Sunday, July 31, 2005

I Put This Moment Here

You can sit back in your chairs for a moment. I'm writing this for a Me of six months from now, when I don't live here anymore and it's freaking cold.

It is a lovely summer afternoon. The sun and the clouds cast shadows that skate over the city's treetops. You can see steeples, watertowers, the gridbacks of billboards and coral rooves rising from the greenery and your view is dominated by the sky striated by six sets of railway wires. Your eyes itch. Your eyes have itched for weeks. Not-scratching is your summer hobby and you may finally be getting good at it until you fail completely a handful of times a day. You are sipping seltzer with lime because you'll take any excuse to feel lime's clean bite. It reminds you of handsome grownups when you were very small. The air over the city seems very white, as if the sunlight's summer yellowness failed to fall all the way here. It is somewhere, but it's not here.

Summer is wonderful. You wish it would never end. If you have one fantasy it is to live in a place where you can step out your back door all year round, inhale deeply the green, spiny plant smell and pick a ripe tomato, warm with the afternoon sun. More than anything else you can imagine, this is happiness. When you're a shrivelled old bird in the strip club business with a cigarette in one hand and a glass of scotch in the other, you hope it's in a zip code closer to the Equator, where the outlandish nights are balanced by tranquil sunny afternoons.


Most people leave behind the books of their childhood. The first book I remember picking out for myself was collage artist Leo Lionni's Frederick. All characters in the book are mice living a hardscrabble existence in a rock wall. Most of the mice gather nuts and seeds diligently for the winter. One mouse saves smells and sensations for darkest winter and gives this sustenance to his fellows when they need it most. It is probably the most important book of my life. And when I read unbearably cruel stories about the unimaginable savagery human beings unleash upon one another, I try to create for myself the hope that someday all people will matter in just societies, and everyone can pick his and her own ripe, luscious tomatoes.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Hoodwink, Nudge Nudge

Vice President Dick Cheney
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Dick,

I hope you don't mind if I call you "Dick." It sounds friendly. I feel I know you so well it seems strange we've never met. People probably say to you all the time, "You know, Dick, you are making friends around the world. Yep."

Lately, I've been reading in the papers and on the internet about Karl Rove's troubles. They are certainly important, and the American people sure do have a lot to say about good manners and talking with your mouth full, but it'd be rude to mention it face-to-face. Anyway, I don't want you to think just because Karl Rove is the name on everyone's lips that nobody thinks about you. I think about you a lot! You are just as popular with real Americans like me as you've ever been! I wouldn't want you to feel insecure about that.

This week's fuss about the energy bill worries me a little. Well, I admit that when I read about billions of new dollars going to Halliburton for new energy research it sounds to me like I nod off at the same part of the fairy tale Papa reads every night - but don't worry, specifics have a soporific effect on lots of people. We think we're dreaming and that's got to be good for you! The one thing I should tell you is that a good artist wouldn't re-use the same villains from book to book because Americans have a short attention span and like spanking hot justice. If you want to hand out money to your friends - and hey, who doesn't? - you need a wider circle of friends.

For the purposes of - oh, I don't know - interstate commerce, I'll be your friend. Well, not really, but I'll let you tell other people we're friends. People really like me, and maybe a little of my popularity will rub off - but we're not going out to dinner and we'll never, never sleep together. For one thing, your wife could probably kick my ass; for another, well, it's just not going to happen, Dick. I think we both know why. My sister once dated a duplicitous city councilman, and her relationship is as close as I'm getting to the body politic.

So listen, next time you need to hand out a billion here or there, I'll be happy to take it off your hands. I'm not going to tell you how I'll spend it. It's not nice to talk about money, even between friends as close as we are! I'll give you a hint, though: there sure are millions of desperate Americans without health insurance, and with a government-size purse I bet I could fix some of that. You know, like a wacky challenge. It'll be a blast!

Ordinarily, I take gifts in check form. Sometimes it's the best Mom can do when she's not feeling well enough to shop for a birthday present! But a check for billions would raise a few eyebrows at the Highland Park, New Jersey Wachovia branch, and I suspect there might be tedious questions about propriety and whether or not the Enquirer bought the negatives we both know will never exist. I believe my accountant can set up a handy foundation for this purpose, so you can tell people I'm showing some faith-based initiative. Whatever, right? It'll be my money and I can spend like a drunken sailor driven to build medical clinics and soup kitchens.

I hope we can enjoy a long, lucrative friendship, but you completely cannot borrow my blouses,

Princess Tata

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Simple, Elegant, Truthful - Privacy Edition

"In an ideal America, government should be open to the sunshine and air, and citizens' lives should be private."

Ladies and Gentlemen, meet the man whose political discourse includes rubber dolls. I give you The Rude Pundit.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Yes, I Am Drinking Wine Through A Bendy Straw

After a few minutes' determined dabbing, re-dabbing and some dabbing after that with a cotton pad, my face is covered with a comically uneven layer of Milk of Magnesia, whitening as it dries. This is good for the pores. Two layers of Healthy Hoof Hoof Lacquer are drying on my fingernails because it's the only base coat that keeps my nails from flaking off in layers like mica. My hair's pulled back in a hairband and I live in fear of passing my reflection in a mirror and wailing, You are working for the weekend!

This morning, my student worker, whose name reminds us that movie angels start out on training wheels, asked a series of carefully considered questions in a language that is not her first.

She: When we see purchase orders like these, we close them?
Tata: If we wait a few weeks, the money will be real. If we close them now, not so much!
She: The money is not real now?
Tata: No. Not until it becomes real in a few weeks. It looks real, doesn't it?
She: It does.
Tata: It's not though. Excuse me.

I dial Sharkey's work number. His voicemail picks up.


I hang up.

Tata: So we might wait a few weeks and close the orders then.

From the other side of the cubicle wall comes the amused voice of my co-worker. He and I talk through this wall all day, everyday. We've considered cutting holes in the wall and installing a puppet theater.

Him: What is it that you love about cauliflower?
Tata: Sharkey listens to his messages on speakerphone. He hears my voice and sprints across his office to slap the OH NO, IT'S TA! button. I like to think I'm responsible for elevating his heart rate to an aerobically challenging level.
Him: That's just like you! Always thinking of others!

On cue, the co-worker will tell people I'm brilliant and throw food, so I do not velcro his sneakers together. The office walls are decorated with pictures of Elvis, Richard Nixon and Chairman Mao standing next to xeroxed and taped-together him. Also: he spent a whole day not speaking any words containing the letter E. His pranks interest me. I make a genuine effort not to give him concussions.

