09, 2008

He Bought It For A Dime

Left to my own devices, I eat a really wide variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes, meats, fishes, fowls and grains, often all at once, explaining my overwideness and undertallitude. Pete's had a few health issues along the way that somewhat limit his diet. He can't eat seeds or nuts, white flour is his mortal enemy and most dairy makes him nervous; on top of that, he won't touch eggplant and though he likes the flavor of mushrooms their texture makes him squirmy. I personally find eggplant smooth to the touch and delicious; mushrooms are downright sexy. More for me!

Last time we made the pilgrimage to Virginia, Daria brought with her a quinoa salad she picked up at her gym's juice bar. All of my gyms had uneven bars, so I'm not up on spa cuisine but quinoa I learned about on PBS. Her salad had yummy golden raisins and almonds and a light, slightly sweet dressing. It was tasty, but I wanted cashews, mushrooms and dried cranberries. And chicken paprikash, for dessert.

One day, I was exercising with a friend and babbling about being lightheaded, not to mention fatigued. You're right, I should switch to decaf, but suddenly I realized I'd been eating stupidly, despite the fantastic variety of foods. Somehow, I'd lost sight of the fact that I am so anemic on good days doctors wonder why I remain conscious. Thus, I've been on a tear with quinoa boiled in good stock or broth and lots of herbs and greens sauteed with olive oil and garlic, with the whole mess sprinkled with lemon or lime juice. Different greens have different nutritional values, but most have good, solid amounts of iron, which is great. Iron can also be binding on the intestines, thus the quinoa. But you could saute cardboard in olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper, sprinkle it with lemon juice, and you'd be glad to eat it.

On the other hand, I'm a little hard pressed to explain the 10 boxes of creamed spinach neatly lined up in my freezer except to say spinach makes me stronger than Bluto and I had a coupon.


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Hope Finds A Way

The Sheheyanu:
Finally, let me share with you the one last blessing for this morning, the sheheyanu. We bless God who has kept us alive, who has sustained us and who has enabled us to reach this season.

I had begun to think recently that these three terms: keeping us alive, sustaining us and enabling us to reach this season speak of the three ages of human beings, First, we are children awe-struck by the world and grateful for being alive. Then, we are middle aged adults struggling to remain stable within the direction we have set for ourselves thankful for being sustained. Finally, we are elderly individuals grateful for just reaching a new day.

That’s a nice interpretation. But, I have been inspired by words I heard this year to look at it differently. Our lives need to be a combination of all of those every day. We must never give up the thrill of being alive, always seek to find our direction and be grateful at the end of each day, knowing we have navigated the dangers of life successfully.

I credit this understanding of the Sheheyanu to a quotation I heard from a former astronaut, Pinky Nelson, commenting on flying the space shuttle after the tragedy of the Columbia.

He said: "You really have three things going on at once. There’s the professional astronaut that’s cool and calm and watching the instruments. There’s the little kid who’s got a ticket to Disneyland is having the ride of a lifetime. And there’s the older person looking over your shoulder trying to take it all in. You know if you’re not scared during a shuttle launch, then you don’t appreciate what’s going on."

If we’re not scared during life, we don’t appreciate what’s going on. And if we don’t feel like a kid in Disneyland each and every day, we don’t appreciate what’s going on. And if we’re not watching every step of the way trying to stay in control, we don’t appreciate what’s going on. And the Sheheyanu reminds us that we should acknowledge the deep enjoyment of life, the living of life with meaning and the acceptance and overcoming of our fears at every age of our lives.

Welcome to our new lives, to this new day.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

But You Can't Stop Thinking About Her

Okay. Okay. Okay: we're sitting in the car on the way home and I burst out laughing.

