Thursday, September 29, 2005

A Girl's Gotta Have Her Standards

Tata: Excuse me just a moment.

I dial another university phone number from my cubicle. Voicemail.

Tata: Wuzzah wuzzah wuzzah mu mu mu mu mu I WUV OO!

And I hang up the phone. My co-worker on the other side of the wall cannot resist. He jumps up on his chair to stare at me.

Co-Worker: What was that?
Tata: Sharkey's on vacation - again.
Co-Worker: Is he exceptionally stupid? You have his phone number!
Tata: You should see what happens when I frisk him for pocket change.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

In Thought, Word and Deed

Daria hasn't called yet today but yesterday's conversation was truly inspirational.

Tata: Tata speaking.
Daria: I'm calling you.
Tata: Yup.
Daria: I'm going to call you back.
Tata: What? You never call me back!
Daria: I'm going to call you back! Geez!
Tata: Okay.
Daria: So don't call me back, okay?
Tata: Okay!

She didn't call back. That was the whole phone call. I have no idea what that was about but sometimes we need assurance that people are where we expect them to be. For instance, were I Roman Polanski I might call Charlie Manson every day to make sure he's where I left him, and Goddess knows in the wake of those Roberts hearings someone should check on Clarence Thomas.

Tata: It's so cold in my office I'm wearing a blanket.
Siobhan: Is it fleecy? [Pause] You're not just wearing a blanket, right?
Tata: I'm wearing other garments, yes, but it's funny that you had to ask.
Siobhan: I wasn't worried at first, but then, well it just popped into my head that this might be the day you went round the "inappropriate work attire" bend.

And who wouldn't frankly? I've been moving now since 19 August, and last week I snapped like a twig when I found my medicine cabinet in the old building filled with brown liquid that'd flowed down from the apartment upstairs. I could go no further without help; everything was too complicated. Dad and Darla drove up from their bucolic home below the Mason-Dixon line, sized up the drama and started fixing things, starting with the keys to the new apartment and the building, the windows, the kitchen, the broiler's pilot light, the locks, the showerhead and the impassable pile of stuff in the living room. In less than twelve hours, they made more progress than I could have made in months, while I packed more things. I'm truly running on fumes here. Last night's mission was to get very delicate things into the new apartment and grocery shop for both apartments. See, Paulie Gonzalez is moving into the old apartment and he'd take care of everything himself but he's in Italy and can't get to the A&P so I picked him up some Lean Cuisines. As Howard Dean is certain to find out, I make an excellent Ex.

Daria and I have a new ritual we observe each time I return from the grocery store. Look for this conversation to happen some time after lunch:

Tata: Okay, so I go armed with coupons, my A&P card and all that change we picked up off the floor of Paulie's bedroom when we cleaned out his Swinging Bachelor Pad(tm) before he went to Italy and the change machine at the grocery store takes $.089 cents per dollar to count the change and still gave me $25.99 and his coins from Spain. So I work from the list I made with the circular and the coupons and - it's a bloody miracle! - the things I have coupons for are on special anyhow, which means that the cartful of stuff for both apartments comes to about $350 and when it's all done I give the cashier $198.10! I am QUEEN OF SAVINGS!
Daria: Tomorrow, I'm going to make a car dealer cry.
Tata: The whole dealership or just a few salesmen?

When this is all over, I'm going to need a transfusion and a financial advisor. You know, to carry me around like Kerry Strug.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Bends Steel With His Bare...Steel-Bending Thing...

There's a message on my answering machine.

Miss Sasha: Mr. Sasha and I were sitting on the couch, minding our own business, watching something on TV. I don't even remember what it was. As we watched, our brand new wine glass rack separated from the ceiling and SMASH! There was violence and broken stuff so I thought I'd call. Love you, Mom!

I call back and get voicemail.

Tata: Sweetie, call me back! I'm worried you might be drinking Beaujolais-Villages from jelly jars without irony!

Finally, we're at two ends of one phone line.

Miss Sasha: Not only did we lose some very nice wedding gift stemware but we also lost a glass I was given in Charleston for doing an event. It was my first big event, and I earned this glass and I'm mad because I worked my ass off!
Tata: Don't worry, darling, you'll work your ass off again someday! How are the cats? No one was injured?
Miss Sasha: We cleaned the floor with the wet/dry vac and checked their paws and threw out the food in the cat bowl. They didn't seem nervous but we were.
Tata: What is that racket? Why are you shouting?
Miss Sasha: Oh, I'll go outside. My husband is laughing at the Blue Collar Comedy Show.
Miss Sasha: You're speechless, aren't you?
Tata: I've pictured you in a tube top at a NASCAR race and I need an Excedrin.

In point of fact, Miss Sasha resembles Natalie Portman and would be perfectly beautiful in an ensemble crocheted out of used McDonald's wrappers. However, I draw the mental line at visualizing my spawn swimming upstream and asking directions from bears. She changes the subject.

Miss Sasha: How's the blog?
Tata: You know how I say I dated absolutely everyone and it's become quite tedious?
Miss Sasha: Yes...?
Tata: I've decided to go boldly into a new phase of my life.
Miss Sasha: And what is that, Mommy?
Tata: I'm going to break up with people I've never met.
Miss Sasha: Will they show up at your place weeping drunkenly at 3 in the morning?
Tata: Not if their husbands and wives find me first!