My nails have now received two slender coats of cheap, startling electric blue polish. St. Ives Apricot Radiance Deep Cleaning Cream Cleanser did a nice job of unchalking my face. It's important to exfoliate lips because they don't shed cells the same way the rest of the epidermis does - or so I've read. It's Wednesday; I've Naired my face. The first time Mamie turned a corner and found me doing what Grandma called "my Santa Claus impression" Mamie screamed like she'd caught Coco Chanel dead in a tube top.

Mamie: Oh my God! Is it rabies?
Tata: No, it's cosmetology and you've read about it in Hairless Girl Weekly.
Mamie: What? Are you deriding my long, luxurious crimson tresses?
Tata: Never. I'm guessing we find your arm hair with Jimmy Hoffa.

It's true. Mamie has no arm hair. She also shaves her legs once a month to spite me - because she doesn't have to - and she cackles the whole time. It's like millions of voices suddenly cry out in terror and are suddenly silenced. Then she moisturizes.

Gunning the engine on the milk truck of human kindness, Sharkey emails.

Sharkey: And you know where you can shove your cauliflower!
Tata: Of course, dahhhhhhhling. Call me and tell me how much you admire me!
Sharkey: I'll call you and tell you to kiss my ass!
Tata: And you admire me! It makes you sound taller.

To paraphrase Gene Kelly: gotta tweeze! Then slather. There must be goo. And two layers of top coat forming a chitinous shell. Displays of softness are for cosmetic purposes only. Smoothness is the way to go.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Simple, Elegant, Truthful

Thank you.

Monday, July 25, 2005

You, Au Jus

This week, civil right erode as transit police in the NYC subway stop riders randomly and search them. Officials interviewed in the newspaper admit this deters no one from blowing you up but the officials are very concerned they appear to be doing something. I hate to mention the obvious but chances are very, very good that unless you're a special human being with a fascinating story or were in the English class under the chem lab in Franklin High School when I poured hydrochloric acid down the pipes, you have probably never been blown up. Since you've never gone BOOM!, you, my friend, should get yourself a refreshing beverage, a lawn chair and a front row seat on the Minimally Air Conditioned Life.

Sure, I sleep with the air conditioner on, but I'm old now, thoroughly employed and you try getting up before six a.m. without at least a few hours' uninterrupted sleep. In the summer of 1982, I was 19, living with the teen boyfriend in some rock and roll radio, blisteringly hot fantasy life - which of course crashes and burns in contact with any kind of reality - in an airless attic room without actual walls in a Manchester, Connecticut four-family house with a bunch of rent boys and landscapers. Some nights, it was so hot in the attic we could barely breathe but we were young, supple and crazy in love. To this day, breaking a sweat reminds me of flesh against flesh, and I sweat just a little more.

Time passes. I love and will miss the apartment when I move; I like my windows wide open. Blocks away, drums beat the sweltering air. One afternoon, Paulie Gonzalez and I have pretty spectacular sex, which if you're a member of my family you should put right OUT of your mind, and if you're Sharkey, who is completely immune to my overwhelming animal magentism, you should not hurt yourself guffawing. So afterwards, Paulie and I sprawl all over the bed, the floor, the wall, the printer shelf - which has kind of sharp corners and naked, sweaty you should in my opinion avoid finding yourself pressed up against it even briefly so you don't later find the blurry words "Hewlett Packard" pressed into your ass - panting and sweating like marathon runners at the twenty-fifth mile and trying to catch our breath.

Paulie: This may sound stupid but do you hear music?
Tata: You're busy saving the world from hackers yearround so you don't know in the summer we're infested with a high school marching band.

Today, my living room is festooned with a gorgeous bouquet of succulent green basil. New Brunswick sweats under a soporific haze and a carmine volcanic dust sunset, the result of Mount Saint Helens' ash-producing events. Hearty smells of grilled meats, pungent sauces and afternoon heat waft over a city helpless to resist them. Yesterday, as I parked my car after the baptismal visit to church, a smooth, vibrant man with a generous head of curly black hair and without a shirt passed me with a huge lizard casually held over his head as one would carry a tray of creme brulee through a packed Manattan bistro. I thought, 'Ta, that is a reason to live.'

I hope you'll turn off the TV or computer and go outside into sun- or moonlight, even in a soaking rain. Jump in puddles; it's great fun to squish mud between your toes. Now is no time to cower in your air conditioned nightmares. Work up a divine sweat. Go outside and fall in love with your life.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Collection and Collusion

Sharkey quits admiring his hair long enough to write me:

Two nights ago I had a dream I actually remembered (partially). You weren't in the dream, but in the dream, I thought of you. I don't remember what was happening in my dream at the time, but I remember reaching into my pocket and finding two large desiccant packets. As I was about to throw them out, I thought, "I should save these for Tata." Then I thought, "Oh, screw that, I'm not going to carry these things around until I see her!" So I threw them away.

Actually, I've had the same thoughts awake. I come across the desiccant packets and think you'd want them, but then think, "Screw that, I have too much crap around here already. I don't need those things piling up."

Given the color, texture and ridiculous healthy sheen of his hair, I feel honored to have crossed his screwy mind at all.

I collect three things of varying usefulness:

1. Ex-lovers;
2. Interesting motherboards;
3. Desiccant packets.

Okay, I admit I have a few other collections.

4. Mardi Gras beads;
5. Pieces of broken windshield glass;
6. Watches that stopped on my wrist;
7. Antique accessories;
8. Rusty metal objects.

In my closets, I'm carefully preserving a completely useless array of Little Old Lady purses. Fifteen years ago, my friends' grandmoms died off in what must've been a wave of Lower East Side rent-controlled chaos. It turned out that grandmoms were all my size and took excellent care of their garments. My friends, sensing an opportunity to saddle me with amusing stuff, gave me piles and piles of clothing. We never figured out how to wear some items but I wore lots of these things on stage. My favorite object was a black and white halter bathing suit my friends called "the cigars! cigarettes! dress." If anyone remembered whose grandmom left us that treasure we might learn some spicy family history.

I dislike meaningless objects. When I don't remember where something came from, what purpose it served or can't think of a use for it in the future, I throw or give it away. I am thinking now of giving away things I no longer need and acquiring things I fill with my own meaning. This I have not really done before. Maybe. Maybe not. I'm an inadequate consumer by American standards. It is amusing that when I appear off-stage in a dream I turn up as my silliest, homemade self. I wonder if I came to say goodbye.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Relaxing Into the Stretch

Daria calls my house from the road. Her baby's baptism is Sunday morning at 8 a.m. for which I plan to forgive her no time soon. Our thirteen year old sister Dara is riding shotgun and handling the Q & A.