Tata: Omigod, I forgot to tell you something.
Pete: You like my rugged good looks?
Tata: Pffft! Like I shut up about that. Remember I took a shower for about a year before we went out?
Pete: I remember.
Tata: And remember that I've been glum about my hair for weeks?
Pete: How could I forget?
Tata: And I've been putting my hair up in a ponytail to avoid dealing with it?
Pete: I'm still snickering. I mean, sure.
Tata: And since I got sick I've been complaining I could smell fever on my scalp?
Pete: Hoo boy, yes.
Tata: And you know how we bulk shop at Costco and use giant bottles of smelly goo?
Pete: Indeed I do!
Tata: Well, I was in the shower before and I washed my hair, and I was really frustrated because I couldn't get the shampoo to lather, which I thought was because my scalp had suddenly become oily or something. So I washed my hair a second time and still no lather and I was just like, "What?" So finally I turned the bottle around and if you can believe it, I have been washing my hair for - like - six weeks with conditioner.

And then, when I expected him to drive off the road in stupefaction at my antics, Pete said the most extraordinary thing.

Pete: I know.


Tata: What?
Pete: I was looking through the bottles on the shelves in the bathtub. There's this stuff, that stuff, some other stuff and I said, "What's she washing with?"
Tata: And you didn't say anything?
Pete: Nooooooo. You're mysterious.
Tata: I'm not mysterious, I'm - like - stupid.

Don't panic! I've washed my long, luxurious blond hair, glazed it, conditioned it and come clean about this episode with every last one of my female co-workers, and at the end of the story, when they're gasping at my ability to move about in society without a keeper, I can see they are mentally reviewing the products in their bathrooms.

Speaking of review, let's review this new picture of Panky with pumpkins.

Man, he's cute.


Saturday, October 04, 2008

To Parade Your Snazz

Creamy, chewy Christ on a cracker! Grab a Kleenex and clutching pearls, Poor Impulsives!

Heavens to goddamn Mergatroid, my girlfriend's a half-eaten cheeseburger! My boyfriend's been plated and sucked clean of sour cream! Who knows who ate 'em first! Whatever will I dooooooooo?

Kids, Auntie Ta's never steered you wrong. No, the sled's not at all going to rocket down the hill, across the frozen yard and voooosh! into space, and you won't even a little slam into the street and the snowbank on the other side. So hop on.

Let's be completely honest. Your partner in chem lab makes your insides titrate, and it's a different world now than in the exotic antiquity when your parents and I smoked pot with our gym teacher. They'll deny it, since old age and sloth are a whole lot easier to live with than the memory of how we used to get tanked and drive the farm hills with the lights off, because the idea that you might scares all dainty shit out of them. And with good reason. We were young and stupid, but you are on camera almost every minute of your day. Are you under arrest yet?

Yep, your parents fight off night terrors imagining what theories you're testing with that lab partner. They've become the kind of spineless ninnies they once despised, but the change is not irreversible. You can be brave for them. "But, Auntie Ta," you say, "my parents want me to save myself for marriage. Stop laughing!"

Kids, please don't make me tell you about how your parents learned special macrame knots at scout camp or about those parties in the prop room that involved a can of Spam and tap shoes. You're going to date - preferably outside of your high school - and dating means coming into physical contact with another human being, on whom you will practice the little tricks that will make your adult sex life happy and well-adjusted. Cover up, pets! Just - don't tell your parents, don't get any diseases and don't make any babies. They're less hilarious than in the movies, and they'd remind your parents of the prom. Which reminds me: how're your big brothers and sisters, anyhow?

Look, chances are super-good you'll get nekkid and do the happy cha cha cha, then you'll break up and feel heartbroken, and after that you'll get nekkid and do the happy cha cha cha with someone else. You might not even be all that heartbroken, but anyway: the point is that worrying about where your Sweet Baboo has ba-been is a ba-big waste of time. Plus, what you've been safely up to is your own mmm-mmm-mmm biz.

Don your gloves and mittens, kids. You don't have to lose your cool or your nerve when you get rid of that nonsense no one needs. So when your parents experiment with this crazy abstinence and shame thing, don't forget it's not too late for you to raise them right.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Hit Before Your Mother Was Born

This is Miss Lotte Lenya singing Mack the Knife on BBC1 in 1962, before I was born. I have her autobiography, it's an interesting read. She's a complicated character and you'd like her. She married her first husband twice - the Nazis came between them, doncha know - and her other husbands once. Once of my great-grandmothers was married five times. Marilyn Monroe died six months before I was born. Neither of those things is very important but both are true, and that means they matter in some context, we just don't always know which.