From now on: no more dating! If I find someone I like, I'll divorce him or her or it first and if that goes well, we can pursue something more intimate like organizing a food drive for a soup kitchen. After that, there's nothing to do but set up the Nerf dartboard and aim for Rumsfeld's nose...

Monday, September 26, 2005

In Time, You'll Get Over Me

Howard Dean
Democratic National Committee

Dearest Howard,

We've been together a long time, haven't we? I barely remember a time when I didn't consider myself left of center but slightly to the right of Marxists, and you were there with me. We went through a lot during the sixties and seventies, didn't we? Even when I disagreed with Jimmy Carter, I never sensed disagreeing with my President might have dire consequences for my children, if I ever had any, and I might not choose not to, because in his own fashion, Jimmy Carter respected my privacy - though not the privacy of our lower-income friends and relations. If it weren't for those poor Iranian hostages and that bastard Ronald Reagan, I might have vestiges of my privacy rights worth talking about but sadly that's water under the bridge between us.

During Reagan's reign and GHWB's odd visit, you and I suffered some tough years. We fought one another, your insecure friends and the whole world. It was hard to remember our love when every day brought new indignities like "welfare queens" and "ketchup is a vegetable" and I felt you let me down. With me, you were a man of principle. Your friends don't know that man, do they? I often wondered if you cared as reproductive rights eroded and eroded more. You seldom spoke up when events went so wrong. I was deeply disappointed in your crowd, and always hoped you'd do better, but when Clinton was impeached over a blow job and your friends let it happen, I wondered if I respected you anymore.

With the election of our current administration, which was like a fire sale at the Evil Factory, and Al Gore's valiant efforts not to become President, I started thinking about all the times you left the seat up and the cap off. When the Bush Armada sailed with diaphanous arguments for war and Congress stood on the pier waving bye-bye, I wondered why I still picked up your socks. When you and your friends let those vicious pigfuckers destroy our armed forces, the federal budget and a second sovereign nation for - we always knew - no good reason and no possible positive outcome, I felt my love for you flicker. Still, I hoped you'd see how wrong your friends were, bring me a lovely bouquet and whisper that soon everything would be different. Instead, every day you smile sadly and I shiver at the thought of Abu Ghraib. You can't tell me you don't feel it, too.

For years, I've been going through the motions. Your friends have been a terrible influence. The political center is now considered leftist and often termed extreme. The right has gone all Zsa Zsa, and demands outrageous gifts our budget cannot afford. Still, your friends say nothing. Karl Rove is the other woman, and I can take no more.

I've changed, it's true. I will no longer make excuses for the spinelessness of the Democratic Party. I'm not going to tell my friends, "It's got a headache," or "It's under too much pressure at work to vote against corporate welfare bills that plunder the treasury." No. The time for compromise ended when Osama slipped through the net at Tora Bora, and I was just too stuck on you to notice. Howard darling, I've grown a bit since then. I've had enough. Though you mean well, I don't believe your platitudes anymore. No more will I let you wheedle away my self-respect with arguments about unity in the face of our enemies because by joining with them in those ridiculous bankruptcy bills your friends have shown me the true face of my enemy, and it is the DNC.

I loved you, but it's over between me and the Party, and that means you, too. I'm not going to say anymore that if your friends just start voting in the interests of their constituents things will be okay between us. I'm sorry. It can never be okay. Thousands of American soldiers are dead for no reason. Tens of thousands of soldiers are wounded. Perhaps hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghanis are dead, but we will never know how many. Osama bin Laden is still a free man and there is no justice for any of us. Our government should be under indictment at The Hague and you say nothing. Civil war in Iraq is and always was inevitable, and your friends are complicit in the murders we will soon see in a country that - frankly - didn't so much as insult your mother's casserole. Two hurricanes later, our federal government has fallen over the precipice into the abyss of bankruptcy. Yet, Congress goes merrily on its way to the next ribbon cutting ceremony. Thank God for WalMart, you mumble, because soon we'll all be working 39 hour work weeks in blue jumpers for minimum wage and without benefits.

In time, you'll get over me. First, you'll have to get over your friends' relentless cowardice, and wondering what we could have had together - if only we could start over. Leaving you is breaking the habit of a lifetime but I have to do it. I'm still sitting on the left, in the same place I always have, the place where education bills aren't boobie-trapped and workers matter and women matter and the poor matter and the minority opinion matters and equality matters and the environment matters and the common good matters. Hopefully someday we'll sit together again as friends.

I'll always love you,
Princess Tata

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Speaking of Reservations...

...make one!

Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers: XIX

Let the People Do the Talkin' Rendition

Yes, I'm still moving. No, I didn't get your message that you'd like to help pack my great-grandmother's tiny Italian glass ornaments that'd break if either of us breathed on them, destroying these irreplaceable, delicate antiques lovingly transported across the Atlantic more than eighty-five years ago and denying joy to future generations. Why do you not call?