Dara: Daria says she's getting sushi for Sunday.
Tata: She is? Tell her I like her SO MUCH BETTER.
Dara: (To Daria) She likes you SO MUCH BETTER.
Daria: I knew she would.
Dara: (To me) She knew you would.
Tata: Because I'm shallow that way.
Dara: (To Daria) Because she's shallow that way.
Daria: I know she is. GIVE ME THAT PHONE!
Tata: I hope you know you're violating state laws.
Daria: Yeah yeah, I'm a menace. Whatcha doin'?
Tata: Standing around naked with half an appliance next to my head.
Daria: No really. What are you doing?
Tata: Trying to get into the shower while my unemployed sisters make small talk.
Daria: Look what time it is! You better haul it!
Tata: Watch me hang up on you.

Daria calls me at the store. She doesn't say hello.
Daria: What do you do when people call and want information?
Tata: If I know it I consider telling them. If I don't know it I say my sisters will be back after August 1.
Daria: I have to talk to your ex-husband about bagels. What's his phone number at work?
Tata: I don't know, but my sisters will be back after August 1.

The store's open door, lovely toys and free air conditioning attract all sorts. Yesterday, I felt a rustle in the air and scanned the room for a customer I couldn't see. Less than eight feet away stood a man who may have been there for quite some time, and he was staring at me. I jumped, then apologized for keeping him waiting. He's an artist with work on display in the store; I recognized him immediately. An hour later, he was still talking to me.

Bill: Why do I always do all the talking? Tell me about yourself.
Tata: I lost my memory years ago and now I can't pick myself out of a lineup.
Bill: How do you get dressed in the morning if you can't remember which one is you?
Tata: I'm pretty sure the cold, flat one is my reflection. And I'm lefthanded.

Okay, so I exaggerated a bit. Though I'm no raving beauty I've had my share - and possibly yours - of stalkers; I'm very cautious around strangers who seem to have picked up my scent on the breeze. When I look up today and he's walking though the store to apologize for something imaginary I am pleased to see Mom sashay across the floor behind him.

Some people walk. Some amble. Some stride. Mom has two modes: sashay and scurry. If Mom's scurrying, look out: somebody's gonna get it, if by it we mean a thorough talking-to on this subject and every other and in the name of all that is holy RUN AWAY! Mom has a penetrating gaze. When she's listening she's really listening, so much so that sometimes you want to slide a mirror under her chin to check if she's breathing. I should probably feel bad about what I'm about to do, but I do it anyway.

Tata: Mom, this is Bill. His giant painting is in the window but Bill also comes in card form.

Then I shut up for forty-five minutes.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Fine Art of Acting Nonchalant

My stepsisters - those fools with excellent taste! - left the jurisdiction and me the keys to their store. I'm sitting in a retail establishment filled with bright and shiny objects, jewel-tone yummy whatsises as far as the eye can see and bamboo cuttings of startling vigor. Lyle Lovett croons from the CD player above the counter. They wrote detailed instructions so I could do my part to increase the Gross National Product but neglected a few details:

1. Bring lunch and snacks;
2. Bring toilet paper.

Handmade clay fountains and wall-size water features burble. Mobiles and ceiling fans spin in languid circles. Wind chimes whisper every once in a while. Customers stroll in now and then to escape the heat. As the afternoon shadows lengthen, I've tried on every ring on the jewelry stand and fallen in love with a lamp. I've never fallen in love with a lamp in my life. I've just never been that kind of girl. In my advanced old age apparently I'm capable of becoming some different kind of girl, and this one loves a lamp.

Minding a little shop on the main drag of a town where people actually walk around and talk to one another is miles outside of my current comfort zone. Perhaps it shouldn't be but my current life is carefully circumscribed. I used to live in this town and loved living here. I was sorry to leave when I moved across the river, which I'd forgotten until this morning but remember now like a favorite song I hadn't heard in nearly ten years. And my job in the library's basement seldom brings me into contact with the public, so when the public marched in and treated me like a servant - well, I'm nobody's servant. When an annoying pair kept me hopping for forty-five minutes and bought nothing, I was pleased I hadn't blurted out what hideous taste they had because - as Jenny Diver sang - you never know to who you're talking. They didn't. For all I know, they might've been nice people.

Naturally, between moments when I wasn't saying, "The striking earrings and more demure necklace draw attention to the face and away from neckline," while thinking, "Sweet Mother of Pearl, don't make me look at her tits," I've had plenty of time to think. I wonder about me. I think about you. I'm a one-to-one, in-person person. When I was doing full-contact poetry somewhere different every night, I broke down the fourth wall with a sledge hammer delivery my audience often found disturbing - which was what I wanted. I was very confrontational then. Now I'd rather brew Phyllis Schlafly a pot of tea, sit knee to knee with her, and politely discuss why she should be gently poached in a white wine sauce for the hardships and suffering she's created, overlooked and blandly endorsed. I would like to sit at a lovely table for two with Karl Rove, pour him a glass of chilled green tea and talk about simple justice and compassion, possibly explaining that he should spend the rest of his earthly existence taking care of destitute, institutionalized Alzheimers patients if he wishes to avoid a truly nasty karmic zap - if I feel especially compassionate myself. And I would like to sit with you in a room for just the two of us, beautiful in its own right and for us both. We don't know one another - unless we do. You are more than I can know, I suppose, without a lifetime of comparison shopping. But I do imagine you. Are we wearing straw hats and sitting on a shady porch with tall glasses of tart lemonade? Are we wearing black Ramones tshirts and sitting at the end of the bar in a room so dark we can't study the face of our bartender? We can talk about anything you like, you know. I am not afraid to know you now.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Survey Says!

On the Discovery Channel, it's Shark Week. Horoscopically speaking, Saturn transited between Cancer and Leo but is spending a week tormenting each and every one of us. Until Saturday, you should regard everyone you meet as armed and dangerous; expect to find your face on the Post Office wall. It should come as no surprise my entire family can't decide who to punch first. One of my favorite funky modern mystics, Rob Breszny at, says that starting tomorrow, "it's essential that you give off warm, engaging, intimate vibes in the coming weeks." Coincidentally, my sisters went on vacation and left me the keys to the family business. I'm going to spend the next four days dabbling in retail and smiling over a New Age soundtrack. So, maybe that'll be my face on the Post Office wall. And...we're back to panoramas of teeth.

I feel warmer already.

On the Mental Jukebox, Regrettable Edition

I'll never leave you alone,
I'll never leave just a memory.
I'll never leave you alone in the garden
Where nothing grows.