Miss Lotte Lenya, as you can see, had powerful feelings about historical events that shaped her life. She was forced out of Europe by Hitler, as you may have guessed; thus her emotions make logical sense to us. We encounter this in life. Sometimes we can see why people act the way they do and sometimes we cannot. We see the emotion. We do not see the why.

Observe this Yahoo! article - and you can say that again, brother:

Deep-seated racial misgivings could cost Barack Obama the White House if the election is close, according to an AP-Yahoo News poll that found one-third of white Democrats harbor negative views toward blacks — many calling them "lazy," "violent," responsible for their own troubles.

The poll, conducted with Stanford University, suggests that the percentage of voters who may turn away from Obama because of his race could easily be larger than the final difference between the candidates in 2004 — about two and one-half percentage points.

Certainly, Republican John McCain has his own obstacles: He's an ally of an unpopular president and would be the nation's oldest first-term president. But Obama faces this: 40 percent of all white Americans hold at least a partly negative view toward blacks, and that includes many Democrats and independents.

I studied this graph at some length yesterday, and I invite you to do the same. The single most important thing I can say about the image is that respondants were asked if they considered black people friendly, lazy, hardworking or irresponsible. The phrasing of these questions - I can't - I don't know how to say this, but what does one say when pollsters ask if you think all black people are stupid? "No, but I feel my IQ dropping as we speak" springs to mind. In what way is it possible to answer about any group of people anything other than, "That group of people has excellent taste in shoes," or "None of those people is holding an umbrella"? What the poll purports to measure is prejudicial feeling but where is the opportunity to express the simple truth that each individual person is different from every other person? Isn't it logical to say, "I know that within every group is a lovely spectrum of human personality traits, and I dislike shoes"?

When you answer the phone, you are, of course, free to turn the poll back on the pollster by saying, "When you are ready to ask me an unloaded question, call me again." Thus, you have context.

I am sensitive to the pressures of language. When you ask me a question, I answer the question you asked. Then the one you didn't. Then the one you meant. What did you really want to know?

Most people will say some other person should be treated harshly so long as there is no possibility they will be treated the same way. If you ask, "Should Ethnic Person B have recourse to lawyers?" the answer will probably be, "No." If you ask, "Should every defendant be given a fair trial?" bet your boots the answer is, "Yes."

A woman I know married a man from Africa and has several children with him. To people who answered the survey above her children are not white, and to some people, this whiteness business matters. It's a sickness, really, an affliction America chooses not to treat. White Americans, for instance, may not vote for a black candidate because he's black. Sometimes we can see why people act the way they do and sometimes we cannot. We see the emotion. We do not see the why.

And, sometimes, there is no why.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Joker Laughs At You

I am me, and as mes go, I'm pretty much as me as mes get. Even so, there can be controversy.

Tata: I am giving you homework! Follow Grandpa around and record his voice.
Daria: You are not the boss of me, but yesterday, I was sitting in the third row of my truck, recording voices as Mom drove around and Grandpa told her where she was taking wrong turns.
Tata: That's exciting, since he's blind. And I am the boss of you!
Daria: You are not the boss of me, and I haven't checked the sound quality yet.
Tata: I am the ringleader! There's a ring! I am leading it!
Daria: Pipe down, you!
Tata: That reminds me: I still need a plumber.

This morning, I've called half a dozen of my closest creditors and service providers to tell them I'm moving. My car insurance company wants to know the license and policy numbers of everyone living on the premises, which may have something to do with state law but violates everyone's privacy. Yesterday, the US Postal Service wanted me to provide a credit card in order to change my address online, at which point I decided my government could kiss my fabulous ass. Today, several of both creditors and service providers either refused to change my address unless I provided a phone number or would only change my address if it sent verification - and I laughed out loud when the rep said this - to the old address.