An important reminder: today is Gold Star Mother's Day, when we honor women who have lost children to military service. Light a candle for all those who can never again look into their babies' eyes. It's truly the least we can do for people who have sacrificed more than we can imagine.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Friday Cat Blogging

At about six months' of age, Zorak sat outside my window and mewed pitifully until I brought him in. He was so frightened he ran straight up one of those old-fashioned 4' windows. Nobody believed a cat could do that until a small crowd saw him do it the second time. Zorak, who was sweet and humble and crooked on the ground was a flyer. We came to expect to see him flying around the apartment near the ceiling and above our heads.

Zorak was a scaredy cat and he loved only me. He frequently tapped me on the left shoulder blade to shyly ask to have the spot under his chin scratched. He loved nothing better than to sit on my lap and have a chat. He is buried with his favorite toy - a plastic lizard - in my sister's backyard under a yard pinwheel. Had I realized he was in trouble well before I did or if I'd just been a little smarter he might still be alive today. I miss him terribly.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Simple, Elegant, Truthful - Twist of the Knife Edition

Poet Sharon Olds to First Lady Laura Bush:

I tried to see my way clear to attend the festival in order to bear witness--as an American who loves her country and its principles and its writing--against this undeclared and devastating war.

But I could not face the idea of breaking bread with you.

...Not when our nation is so broken.

Hat tip to GD Frogsdong.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Just So's Ya Know

Tata: Please write these words and letters in order for me into the body of this letter and we'll forward to the vendor: Just so's ya know.

My student worker, whose name sounds like brushstrokes through the hair of a beloved child, speaks and writes perfect English. Her English is better than mine, and mine is probably just as good as yours because otherwise you're here for the filthy language (that means you, person who searches "fisting" and winds up here) and naughty picture potential. She and I write business letters all over the world via email. Our words are carefully chosen, our constructions logical and our spelling deliberate. The words I've dictated cause her hands to flutter over the keyboard like wounded birds.

Student Worker: What do these words mean?
Tata: I despise the conventional "F.Y.I. It is for the intellectually lazy and the uncurious. If I use that, the reader can be sure I am not interested in the topic at hand and have moved on to contemplating my next peculiar hair color. We have a second consideration: our vendor's representatives have multiple accounts and may handle many workers like us from a handful of customers. Every letter I write contains a punchline because I am lazy, selfish and demanding, and I want my account representative to love opening my letters. I want my contacts to look forward to talking to me. I want them to want to help me. So I have to entertain us both.
Student worker: I can be lazy! I understand this selfishness!
Tata: Excellent! When you rule the world, kill me quickly.

Just so's ya know:
1. Somehow, the Carnival of New Jersey Bloggers is coming here this weekend. EnlightenNJ sent me the list of instructions and I'm still making my friends speak slowly to explain all the big words. This week may be the first time we see duct tape hanging off the Carnival. Hang onto your hats! If you're a Jersey blogger with a post burning a hole in your pocket this week, send it to I promise not to deliberately fuck anyone over, as Miss Manners might say.
2. Miss Sasha mailed me a baker's rack. I expect the new apartment's letter carrier to stalk and berate me. I can handle violence but look for me to comfort the wounded feelings of burly dude carrying around my kid's furniture like he lost me in the mall.
3. Has anyone else noticed Rachael Ray curls her lip all the time? Some might be reminded of Elvis but all I can think of is Popeye.
4. Step right up and volunteer to help me move. I surrender:

Tata: Ned and I moved my queen size futon and its frame over to the new apartment. That wasn't as much fun as it sounds.
Daria: It doesn't sound like fun.
Tata: It was less fun than that. While I was disassembling the frame he was distracted by a series of inexplicable phone calls from long-lost high school girlfriends. He can only do one thing at a time so he stood in my kitchen and pretended not to have a nervous breakdown.
Daria: I've always liked him. He reminds me of broccoli.
Tata: Then we moved everything and left it in the apartment in pieces. Today, while I was waiting for the cable guy I reassembled the frame without help! I am a genius!
Daria: You did? How'd you do that?
Tata: It doesn't really matter because I am also too stupid to live!
Daria: Oh. My. God. What happened?
Tata: I assembled the frame! I reigned triumphant over cantilevered furniture! Then I dropped it on my foot. Stop laughing!
Daria: The same foot? The one you broke?
Tata: Nope. The one that still worked. In fact, my only uninjured appendage. I had to call someone who would appreciate the magnitude of my idiocy.
Daria: I can't breathe!
Tata: Oh, and while wearing shoes and socks I managed to step on a piece of glass.
Daria: You need a keeper.

5. Cap sleeves make women's arms look like exploded sausages. No matter who you are, you look obese in cap sleeves - unless you are underweight or in a coke-related weight free-fall. Then cap sleeves look great!

It's true. I don't know which foot to limp on. Fortunately, this Sunday, we can all read the Carnival sitting down.

She Catches On Quick!

Miss Sasha reports from the Front:
What have I told you about using cheerleaders for evil! Mommy, just cause the majority are as stupid as Barbie doesn't mean they blow up like Barbie!