Harry Nilsson, I'll Never Leave You

Monday, July 18, 2005

When Opposites Redact

Over the weekend, the enormous blended family threw a surprise birthday party for our stepfather Tom. He joined our story in the mid-seventies and brought with him our two then-tiny stepsisters. At the time, we were up to our necks in hippies; shorthand for this is that we were commune kids. Yes, I know how to milk a goat. No, I'm not going to milk your goat. What are you doing with a goat, huh? Anyway, one night Daria, our brother Todd and I were introduced to Tom in the alley behind the mostly organic restaurant where Mom worked. We did the only thing undersized kids in an an awkward outdoor social situation could: we climbed the tall man. Soon, it was like the tide went out, the hippies moved away and we were surrounded by Quakers, Jews and Unitarians. Absolutely everyone could sing. There was a bluegrass band. We went to a lot of weddings in backyards. I was the oldest kid of a couple dozen. Fast-forward thirty years - we do a lot of fast-forwarding at Poor Impulse Control so no skimping on the Dramamine, please! - and the kids have kids. The adults get to do things like spend a month working at a clinic in Kenya with a determined teenaged granddaughter.

Here we are at the surprise party and the reunited bluegrass band - including Tom - is playing John Prine's "Paradise" and Steve Goodman's "City of New Orleans." We hand him a beer and plug in his bass. Guests have brought lox platters and grilled chicken salads and marinated shrimp and hummus and artichoke quiche and three different kinds of brownies and cakes and fresh fruit salads and every bite is fantastic. My sisters run in circles to greet old friends, refill bread baskets, count their children and put husbands to work. I drink a lot of coffee, wash dishes and talk to about a thousand people - unless we're talking about actual people and I'd guess about sixty. Finally, I sit down on the lawn with three of my sisters, two cousins, my niece Lois. Behind us, all the little nephews wrestle and color with crayons until periodically adult intervention is required: just about every five minutes. Hey, they're healthy. Earlier in the day, one of the two-year-olds fell face first into a wooden chair, got up and ran after his older brother without a whimper. Unless someone holds up a bloody stump, there's no need to get excited.

Our cousin Monday on my father's side, who couldn't be more marvelous if doves alighted on her shoulders during the cocktail hour, is engaged to Cory. Monday is 6' tall, wildly attractive and beloved by smart children. Fortunately, she's a teacher and telling children, "We don't say 'ass'" is her job. Her equally marvelous and entirely different sister Sandy is on a mission now.

Sandy: Tell her, Monday.
Monday: Weeelllllllll -

I sit back in my folding chair to brace myself and nearly go over backwards.

Monday: I'm getting married next year in June when his family told me I could.
Tata: They what?
Monday: I was told if the wedding was in April or May, the family would be planting. September and October were also out because of harvest time.
Tata:'t screw around with their it...
Monday: Also: they don't drink or swear.
Tata: Oh, fuck them. Have they MET YOU?
Sandy: They don't drink or swear!
Tata: I'm bringing strippers to your wedding.
Sandy: And there's one more thing...
Tata: Drunken strippers, about six of them. I recommend we issue one to every member of your family. Like party favors!
Sandy: Like fucking party favors.
Tata: I will truly enjoy this - what little I'll remember of it.
Auntie InExcelsisDeo: At your age? You should be ashamed!
Tata: Well, sure. I could go in handcuffs.

The best part of the afternoon and evening comes as I make the rounds to say goodbye. Mom has dashed off after her grandsons. Tom and his friends are sitting in a circle on the lawn and everyone has a drink in hand. I take a deep breath to speak when someone tells us loudly -

She 1: If I've learned anything in life it's that you should never paint naked.
She 2: Did you paint naked?
She 1: No, he did!

He bursts out laughing. He is one of Tom's oldest friends and he was painting his kitchen naked and standing one foot on a counter and the other on a ladder when a young friend brought over his first, impressionable girlfriend to meet him. They walked in and found his various parts dangling, as he says now, "like mistletoe."

She 1: Remember those parties where - when the kids got up in the morning - they'd step over the bodies sprawled everywhere?

Daria, who's holding a sleeping baby, has sidled up next to me from nowhere. She raises her hand now and says, "Hey! Hey!" We were those kids. The people sitting in the circle were some of the sprawled bodies. It's still funny. One thing I like about these people is they're not rewriting and sanitizing their histories.

I thank them for a front-row seat on their glorious antics. Then I drive over to St. Peter's Hospital to visit a friend recovering from his. Daria says it's from our parents' friends that we learned to function as part of a small, responsive group: if you need a car, you call somebody and they lend you a car. If someone needs you to take care of their kids, you go pick up the kids. Give and take. From these same people we learned the - as we know now - rather natural idea that men and women can be friends and friends with their Exes. Maybe your parents' friends didn't walk around naked. Trust me, it would've been funnier if they had.

Friday, July 15, 2005

I'm Worth A Million In Prizes

Weeks ago, a friend asked me to be patient about a Difficult Situation(tm). Strangely, I agreed, since we'd been friends for eight years and I was a mere bystander, not some imperiled participant. I don't know what possessed me to think this wouldn't happen.

Tata: Okay, I'll keep my trap shut. [Pause] I can't take it anymore!

While I was actually attempting to stifle myself, my friend was doing everything in his power to undermine his own efforts to deal with the Difficult Situation(tm) and lying about it. To put this vague description into urban guinea terms you definitely understand: it was like the time your junkie cousin borrowed your car to go to a job interview, then called you to bail him out when your car went into the Hudson River. You sensed something was wrong but you hoped against hope that this time, this cucuz wouldn't fuck you over. When he did, you said, "I feel like a chooch but at least I tried to help." And that was the last time you tried to help, no matter how much Mama, Zia and Nonna cried, am I right?

Friend: You hate me, I can tell. That makes two of us.
Tata: Tell your story walking, fella. I'm too selfish to dedicate my next wrinkle to your dumb drama.

Yes, that's what friends are for: to borrow your stuff and test your boundaries. No, wait, that's not what friends are for after you wise up and quit schtupping each other's assorted spouses - especially since what you want from your friends is a break from your damn family. (Do family members - by any chance - keep you in a cage, feed you cake and call you pet names like "Puddin'" and "Tasty"? You and Gretel should consider busting out of Gingerbread Death Row.) Though I have seen my friends make efficient car repairs using only an oak tree, steal potted plants from crowded restaurants and fling ice cream cakes from fifth floor balconies, I trust them with my life, by which I mean: to bury me in a shallow grave near a neighborhood with good schools to bring down property values. Trust is everything. I have one friend I trust to disappoint me and in that he is entirely trustworthy. Several friends have drug problems, arrest records, histories with cults, abuse, cruel spouses, and realtors. The one thing they have in common is they can be trusted to care about me.