Obviously, I've got my hands full with the Stooopit and my cup overfloweth with vitriol. Naturally, I thought of you, and your needs. Isn't that just like me?

- Watch more free videos

It really is!

h/t: Wintle.


Monday, August 18, 2008

Get Up And Run Away With It

Yesterday, I climbed up and down a ladder to put up temporary paper shades in the kitchen and living room. If you haven't seen these wonderful things, you should know that they soften light and create tranquility. I needed tranquility because climbing up and down the ladder caused my right hip to kick my ass from the inside. It would not be accurate to suggest I have a Home Decorating Injury, but I certainly sprained my mojo.

While we sit back and contemplate carefully sitting back and contemplating, let's also consider how sometimes things take turns we might've seen coming. For instance: Zou Kai won the Men's Floor Exercise with a routine that should have embarrassed him. Don't get me wrong: it was crisply executed and stacked with difficult elements. He is a remarkable athlete, no doubt about it. But - and I know there are people ready to argue with me - it wasn't a floor routine.

Yes, according to the code of points, it was. But no, it wasn't. A floor routine is supposed to place into a harmonious and exciting whole an athlete's skill and technique. By this stage of competition, with luck and good television coverage, we've seen the routines a few times. Twice during Zou Kai's floor exercise he did this half-hearted leap for which his feet barely left the ground. For a man who can almost fly, he barely hopped, and the first time I saw him do it, I nearly dropped my refreshing adult beverage. I mean, really. Won't anyone think of Me?

Besides the safety of my drink, there's something else - if you believe that: many routines by both the male and female athletes have become little more than tumbling passes set end to end, with pauses and twitching to mark beginnings and endings. Zou Kai provided a particularly egregious example of this, and by egregious I mean that his tumbling passes were astounding, then he stopped, and then he would do another stratospheric tumbling pass. And astounding it would be, but that's not a floor routine. In fact, there's a whole sport dedicated to this called power tumbling, and that way lies Zou Kai's destiny. Go with my blessing, Zou Kai!

The Danes are apparently monsters with the power tumbling. I admit: there's something about a blond man in black tights doing a series of somesaults that makes me want to do handsprings.

Thing is: this is what the audience wants and the code of points now rewards athletes for pandering. So since we're pandering, why not pander BIG? Let's get rid of pommel horse which almost no one loves*, ditch floor ex and replace it with long, gorgeous, swooping tumbling runs. We can send Cirque du Soleil and TV talent shows perfumed thank-you notes for showing us the way. Because, in truth, we're never going back.

*Kurt Thomas, you know I love you. Thanks for carrying my sister with the broken foot to the truck at gymnastics camp all those years ago. But that can't make up for giving us the only reason to keep pommel horse in the lineup: the often vain hope that it might - if only for a moment - be interesting to look at, and let's never again speak of GymKata. It can only open old wounds...


Friday, August 08, 2008

Rise Up In the Sweat And Smoke Like Mercury

Sometimes you feel like a nut; sometimes you make a movie with Rula Lenska.

Fortunately, my stepmommy Darla is looking out for my best interests. The word cinematic doesn't quite cover this career opportunity.
(London, but planned worldwide expansion)

Turtleneck sweaters! Oh goody!
20-30 henchmen needed for moderately-sized supervillain organisation with large expansion potential (fortresses built into geological structures, corruption of government officials, possible genesis of 'nemesis' vigilante). Electrical theme.

Applicants must be willing to learn new skills, including but not limited to operation of specialised 'lightning guns'. Applicants will also be required to wear specialised uniform when at work (functional rubber suits with my logo on front), except in cases where deception is required (posing as hostages in order to ambush vigilantes, etc).

Desired (but not necessarily required) in applicants:

-interesting deformations/obsessions/powers(?) giving rise to interesting nicknames (e.g. Claws, Pyro, Buzzsaw, and similar)
-unwavering loyalty
-being a corruptible government official
-ability to work as part of a close-knit team (unless interesting obsession is of the 'lone wolf' variety)
-grudge against any well-known vigilante
-flexible moral code

This seems ambitious. Can I apply for entry level Minion?
Equal opportunies employer. Both henchmen and femmes fatales absolutely welcome.