Speaking of evil...So guess what?! The inlaws have decide to grace us with their presence for Xmas dinner...The scary part...I am actually excited(and a little stressed) about the whole making my first official holiday dinner for grown ups. I just have a feeling that everything will be going great and BOOM! an I Love Lucy Moment(tm)!

I have been having so many I Love Lucy moments(tm) with the awesome espresso machine! Like, Mr. Sasha and I couldn't figure out the whole steaming milk skill. First I filled the water tub in the back all the way up not realizing it holds more then the pitcher( you mentally feel what is about to happen?!) and when I turned it on I was welcomed with a waterfall of very hot water! And somehow didn't burn myself or anything else! Then the milk steamer on the side sent milk flying everywhere when I couldn't figure out if it was on or not. It was absolutely hilarious seeing the kitchen in polka dots! Oh, in case you haven't learned this one already...Never put painting stuff in the dishwasher! I won't even go there! Then Mr. Sasha and I bought a bagless vacuum and when Mr. Sasha went to clean out the tube the holds the dirt it popped out and get everywhere...luckily he was outside. Even better was the dryer that wasn't connected correctly and all the dust(mostly lint and cat hair from clothes) came blowing out the back of the dryer and the dryer started walking away!

My life has turned into a comic strip, Ma.

Among Miss Sasha's many talents are strength, speed and an innate ability to play Point&Laugh at household appliances, but like all members of my family, she was born without any hope of reading the manual. We marry into, date or adopt that. Daria and Todd have never read a manual in either of their lives, and if buttons aren't labeled they'll helplessly paw at the vacuum cleaner all day.

Poor Miss Sasha. If you tell the March of Dimes you have this birth defect kids on crutches trot over and beat you up. But enough about her! I believe she said something about my archenemy - the Mother of the Groom - coming to Christmas dinner in Florida.

Let the Season of Scheming begin!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Not Since the Restraining Order, No...

Miss Sasha, our Ambassador to the Quirky Republic of Florida, reports that our family is not alone in its belief in violence-based peacemaking. Evidently, fear stalked the duck- and mouse-infested streets of Orlando - but hoorah! No longer will theme park animal characters terrorize our off-duty corrections officers!

And speaking of stupidity, Weekend Today in New York mentioned in passing - I've been awake for NO REASON since 6:30 this morning - that Mayor Bloomberg offered shelter for "1000 families or individuals"* after Hurricane Katrina. FEMA apparently wasn't enthusiastic about the offer. Survivors expressed fearfulness about moving so far and what they would find "in the big city."* You could almost hear the po' white trash. I wish I could tell you what was said after that but I was too busy performing CPR on myself.

Pardon me. Those who were frightened of the Big City should've been shipped like cattle and their ancestors to the Lower East Side. They've already lost everything. Let's help them conquer their irrational fears!

*Yes, that's what the reporter said. No, I'm not fucking lying. What a mouth on you!

Friday, September 16, 2005

Putting My Foot Down

Anger is so exciting, isn't it? It's like your emotional ferris wheel fell off its supports and rolled into the sleepy village, squashing the tiny villagers. And that makes anger scary! Current events give us plenty to be angry and fearful about but now's a fine time to calm our butts down and think rationally. Listen to these reasonable people:
We are Unitarian Jihad. We are everywhere. We have not been born again, nor have we sworn a blood oath. We do not think that God cares what we read, what we eat or whom we sleep with.

They're everywhere? Ohmigod!
Brother Neutron Bomb of Serenity notes for the record that he does not have a moral code but is nevertheless a good person, and Unexalted Leader Garrote of Forgiveness stipulates that Brother Neutron Bomb of Serenity is a good person, and this is to be reflected in the minutes.

Are they the godless commies in our schools as predicted by McCarthy and Roy Cohn?
Beware! Unless you people shut up and begin acting like grown-ups with brains enough to understand the difference between political belief and personal faith, the Unitarian Jihad will begin a series of terrorist-like actions.

Eeeeek! Oh wait.
We will take over television studios, kidnap so-called commentators and broadcast calm, well-reasoned discussions of the issues of the day. We will not try for "balance" by hiring fruitcakes; we will try for balance by hiring non-ideologues who have carefully thought through the issues.

Well, that's a low blow. But how will the fruitcakes live?
We will require all lobbyists, spokesmen and campaign managers to dress like trout in public.

Waittaminit! Aren't yer trouts nekkid?
Televangelists will be forced to take jobs as Xerox repair specialists. Demagogues of all stripes will be required to read Proust out loud in prisons.

PROUST! Jesus Christ!
We are Unitarian Jihad, and our motto is: "Sincerity is not enough." We have heard from enough sincere people to last a lifetime already. Just because you believe it's true doesn't make it true. Just because your motives are pure doesn't mean you are not doing harm. Get a dog, or comfort someone in a nursing home, or just feed the birds in the park. Play basketball. Lighten up.

I'm all a-twitter with - um - tranquility.
We can strike without warning. Pockets of reasonableness and harmony will appear as if from nowhere! Nice people will run the government again! There will be coffee and cookies in the Gandhi Room after the revolution.