The thing my lying, undermining, manipulating, spineless and self-destructive friend cannot be trusted to do is care about me, or the eight years of our lives he wasted before he showed me his true colors.

I wonder if he realizes he's not my friend. I wonder if this makes me more or less open to new people, in some unfolding stage of life. No, I don't hate him, but I'm not going to give him another chance to make me sorry I extended myself for him. There's just one thing to say. Say it with me, sports fans: Go in peace, but keeeeep going.

On the Mental Jukebox, Kill Me Now Edition

Good: The New York Times mentioned Poor Impulse Control in passing.
Bad: I failed to amused the reporter, who like thousands of people before him thought he was reading dead-serious dreck.

Good: I may finally have found an apartment.

Good: I did not slit my wrists yesterday.
Bad: Night Ranger's Don't Tell Me You Love Me is playing in my head today.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Voices Carry

As usual, Daria directs the toddlers, nurses the baby and writes a grocery list while she talks on the phone.

Tata: So I call up Miss Sasha and she answers the phone sounding kind of...disoriented and breathless. I ask her, "Darling, Mommy needs your social security number." So she starts to tell me and about halfway through she sort of trails off, and then she remembers and then we hang up. I'm like, "Why did she pick up?" So she calls me back about an hour later.
Daria: I could've gone all day without that mental picture.
Tata: She goes, "Mommy, we were eating waffles and fell asleep."
Daria: She's a terrible liar.
Tata: She's a terrible liar! I stood up in my cubicle and shouted, "IS THAT THE BEST YOU CAN DO?" Scared the hell out of my brand new student worker.
Daria: Unaccustomed to your outbursts, is she?
Tata: She's new to New Jersey. I'm breaking her in by shouting profusely, mostly about manicures. So Miss Sasha calls back again.
Daria: She does? Why?
Tata: She says, "Mommy! I figured out why you were so confused I was in bed before." I say, "You did? Why's that?" She says, "Did you know we're on Central Time?" I say I didn't know Pensacola was on Central Time. She goes, "See? Now it makes sense." I say, "Sweetheart, I called you after one in the afternoon."
Daria: I'm dying! What'd she say?
Tata: "Well, yeah..."
Daria: I can't breathe!
Tata: Not to give her marital advice or anything - because we all know I don't know jackshit about staying married - but I say a Twister game and a bottle of olive oil will keep her out of divorce court.

Thank Your Favorite Deity, Miss and Mr. Sasha were unharmed by Hurricane Dennis and Tropical Depression Cindy, though I did tell them if they were killed by a sub-par thunderstorm with a stupid nickname I'd spend the rest of my life alternately weeping and smirking. The newlyweds spent the evacuation weekend in Montgomery, Alabama, where they discovered in a convenience store that complete strangers held exciting opinions about interracial couples, but talk is often cheap. In Milwaukee last week, Paulie Gonzalez discovered celebrity gossip is relative.

Guy In Wisconsin: You're from New Jersey? My favorite musician, Barbecue Bob, is from New Jersey.
Paulie: Yeah yeah, I know Barbecue Bob from the bar.
Guy In Wisconsin: Barbecue Bob plays at bars and clubs?
Paulie: Barbecue Bob drinks in the bar.

The aforementioned student worker is a brilliant, lovely woman from Beijing with a mile-long resume and a perfect command of English. Her name sounds like the ringing bell on a beloved daughter's two-wheeler. She could do my job with her left brain tied behind her back. Fortunately for our dignity and my retirement plans, it is my function in life to teach her filing and business letter writing. She helps me create order where now there is chaos and despair; I create blackness and cynicism in her soul. Yahtzee!

Student: Why do you have snacks?
Tata: Since I was a tiny school nerd with luxurious long hair, I've been fascinated with the Watts Towers. One crazy man with spare time, garbage and an unhealthy fixation built these unbelievably beautiful, amazing things. I've never seen them. Then lunchbox applesauces were on sale at A&P, so I built these things on my desk to confuse my co-workers. You wouldn't believe how towers of applesauce upset people.
Student: They're absolutely symmetrical, in the shape of an M. What are they for?
Tata: I eat them. They're applesauce. They're all different flavors, which is to say colors, so I can't eat just one. I have to eat two.
Student: When I saw them I thought you were exceptionally...healthy...

When she says "healthy" I hear "certifiable" and I lie down on my cubicle floor to laugh hard enough. My co-worker calls from a desk forty feet from mine. My standards are low. I reach up for the phone.

Tata: Ta speaking.
Co-Worker: What's so funny? I must know!
Tata: Are you calling from your desk?
Co-Worker: I heard you laughing. University Libraries heard you laughing. Why are you laughing?
Tata: Well, our student worker has determined my applesauce towers are an alarming Rorschach test. I'm going home to watch a few minutes of one-dimensional people speaking sestina-like buzzword dialogue on General Hospital. And I called Systems, left a message in Pirate Speak without leaving my name and they called me, out of the libraries' hundreds of employees. Apparently, if you say "Arrrrrrrr" and "Avast!" and threaten to mail them parrots people will give you what you want.
Co-Worker: Aha...!

Don't kid yourself. He's taking notes.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Uses of Me

Chances are extremely good I will live a long and annoying life - unless my beautiful daughter learns those three terrifying words: "power of attorney." Yes, odds are overwhelmingly against my plane being hijacked, my train detonated or my body being buried in a shallow grave in the woods. It seems unlikely my brain would turn substantially soupier and my nursing home fall under siege. However, it is always possible I could somehow be unable to speak for myself and a will would not be enough. People who know me might lose their nerve and look for false hope. People who did not know me might attempt to exploit my situation. In the event I cannot speak for myself, I am asking you not to fall prey to anyone who misspeaks.

If I am murdered, no matter how few pieces of me are ever found, please feel no need for revenge. I have heard of many families of the murdered pursuing execution only to find that the murderer's death did not solve their problems. Don't waste years of your life chasing the illusion - unless...Unless it's funny. If I am murdered by a rampaging dressmaker outraged by my womanly hips, and you happen to be in a life-threatening snit and holding pinking shears, by all means cut on the bias and don't look back. But don't blame me if the orange jumpsuit chafes and imparts dye on your light laundry.

Live your own life. If I am in an irreversible coma, cut the power. Let me go off into whatever comes next, even if that is nothingness. I am not afraid of not being. In fact, that is the dumbest argument against abortion: What if you had never been born? If I had never been born I wouldn't be rolling my eyes at the complete and utter stupidity of what if you had never been born? No matter what belief system you adhere to you cannot possibly have the facts and no matter who you are what happens next is completely out of your control. It's a crapshoot. Am I in a better place? We don't know! But please don't take my transformed state of being as a criticism of survivors, as Miss Manners would certainly not approve.