Great promotion opportunities - right-hand-man position constantly being unexpectedly opened. Would look good on any future supervillain resume/CV.

Send an email with details of any prior henchman work, or details of what is driving you to join the ranks of a supervillain organisation. Will reply to all serious applicants. Hope to hear from you, and with luck, welcome you into a rewarding and promising career!

- Jacque (The Zapper) Zerapi

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! I just read the words prior henchman work!
* Location: London, but planned worldwide expansion
* Compensation: £20,000pa starting salary, with added commissions based around success of supervillain operations. Contracts negotiable depending on applicant's personal skills/powers.
* Principals only. Recruiters, please don't contact this job poster.
* Please, no phone calls about this job!
* Please do not contact job poster about other services, products or commercial interests.

Well, of course not! Creating a supervillain organization is going to take up your whole day. Thus, we still have all night to puzzle over this vomity vomitrociousness:

Hat tip: the guy who sits next to me in the library.

Ephesians? You read your kid Ephesians and wonder why she can't fucking sleep? How about something a little more secular and age appropriate like those lovely Bronte Sisters: "It was the only house on the moors and it was creepy. Beautiful and creepy. Cathy and I fell in love, which was beautiful and creepy. One day, she was annoyed and the next day she was dead of fever, which made her beautiful, though no less creepy. I mourned her as only I, Heathcliff, could mourn her, beautifully and creepily. And in death she hounded me to mine. Which is, you guessed it..." I suppose Goodnight Moon is out of the question because it might interest the little darling in science or bears or something - but listen, I have one important word for the maker of these terrifying pajamas: headbands.

A bazillion years ago, headbands became an overnight sensation. I can't recall seeing them on the street, but I can't remember if I'm wearing shoes, so that's no certain indicator. Anyway, suddenly, everywhere a person turned, there floated the smiling face of Olivia Newton John sporting a headband and warbling Let's Get Physical, which was hugely mortifying. If you had a pulse. I immediately understood what had happened: a small group of people in a closed environment had one stupid thought and because of the pressurized environment it blew up and made a giant, fashionable mess. Headbands would not have happened if even one person - one person! - had said in a stern voice, "You all look stupid. Cut that shit out and get back to work. Those thighs aren't going to firm themselves."

This has got to be said: Crazy person - and I mean that in the nicest, least judgmental and not at all spitting-mad manner - Crazy person, despite your best intentions and despite what you think you see, your children look like the best dressed Klansmen on the whole fashionably doomed Templar crusade. Burn these terrible costumes - not on Iman's front lawn, mind you, no matter what she's peddling at Target. Resist the impulse. I can tell you feel it! Get rid of these hateful things, plunk your kids into some soft, pastel footie pajamas and read them some motherfucking Winnie the Pooh. Save your children a lifetime of wishing YOU would get therapy.


Monday, August 04, 2008

Don't Go Out the Back Door

Some months ago.

Miss Sasha: We're having 'Panky christened in August.
Tata: In a church? Like, splashy-splashy, scrub off the original sin?
Miss Sasha: Yes, and then we're having a luau at Dad's house.
Tata: You're serving roast pig to old Jews on a Catholic occasion and setting it to soothing hula music?
Miss Sasha: When you put it that way...
Tata: Lightning's bound to strike. I'll go roller skate under an antenna in some other town.


Daria: You're going.
Tata: I'm not going.
Daria: You're going.
Tata: Nope. Not going!


Tata: Dude, I can't go.
Minstrel Boy: It ain't about you. Zip yer lip and go.
Tata: Thanks for setting me straight, cowboy - as straight as I get, anyhow.
MB: Well, gotta mosey off into the sunset, fight crime and mix metaphors. Burr whisk, away!


Daria: You're going.
Tata: Maybe.
Daria: You're going.
Tata: Maybe. Man, I'm sick of talking about this.

After that.