Hey! Almost everyone wants that! And cookies!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Simple, Elegant, Truthful - Corruption Edition

Miss Alli pours us a shot of the bitter stuff:

Let's give him the benefit of the doubt that he was being prevented from acting by bureaucracy and the sheer magnitude of the situation. Where are the stories of how he was in his office freaking the fuck out because there were tens of thousands of Americans trapped without food and water? Where's the story of how he ripped a strip off of somebody, demanding to know what the holy hell the holdup is getting water and food to those people?

Of course, we now know his aides were too petrified of our President's hissyfits to tell him the Gulf was a shambles until Thursday night. Don't believe? Look it up.

Pink Soup

I look awful. A person gets used to seeing herself a certain way, then - BLAMMO! - she doesn't sleep for a few decades and suddenly she's not the hot tamale she once was. Also - and science has yet to explain this - there seems to be some direct correlation between the dark circles under my eyes and the height of my hair when I awaken. You don't actually need to know this. It's not important unless you're planning to wake up with, you know, gorgeous Me and instead find that guy from Eraserhead.

Trout called me up and said, "I've made soup. Come over and take it. It's pink and full of nutrients." So I did. This means I am now walking around thinking of pink soups. In the ladies room this morning I was alone and really glad I was alone when I suddenly pictured two bored-stiff socialites in a formal situation and in my head one says, as if it's such a tribulation to draw a breath and speak, "Dagmar, kindly remove your hand from my borscht." If you know me well you might not be alarmed to walk into an apparently empty public restroom and hear laughter. I assure you this is not a common reaction. Daria calls before my first cup of coffee.

Daria: My husband's in Arizona golfing while I set up the new house. Yesterday at 1:30 in the morning Tyler Two wakes me up and says, "Mama, my head's all hot." And he was right. Then Sandro picks up the baby and drops her on her head. He shouts, "Mama! I hurt the baby!" And I run in and the baby's lying on the floor but she doesn't look particularly upset. So I guess he's aiding and abetting her escape and not actually tossing her like a drunken dwarf and now I know why mommies drink. All this before 10 a.m. Tyler called at 10:30. I said, "If you hadn't called I'd have fired you."
Tata: I'm so sorry your misfortune is hilarious!

Last night, Paulie and I cleaned out the room he's been staying in. Business is taking Paulie to Rome for two weeks. When I'm finally out of the New Brunswick apartment, Paulie's moving back in. As breakups go, this is the Gold Standard. Also, his bedrooms are always perilously filled with change and I now know why the U.S. Treasury is empty. It's not Bush et al siphoning off the federal budget into Halliburton. Nope. Paulie Gonzalez has all the pennies, and now I have them in my lunchbox. I feel I should stop people on the street and hand them out to students, who probably don't have the sense to refuse money from strangers. Daria calls again.

Daria: And now with the puking!
Tata: That is inherently funny.
Daria: And you needed to know.

I am thinking the Funny Thoughts. This is probably the moment to mention my new kitchen has reached its peak orangeosity. After a suitable drying period, the faux finishing will commence. If you think I feel funny now wait until I'm holding a sponge and dabbing to subtle Tuscan yellowness for eight hours. My brilliance will know no bounds.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


Daria: I am a customer service nightmare!
Tata: Absolutely! What?
Daria: So Tyler and I bought furniture, then we moved. Today, I got my fourth phone call asking why my husband's driver license says different from the delivery address.
Tata: Did you tell them you were moving?
Daria: Did I mention my credit is perfect?
Tata: So if you ask them to deliver your furniture to the Raritan River you're good for it.
Daria: They know I moved! The manager called yesterday and said, "I'll take care of it. Don't give it another thought." Today, I get another call and now I'm obsessing.
Tata: Are they delivering your furniture or not?
Daria: Every time they call me the date is a couple days further off.
Tata: Fax them a bill for your time.
Daria: What?
Tata: A friend of mine waited all day for the phone company. Nobody came. She sent them a bill for her time. And they paid it!
Daria: I'm home with my children. What are they going to say?
Tata: "That's time and a half, ma'am. Will you let us pay you double?"

Monday, September 12, 2005

Origami Roadblock

He sounds bored and tired after a five-hour New Brunswick/Albany/New Brunswick car parts run. A hotrod man needs disco exhaust pipes.

Tata: You're very busy and I'm sorry to bother you.
Paulie: That's okay. What's up?
Tata: I need a getaway driver.
Paulie: I'll be there in ten.

If there's anything I can count on it's Paulie Gonzalez's cheerful willingness to commit misdeanors for the hell of it. Nine minutes later, he appears, ready to work.