If I happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and I am tossed overboard in my wheelchair, if an airliner crashes into my office, if I find myself on the losing end of an international incident, don't wrap me or my casket in a flag and tell people I would want 19-year-olds sent to pointless deaths in my name. For fucksake, folks: I appreciate my hilarious little life enough to insist nobody destroy the vulnerable psyches of teenaged weekend obstacle course veterans with combat in my memory. No. Absolutely not. Not even if it's funny.

There is a difference between justice and revenge. Sure, arrest my killer or killers and make him, her or them wear the orange jumpsuit. You've got my blessing. But that's it. In The World According to Garp, Ellen James is raped and her tongue cut out; in protest, young women have their tongues removed surgically "in solidarity" - much to Ellen James' horror. And almost nobody seems to remember that Rodney King was equally horrified when his beating inspired a whole city to riot. "Why can't we all just get along?" he moaned with all the helplessness of a man who couldn't stop what people who co-opted his image and name set in motion. So let's cut to the chase.

You can't use me:
*for any proselytizing religious purpose. I mean it. None.
*to harm others
*to rally Mad Mothers. I hate those self-righteous bitches. Go the hell home!
*to deprive anyone other than the person or persons directly responsible for my death of their civil rights - and fuck that Patriot Act written in the name of 3,000 dead human beings
*to divide my family, my friends, my nation or my planet along racial, ethnic, religious, sexual orientation, class or economic lines

You can use me to:
*feed the hungry (consider crabmeat stuffing)
*discuss forgiveness (yeah, I put the "er...and?" in "Peace, Love and Understanding")
*put a face on the underrepresented 'Riotously Enraged and Publicly Engaged' population
*study the censorship implied by the funding of official art vs. the painful struggle of underground artists.

If I can't speak for myself and some self-aggrandizing pigfucker like - but not limited to - Randall Terry shows up with a film crew pull the plug on that asshole's media comeback and then pull it on me. I am not his or theirs to use, and I am not a cause. I am a person with very specific ideas about right, wrong and where to get a decent pizza. If debate erupts in the Senate and Presidents summon helicopters to turn me into a victimized symbol used against invisible people just like me, find yourself a film crew and play Point & Laugh all the way to the simple end: She's dead. Get it? So let's get a martini and I'll tell you an outrageous Tata story.

I am saying this as clearly as I can. I also recommend you put your wishes where people can see them. I don't want my messy and/or comically enhanced death to undo my life's work of artmaking, rabble-rousing and taste-testing at the Buffet Table of Life. If someone tells you I was virtuous or would want you to give up your free speech because I went BOOM! take a deep breath and tell him to fuck off. Don't mince words or stutter politely. Fuck off, you fucking publicity hound, you lying sack of karmic shit, you hypocritical soul-stealer. Practice. Those words will undoubtedly come in handy, and swearing makes you look smart to the other cool kids.

Now, it's your turn. Blog it, baby. What is the meaning of your life? I'll - uh - check in over the next day or two. In the meantime, I've got something scandalous to do, probably involving salsa, a cabana boy and a martini; later, a picnic and the punk rock memorial service for Instant Death's Scotty Byrne. Odds are excellent I'll laugh, I'll cry, I'll curse the day someone was born, even myself. Got it? Good.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Fifteen Minutes, Max

It is not a demon sent straight from Hell to torture me on earth, kill me and drag me - probably still complaining in the afterlife - to eternal torment in a lake of fire. No. It's a Chrysler LeBaron and My Mechanical Nemesis. Two weeks ago, getting into the car became more difficult than it had been. Before, I'd stick the key in the driver's side lock, turn it, yank the door open with all my "I'm 900 years old but exercise every day" might and shove from the other side to open the door wide enough to twist myself under the steering wheel and drop into the seat. The car whined metallically about the whole affair, but you know how unprincipled cars can be. Then one day yanking with all my might produced full-scale metal groaning. I could barely wedge my small person sideways through the doorway and despite years of dance and gymnastics training and decades of aerobics, weightlifting and yoga, I could not fluidly move from the car's exterior to its interior without whacking my head on the door frame. Naturally, I did what any mature, independent woman, confident in her own accomplishments and self-worth, would do: I called the ex-boyfriend.

Tata: Dahhhhhhhhhhhling, would you have time to look at the car door, please?
Paulie Gonzalez: Absolutely.

Paulie changed out of a silk Tony Soprano shirt, into a synthetic blend Tony Soprano shirt, and came right over. Later, he stood in the kitchen and washed his hands with grease-removing goop called Goop.

Tata: How bad is it?
Paulie: The good news is I can fix it. The bad news is until I weld the pieces back together you should not use the door for a door.
Tata: What's its new job?
Paulie: Being a statue of a door. But with a sometimes open window.

As I shut off the alarm this morning I knew the embarrassingly brief commute to work would be interesting. Clearly visible in the backyard two houses over three drunken men were trying to brawl. Fortunately, the drunks were so drunk they had trouble grabbing lawn chairs and each other. There's an omen for you. I took it to mean I shouldn't operate farm equipment, which is good because I don't have any and I'd have to steal it first.

From the moment I step out of my building until I throw gear on my desk so little time elapses that I should be deeply ashamed of driving to work. Anywhere else, I'd probably bicycle to work but in New Brunswick the drivers are so reckless that the only people on bikes are pale, sensitive people who have just intuited the real trick to killing themselves is to get an uninsured driver to do it. Since I occasionally still have the will to live, I drive.

I unlock the passenger door, throw my stuff on the floor, sit crookedly in the seat and slam the door behind me. I fold myself in half, heave my butt over the console while trying to avoid the seat belt lock. I fold my legs, spin around and plant my feet on the floor. Yesterday I was not a moron and pushed the seat all the way back before I reversed this process to get out, so now my legs are not pinned against the steering wheel. Yes, I feel very, very smart.

Five traffic lights and two death-defying intersections later, I park in a deck. The drive is so quick clicking the face plate onto the car stereo takes longer than the first two lights. In the deck, it's all concrete and quiet, except it takes me two tries to park. I can't really see over the dashboard so I guess where the white lines might be, probably the way George Bush used to.