Tata: I cannot in good conscience spend my whole week fighting the homophobic and anti-choice rhetoric and violence of the church and show up on Sunday in a grass skirt. Hey, did you know I could say the words in good conscience without laughing hysterically?
Miss Sasha: Fine. Wear your coconut bra to the party. I know you have one.


Miss Sasha: I have potentially upsetting news.
Tata: I'm still the black sheep of an increasingly angry family?
Miss Sasha: My biological father's coming on Sunday.
Tata: Who knew that black sheep came blacker? Because there's one now.


Tata: I thought you were staying in Cape Cod and coping with a plumbing disaster.
Mom: If he goes to the christening tomorrow I'm not going.
Tata: Have you made this declaration to Miss Sasha?
Mom: Not yet. If I call now it'll ruin dinner.
Tata: ...Whereas if you wait, you can wreck her entire evening! I'll have to try that next time.

You will no doubt be pleased to hear that no one was killed in the baptizing of this baby.


Saturday, August 02, 2008

Time To Let It Grow

If I hadn't recently started taking bellydancing lessons I might not have noticed this right away. The teacher lives in the house directly behind me as I pointed my camera toward the town's main drag. Many streets in this town look just like this: large, old houses and snug, old Cape Cods, surrounded by trees and plants. A large number of the houses were built by the same builders in the early twentieth century. My great-grandfather bought a house for his wife and seven children eight blocks away in 1917. The trees are an important part of the character of the town, which prides itself on being a walking community: you can walk to the store, to a restaurant, to buy a snow shovel. A few years ago, the Department of Public Works began doing something mysterious: cutting off the tops of healthy trees and leaving fifteen or twenty foot stumps. Two avenues over, there's a block that looks like totem pole training school.

One day, I drove past the teacher's house and saw a Department of Public Works crew had taken the treetop of the tree on the corner and started hacking asymetrically at the next one. I was horrified but not as horrified as the teacher and her family, who were traumatized. After some thought, I proposed the homeowners turn that one tall stump on the corner into art supplies by inviting woodworking sculptors to make something of it. They'd have to wait a year for the wood to dry, but it could be done. As you can see, surprises were in store.

If this story sounds confused time-wise, there might be a good reason for that: I was frantically working on other things. Each time a treetop came off it was after crews departed, apparently finished, but returned. On Thursday as I drove home from work I saw five crew trucks and a large crew taking down the second and third trees. I had my digital camera with me but I was so busy fighting the urge to turn a chainsaw on a chainsaw-wielding lunkhead it didn't occur to me to menace same with a camera. So: that's totally my fault. I'll try to remember next time to calmly threaten cobags with Kodaks, their natural enemies. The moment passed, but there's one important thing to remember: the trucks weren't from the Department of Public Works. They were from a private contractor, the trees were on town land and were town property.

Sometimes the town takes down a tree when it interferes with the electric lines, but these were no different from trees anywhere in town in that the had grown up around the wires. So what's to stop Public Works from deforesting the entire town? This drives my brother-in-law Dan crazy. He's a landscape architect. Every time I tell him the Department of Public Works is up to something he gets a weary look in his eye like he's retired from crimefighting, hung up his tights and it's someone else's turn. He says the last tree the crews cut has a hollow, round spot, which made me wonder if they'd started with the wrong tree and kept going. He says, "The trees must have been a hazard of some kind, right?" I'm so mad about this Dan's in grave danger of explaining to a judge why I should be denied bail.

When I took these pictures yesterday the sunlight was so bright I couldn't see the pictures I took. I was guessing. The teacher turned into her driveway as I stood there, staring at electrical wires and wondering what the camera saw. She was shocked to see the fourth tree apparently cut in half after she left the house that morning. My sister says a consultant working for the Department of Public Works gets paid to decide to take down trees and if there's no deciding there's no job. That may or may not be the case. The town has a committee that makes decisions about trees. Yesterday, that group's website was down.

There may be a perfectly rational explanation for what's happened here. I'd like to hear it. The homeowners would like to hear it, too.