Tata: Last night, Siobhan and I bought all kinds of paint and went to the new apartment where a can slid out of her truck, landed on my foot and broke open on the street.
Paulie: How's your foot?
Tata: Balloony. Better than last night, thanks. Anyway, I didn't know what to do and Siobhan sure as hell didn't -
Paulie: Cat litter.
Tata: Of course. You always know. Siobhan said it'd be dry in four hours, tops. So I put down circulars I found in the hallway so people would avoid driving through a gallon of emergency orange paint and pedestrians would know grapes were on sale at Pathmark. Stop laughing.
Paulie: Orange? On asphalt?
Tata: Yeah yeah, it's a disaster that says, "Hello, new neighbors! I'm HERE!" Today, I went over there to paint my hall a kind of sunny beige. I picked up the circulars and the paint wasn't dry.
Paulie: What'd you do?
Tata: I called Siobhan's cell and hissed, "It's STILL WET!" Stop laughing.
Paulie: She still feeding you mice?
Tata: Then I picked up most of the circulars, stuffed them in a grocery bag and put down more circulars over the big spot but the thing is -
Paulie: I can't wait!
Tata: Some of the circulars are stuck to the road and the paint is wet even now!
Paulie: No way.
Tata: Way!
Paulie: How do you know?
Tata: I went over an hour ago but couldn't find a parking space in the same zip code. I wanted to tear up the stuck newspaper again.
Paulie: And put down cat litter. Let's do it.

Cue the Mission: Impossible Theme. Picture two giggling people riding around a quiet neighborhood in the World's Largest Pickup Truck(tm) which really hates low speeds. There's nothing stealthy about us. We're making a racket. Paulie turns the corner and sees the giant spot. He's no longer giggling. Now he's laughing hysterically as he parks the truck.

Paulie: How do you do it?
Tata: It's a gift. Stop laughing. Man the kitty litter!

I hobble to the puddle with a garbage bag and dig up scraps of newspaper. Underneath, wet paint oozes. Paulie's shocked. I'm shocked. In the interest of Science, you will be pleased to know that while paint may remain moist on pavement it dries almost immediately on my left hand, forming an uncomfortable yet illuminating orange coat. When the wet paint is exposed, Paulie pours the kitty litter over it, hoping to form a rubbery orange pancake of only mild toxicity. It's hard to tell if I should pray for rain or stray tabbies.

Then we drive away very fast.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Oranges Poranges - Who Says?

Tata: You will NEVER guess what happened!
Daria: I get so nervous when you say that.
Tata: So Siobhan and I went to Home Depot and spent my vast fortune on a four different paints and glaze and wooden blinds I sort of semi-like for the bedroom and if you can believe it the guy in the Blinds Department actually told me he didn't think I could install them myself. I went all like, "Dude, I am well acquainted with the use of measuring tape and what's with the negative when I Can Do It And You Can Help?"
Daria: No! He told you he doubted you could do it?
Tata: Right. I immediately doubled in size. So of course I had a coupon and even so I spent $200 which as you know never, ever happens.
Daria: You had one of those 10% off coupons?
Tata: You know it. So Siobhan and I stuff our major purchases into the back of her Ford Exterminator and head for the new apartment. On the way, we stop at the Dunkin' Donuts on Route 18 because we're looking at a long night of work. Siobhan orders a coffee with about thirty syllables and jogs for the ladies room. I ask for a smaller, less complicated version of the same thing. The people behind the counter regard me suspiciously. Suddenly this really young guy who looks like he just beamed over from the set of The Entourage throws open the door behind me, runs to the counter, grabs an awkward handful of sugar packets and spins toward the door again. He stops, says over his shoulder, "I'll just have this," and runs out the door. I laughed and said to the counter people, "You guys must have some great stories." And then I was their new best friend!
Daria: Things just happen because you're there to see them.
Tata: Yup. So Siobhan and I drove over to the new apartment and I jumped out and with my dislocated left wrist I was going to grab all the bags and boxes and scoot those into the house while Siobhan scoured the countryside for a parking space.
Daria: You were going to carry $200 worth of stuff, plus a coupon?
Tata: Remember: I doubled in size and was still growling.
Daria: I forgot. Silly me.
Tata: So I go to the back of the truck and grab the door handle and yank it open. I am burly! And a one-gallon can of Ralph Lauren Paint launches from the pile of stuff, lands on my right foot, opens up and spills all over the road in front of my apartment!
Daria: NO!
Tata: YES! Stop laughing! So I'm jumping up and down in a huge and spreading puddle of orange paint we're planning to use in a two-step process to recreate Tuscany in my kitchen and Siobhan runs around to see what happened, stops short and stares for while I'm yelping, "Ow! Ow! Ow!" Siobhan stares. I'm jumping and yelping.
Daria: Is your foot totally broken?
Tata: It's twice its size but it's not actually broken.
Daria: Does it have little purple dots on the bottom?
Tata: I'll let you know when I've scrubbed off all the paint. So, this went on for about two years before I realized Siobhan might not be breathing and I'd better do something.
Daria: What'd you do?
Tata: I wiped my orange feet on the grass, took my $180 plus a coupon-worth of purchases into the apartment and when I got back I ordered her to go park the truck. She'd stood up the mostly empty can. I taped off the hallway so I could paint it a nice, warm beige-like tone that reminds me of a fringed suede jacket on a handsome man. She applied every remaining drop of paint to the kitchen wall and then I realized it was the exact same Emergency Orange we'd applied to Paulie Gonzalez's bedroom walls! Only Ralph Lauren doesn't call it "Traffic Cone Orange" or "This Is Not A Deer But Your Drinking Buddy Billy Ray." It's got a sophisticated name like "Trouser Crease" or "Driver, Anything But the Long Island Expressway."