The interminable walk from my car to my desk takes me on a 50-foot Garbage Tour. Imagine the people who threw these now-flat things from car windows while driving through a college parking deck at a cautious 15 mph! The garbage changes a little each day. For instance: yesterday, I wondered about a pregnancy test and the Buddy Holly glasses. What kind of madcap denial and legal blindness did that imply? This morning, I was thinking about the broken concrete chunks from the ceiling when I looked up and a miniature street sweeper appeared before me, as if by Department of Public Works magic. I was immediately overjoyed, because I cherish few unrealized dreams as I cherish my hope that someday - someday! - I can steal one of these outdoor Zambonis and scour the Holland Tunnel. But, as the pedestrian in this story, I know my life is now in grave danger: whenever you see a streetcleaner, you will also find another driver who has stopped paying attention to what he's doing and could run you over even if you don't have a bicycle and a death wish. The second driver appeared right on cue behind the streetsweeper, staring at the apparition in front of him and didn't see me at all.

I recognized the expression on the DPW worker's face. Years ago, when drunk driving was still hilarious, my friends and I all worked New Year's Eve, made merry and took a brief nap on recycled couches and diner furniture that should have been considered petri dishes for the next great vaccine, not to mention paternity tests for half the city's young voters. An hour later, we drank some coffee and poured ourselves into a well-windowed customized van and drove off to the bar where all our other friends were converging with intent to spend New Year's Day at an odd angle. Our drunkest friend was at the wheel. Our most sober friend was in charge of navigating and nagging. I sat in the back next to a window, completely responsible for trying not to scream as our driver rocketed through the nearly empty streets of New Brunswick. When the van took a corner on two wheels, I found myself less than a foot away - nearly face to face - with a guy in a streetsweeper. Our eyes were locked on each other. Our feelings for one another were perfectly clear.

I was screaming -

He was screaming -

I was screaming -

He was screaming - not that I could hear him, but there was no mistaking the fact that if I could've taken my eyes off his I could've seen clear to his uvula. In less than a second, we raced off. So I recognized the expression on the streetcleaner driver's face when he thought he was caught between a pedestrian and a typical New Brunswick driver. Fortunately, I'm in good shape for a fat 900-year-old and have novel ideas about which end is up.

After that, I wanted a nap - or a good, stiff drink.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Staring Like Gary Sinise

When the doorbell rings, I'm dressed like my late grandfather on a lazy afternoon - by which I do mean before he died and in a guinea tee and boxer shorts. He liked his granddaughters in dresses. I wonder idly if he'd be proud of his middle-aged darling in a "My girlfriend is in Palomar" t-shirt. The bread lady waits in the hallway. It's worth it to her but in this sweltering summer and in my endless quest to smell like an expensive dessert I'm afraid I've taken a left turn at the fragrant, meaty buffet.

Her name is Paula and she is very, very old. She always carries two shopping bags filled with what might be politely termed "day-old bread." The bags smell sour. Paula smells like sweat and determination; she speaks halting English with a heavy German accent. About once a week, she hands me a loaf of bread I wouldn't eat on a double-dog dare and I give her $3. We struck this deal years ago, though I can't remember when or how she found me. On days when I don't have $3 she lets me slide. My credit's good, she says. I always come up with money within a few days.

She tells me about the blessings of the Lord. Since it seems to give her joy to tell me about my Lord being nailed to a support beam, I let her go on a bit. She offers to bring me a Bible. I hold open the door, "I've got three. But thank you, and please take good care of yourself."

Before you get the idea I think I'm moral hot shit, don't. Instead: get the idea that I am filled with gallons of Leave Me Alone. I am also filled with quarts of It's Disgraceful You Have To Sell Mouldy Bread to Eat, a cup or two of Why Are Elderly People Defenseless and Uncared-For? and a few pinches of How Can This Be Happening? Paula doesn't appear to have in her an ounce of self-pity and good for her. I'm so horrified by the ordinary awfulness that must have led her to my door in the first place that I close it behind her very, very gently as she goes.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Hard Place, Rock On...

Johnny's pot of gold is infested with surly elves:

The wife is not satisfied with our life either. The thirteen hour days, the constant atmosphere of chaos and panic, the institutionalized workaholism, they add up to no kind of work/life balance. They're bleeding us, working us like coolies. The breaking point was Friday night when she was supposed to get out at six but instead got out at nine and we missed opening night at the Opera. Sometimes you just have to say fuck it, and we say fuck it. We want our life back. Unfortunately she signed a contract, but, uh, fuck it.

The rest of the weekend, I have to say, has been great. The Wine Fest was fun, although judging by what we tasted, New Mexico's wine industry is decidedly in its youth. We danced to some vaguely salsa music. I didn't even know I could salsa. It was hot. Later we went to Cafe Paris and ate elegant food on the sidewalk, though not actually, you know, on the sidewalk, and were serenaded by an accordionist/singer and violinist playing Edith Piaf songs. It was hot. Today we went to the annual pancake breakfast on the Plaza in Santa Fe, and danced to vaguely tango music. I didn't even know I could tango. It was hot. After two days I have a whole-summer-in-Massachusetts tan. Hot.

The sale of the house in New Hampshire house supposedly happens the twenty-ninth of this month. God, please let this happen. I'll take back what I said about your son being a long-haired dress-wearing faggot.

I don't have a son, so Johnny's referring to that Jesus fellow we hear so much about. Isn't that precious? Like Pearl S. Buck, I've always thought land was the only thing worth having.

Monday, July 04, 2005

On the Mental Jukebox, Joi de Vivre Edition

If the sun should stop shining on me
I'd watch the rain flow towards the sea
If I want to be a part of everything
I wouldn't I wouldn't
I wouldn't say no.

If I should find I have no home
I'd gladly take the chance to roam
If I want to be a part of everything
I wouldn't I wouldn't
I wouldn't say no.

I'm alive in happiness
I'm alive in suffering
I'm alive in the field of action
and life everlasting.

-The Barleycorns, I Wouldn't Say No
from an old French song

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Fingers, Toes, Children, Pets

It's just after 8:30 on a Sunday morning and I've already had a full day. Mamie's getting her hair done because there's no age limit on brides' ability to demand their sisters, cousins and friends don matching black and pink satin gowns and don't ANYONE say "Good & Plenty." I know that Mamie's demanded the stylist create something architecturally unsound because yesterday, as usual, she called me from from her entirely sensible American-made bulldozer to report her whereabouts and activities. Earlier, she'd gone to the gym without her phone. I'd nearly had a conniption. If Mamie's out of touch for more than an hour I'm printing up milk cartons and looking for cooperative cows. Let the coyote-like howling begin!

Mamie: I KNOW! I thought the phone was grafted to my body at the Cingular store.
Tata: I've got a stapler. Stop by!
Mamie: I went to check my messages and my phone wasn't in the Coach bag, and it wasn't on the floor or in my pockets and I hadn't stuffed it up anyone's ass, deserving or otherwise. I was almost sure of it. So it had to be on the table at home, charging.
Tata: I bet you had a heart attack when you realized how that inconvenienced Me.
Mamie: I did! I promise to never do it again until next time. Anyway, inspired by your daughters' bridesmaids I decided to get my hair done at a stupid hour tomorrow morning. It's got to be tall, lacquered like antique Japanese furniture and embarrassing six months from now so my cousin regrets making me cart around bales of silk flowers.
Tata: Lost cause. She's over thirty yet she's wearing pink platform sneakers. With glitter. There's no shaming her! My twelve-year-old niece wouldn't go near those without lighter fluid. I demand you call me from the wedding and narrate.
Mamie: What?
Tata: Stage whisper!
Mamie: (whispering at the top of her lungs) My cousin Hortense is wearing a lime and aubergine mumu that would confuse migrating birds.
Tata: In fact, I don't know why we weren't on the phone the whole time at Miss Sasha's wedding.
Mamie: We were sitting five feet apart - OH MY GOD! I LOVE YOU!

Ah, she's got the picture! I know what happens next. If you've just joined Poor Impulse Control in progress, you may not realize Mamie shouts this while she's driving and laughing hysterically. Her voice goes up an octave. I jerk the phone away from my ear and wait for the inevitable crunching of metal, deploying of the bags and delivery of threats. Crunch. Woosh! Blah blah my lawyer and a crowbar blah blah blah. She goes through more bulldozers this way.

Disembodied Voice: Hi, this is OnStar. I've got a signal that your airbag has deployed.
Mamie: Hey, Sheila! I'll have the usual. How're the kids?
DV: Mamie, I'm up to my neck in strep but thanks for asking. One tow truck and hot nineteen-year-old driver, coming up!
Mamie: We needed a conference call.

Tata: Do you see the crooked bow?
Mamie: Do you see the crooked bow?
Daria: Does anyone see the crooked bow?
Mom: I believe I think I could be wrong put perhaps I may be right that I see what appears to be a crooked bow - not that there's anything wrong with it inherently and she's such a beautiful girl.
Dad: Take a connecting flight to the point! That bow is crooked!
Auntie InExcelsisDeo: If she'd been raised right, that bow wouldn't be crooked now.
Trout: That bow is asymetrical. Just the way I like it!
Lala: That bow's crookedness expresses the bride's symbolic sacrifices.
Sharkey: How can you talk about the bow when my hair is perfect? I mean perfect!

Tata: In the movie version of Miss & Mr. Sasha's wedding, we will all be on a giant party line. At least nobody has to listen to that ceremony a second time.
Mamie: And next time there's a crooked bow, get up and fix it. You can do that. In fact, you're the only person in the world who can get up in the middle of the ceremony and fix what's wrong, so you're in charge of that.
Tata: I am? I guess I owe everyone an apology.
Mamie: Gotta go. Raoul's here with the flatbed. Don't wait up!

Miss Sasha's wedding is behind us. Lala's daughter's wedding is behind us. Mamie's cousin's wedding is today. We're sick to death of these annoying interruptions in our summer regimen of basking, sipping, sunning. Still, it's even money if Raoul gets to summer school Tuesday morning.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Justice, A Roll of the Dice

Live 8 is on right now in Philadelphia. I wasn't feeling it before, but I feel it now. I am absolutely shocked that in this time of unbelievable selfishness and obliviousness, Bob Geldoff has pulled this off. I hope those fuckers from last week's Young Republican conference get an earful of global thinking and learn what horrors lies, greed and blindness create.

I'm not holding my breath, of course, waiting for people who talk so much about being Christians to have a Christian impulse and join the march toward justice. But here, let me hold open the door.

God DAMN, I love Bob Geldoff the way I only love people who truly give a shit about poverty and do something about it. I'm sorry I had doubts about the project. I'll adore him from a safe distance, sign the petition and encourage other people to sign it, too.

In Which I Use A Rolling Pin And Assault No One

Stop laughing! This is serious! Somewhere in my small apartment and small storage space my grandmother's rolling pin hides in a box. Since I don't actually have a great many material things, you'd think I could walk right up to a box labeled "Kitchen stuff" and arm myself with the ancestral food flattener but no. For the life of me I can't think of where it might be. This is vexing for two reasons.

1. I'm making naan today. The recipe calls for me to roll out the dough.
2. When I keep something that belonged to my grandmother it is really entrusted to me until I give it to my daughter or granddaughter. If I don't find that rolling pin, my girlchildren will fend off burglars and second husbands with something I picked up on sale at an outlet in Flemington. Sure, it'll make a good THWACK! sound against offending skulls but it's just not the same somehow as clocking someone with a decades-old hunk o' lumber "just like Grandma used to."

Meaning me. My grandmother ignored lesser beings until they apologized and quietly polished the silver.

Hopefully, when I finally move into a new microscopic apartment, wherever it may be, and Paulie and I empty the storage unit we will find a box and in that box I will find my grandmother's rolling pin. For today, I'm using that pin I picked up on sale at an outlet, which works just fine in the here-and-now, but for posterity's sake, I want the real thing. I want it well-seasoned, with a history of pie crusts and a tag marked "Exhibit D."

The naan baked up okay. I guess.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Copyright: 1993 By Me, Tata


The moon orbits Earth, which rotates
on its axis, revolving
around our sun, itself part
of the obloid Milky Way, turning,
and the galaxy careens
toward the fixed star Vega.
Sometimes I was a paralyzed
eight year old staring
at details of my house, knowing
every day revolution and rotation
placed me somewhere new,
in my room, on the stairs, in
the hall, and I'd be there only
once in my life, holding
absolutely still.

Now I watch you from houses
built by Smithson, Calvino, Borghes:
you spinning, you crashing
across dark studios as if the other
stars chose new paths,
you burning, you cooling red
and growing larger with the year
love's tv experts say I'll need
to swing back around.
This is too important to simply
I think, the ground moves
while I try to stand still.

I savor the blindness of motion;
before breakfast every morning:
Tell me more about Baudrilliard.
Even our most casual
acquaintances ask the weather,
the time; even your nearest
neighbor asks your opinion:
What could be hidden
in the folds of curved space?

You in candle faces, in hurricane
lanterns, the sudden warmth
of dusk: souvenirs of your
sometime passion, a pyrotechnic
cycle, Hiroshima's shadows
burned into crumbling walls.
This planet loses its temperate
zones, this planet offers
up failures: polar ice caps,
Zamiatin, Comaneci, Billie Holliday.
I spin under your midday
smile, your desert night chill,
your rushing thaws; pivot
toward French doors, knowing
inertia propels, knowing
nova will consume, knowing
Vega speeds this way.