Daria's husband Tyler wants in on the hooting. so I hear him over the dull roar of the children asking what happened.

Daria: She dropped a can of paint on her foot and it spilled all over the street. And it was orange!
Tyler: That'll teach her to buy orange paint!
Daria: He says that'll teach you to buy orange paint!
Tata: A lot he knows! I have to go buy more!

Friday, September 09, 2005

When Calvino Makes Housecalls

My co-worker pads quietly up to me as I stand in the building's atrium staring at the ceiling four floors away. A minute passes.

John: Whatcha doin'?
Tata: There is no 'up' and no 'down.' There is only that direction or that other direction, more or less in any direction you can point, from wherever you are.
John: You know how when Hilda mentions The O.C. you get a headache?
Tata: Yup.
John: We must never again discuss calculus. Or numbers. Of any kind.

John's being dramatic because I insist he's imaginary and tell our other co-workers I made him up.

Tata: Don't talk to him! He's not real and you're just encouraging him! Stop pretending you see a person there!

You might be surprised how often this does not result in a straitjacket makeover. It should therefore come as no surprise that yesterday I said the following words to a complete stranger with a degree in medicine.

Tata: Wrists move in a variety of handy directions but mine stubbornly refuses. When I put weight on it it sends messages to my brain like, "Commence weeping."
Tata: I think the mystery bruise and lump two inches away may be related to general spazziness and not to the malady of the wrist.
Doctor: Did you hit your hand? Lift something heavy? Did you maybe sleep on it wrong?
Tata: If I were sleeping how would I know?
Doctor: Wait a minute. How do you put weight on your wrist?
Tata: I'm upside down a lot.
Tata: This is putting a real crimp in my plans for tonight.

I maintain that talking to me didn't injure the poor young woman in any permanent way and perhaps made her aware for the first time of Upside Down-Americans like myself. We may be a minority but with children starting gymnastics now as early as two years of age, our numbers are growing. And this doctor needed to know! She ordered Xrays and wrote a prescription for some painkilling anti-inflammatory potion. I don't usually take those, you know, without vodka.

New Brunswick is currently filled to capacity with college students. Last week, the freshmen arrived first, anxious to walk ten steps ahead of their parents, Polyester Ed and Edna. And as a townie, you thank Christ they're on the sidewalk because when you see them in traffic, one of them is pointing in horror at the ethnic populations and the other one is staring at the various construction cranes swinging overhead and neither of them has an eye on the road. It's a miracle Lewis Street isn't one giant, smoking ruin. A friend once said that the influx of terrified hicks was an opportunity.

Friend: So if the state budget is in crisis, let's wait until November. All the tuition checks would have cleared by then, right?
Tata: ...right...
Friend: Okay, then. Encourage freshmen to bring their cars and make all the lights in town green until December 1st.
Tata: Do you...smell sulphur?

This is my way of saying the visit to the radiologist would be the stuff of traffic planning legend at any other time and/or in any other place because every third building downtown is named University [insert scary field of medical test HERE] and I went to the wrong one before rushing madly in the opposite direction. If not for double-parked Pennsylvania drivers, I might've been ten minutes early.

When I said I had $8.22 in my bank account, I was telling the truth. Today's payday so Siobhan and I spent the day with colorful thought-balloons over our completely employed heads. I stopped people as they walked past my cubicle and demanded impressions of paint chips.

Tata: Ya huh mmm ya huh oo ya huh no ya huh?
Boss of Similar Ethnic Extraction: If your kitchen is Tuscany, yes!

I have to finish painting the apartment this weekend so the fumes can make like the breeze and blow before we move in. Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, has Feline Leukemia and must be protected from strong chemical smells that some veterinarians believe harm kitty livers. Though I have no actual information about this myself, I trick the cat into taking medicine every day so I might as well give the apartment a few days to freshen up, oui?

We're going to Home Depot. I have a coupon. This weekend, Siobhan, my dislocated wrist and I will tear up one side of the apartment and down the other. Will I weep for joy? Will I merely weep?

Thursday, September 08, 2005

A Fish, A Fish, A Fishy Fishy Fish

The human rescue efforts, though way, way late, are truly under way but there is plenty of suffering to go around.

Every time I think of people having to abandon pets to the boiling sludge of New Orleans I either burst into tears or stifle nausea. Some say they're not people. I don't really see any difference other than the ability to tell us we're selfish bastards, betraying members of our family and leaving them to die wretched, filthy deaths.

My bank account has $8.22 in it. If I had $15 I'd give $10 to the Humane Society or Noah's Wish.

Since I do not have money, I'm asking you to click on the Animal Rescue Site. It doesn't cost you anything but about ten seconds of your life. Please.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Crying Won't Help You, Praying Won't Do You No Good

Recorded in 1929:

If it keeps on rainin', levee's goin' to break
If it keeps on rainin', levee's goin' to break
And the water gonna come in, have no place to stay

Well all last night I sat on the levee and moan
Well all last night I sat on the levee and moan
Thinkin' 'bout my baby and my happy home

If it keeps on rainin', levee's goin' to break
If it keeps on rainin', levee's goin' to break
And all these people have no place to stay

Now look here mama what am I to do
Now look here mama what am I to do
I ain't got nobody to tell my troubles to

I works on the levee mama both night and day
I works on the levee mama both night and day
I ain't got nobody, keep the water away

I wonder if When the Levee Breaks, which was covered by Led Zeppelin on uber-popular Zoso turned up on our president's highly touted iPod. Or maybe it was dumped with Teaser and the Firecat.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Number One in the 'Hood, G'

I take a break from fretting, painting, packing and moving for a barbecue at Dom's girlfriend Theresa's house. Dom, Sharkey and I are Groucho, Harpo and Chico this summer, with Theresa and Theresa's constant companion Natalie playing Gummo and Zeppo. In real life, Dom and I have the similar names and go by the same nick. He is a huge, tattooed former skinhead. We gossip about art, artists, music and musicians. In constrast with many of my closest friends, he and I never got a room.

At the barbecue, I meet a friend of his, a fireman Dom calls Nine Toe. Nine Toe has apparently been hanging around the same people and places I have forever but we've never met. He introduces himself as Dom. It dawns on us and we are amused. For the rest of the evening, Sharkey introduces us to newcomers.

Sharkey: That's Dom, Dom and Dom. And for convenience's sake, you can call me Dom too.
Tata: Over in that corner, shout "DEBBIE!" and watch what happens.

Sharkey is a handsome fellow. Amusingly, Frylock of Aqua Teen Hunger Force bears a striking resemblance to our hero. I'm wearing the t-shirt because I enjoy a superhero whose magical power is common sense. And laser eyes, but that's beside the point. In the grocery store on the way to the picnic, the 16-year-old cashier stares my Dragonball Z lunchbox. Then he spies my Aqua Teen Hunger Force, which because of my...ahem!...huge tracts o' land, the average bystander might imagine announced my arrival, but no. Anyway, he gushes.

Cashier: That's the best freaking show! Where'd you get the t-shirt?
Tata: Cartoon Network sells them.
Cashier: You sell them?
Tata: Sure. I wear one of these, they see a spike in sales.
Cashier: What? What did you say?
Tata: My friend looks exactly like Frylock!
Cashier: He he he he he he he he he he he. Send him over here!
Tata: He's not the kind of man you tell what to do. Not unless you're a lissome blonde. With a can of whipped cream.
Cashier: What?
Tata: Is this really an express lane? Express what?

Sharkey takes one look at my shirt.

Sharkey: My face is on your boob.
Tata: Dahhhhhhhhhhling, whose isn't? I mean - we should dye your hair blonde for Halloween.
Sharkey: Wouldn't my face be red?

Shoot. No redder than mine. I looked around in the grocery store and saw people my age who were really 900 years old. Maybe they're not sure, but I'm not ready to be Margaret Dumont.

Friday, September 02, 2005

The Mundane, And the Ordained

My sisters - those fools with excellent taste! - have once again left the jurisdicion and left me the keys to their store full of gorgeous stuff. The scents of ginger, basil and thyme lotions waft on celing-fan breezes. The Gipsy Kings' Somos Gitanos plays on the CD player but usually music by Spencer Lewis, Sade or the Cocteau Twins gently caresses the ear. I can't take it. I want one of everything in the store, and ten feet from the front door an eighteen-wheeler has rattled and belched for hours.

At first, I am a good sport. When the store is busy I pretend not to notice the giant truck virtually cuts off natural light. When I am alone, it becomes increasingly difficult to overlook the exhaust smell in the aisle, the throb of the engine and the exuberant shouts of political activists emptying the truck bucket brigade-style.

Don't get me wrong: the activists work for a candidate whose political positions are similar to mine, but I'm literally doing headstands behind the jewelry counter to think about something else.

A little while ago, I went outside for a look-see. Broken palates and great wads of shrinkwrap lay on the sidewalk. I knew right away this could be trouble. This morning, I received a nervous call on the store phone from Sister #3 - Corinne - while I was talking on the cell to Mom.

Corinne: When you came in, by any chance did you notice - did you see maybe - a garbage can I left on the curb last night?
Tata: Mom, Corinne's trying to talk to me again.
Mom: Are you sure? She's more sensible than that.

I put the cell down and tried listening to my sister.

Corinne: ...I left it there and forgot to bring it in...
Tata: Are you talking about a giant black garbage can that's taller than I am?
Corinne: Possibly.
Tata: When you left it there, was it full of garbage, by any chance?
Corinne: Could've been.
Tata: And now that it's empty you want me to drag this where?
Corinne: Behind the store?

I'm already dragging the thing but when I turn the corner I run straight into a fence.

Tata: Sweetie, how do I get behind the building?
Corinne: The alley by the antiques store?
Tata: And this is because curmudgeonly persons might issue you tickets?
Corinne: You're practically psychic!

I hang up and find the cell. This has got to be eating up my minutes.

Tata: Mom, Corinne said she'd forgotten something outside.
Mom: And what was it?
Tata: She took out the trash and she wanted me to bring in the cans.
Mom: What about that had she forgotten?
Tata: That I couldn't pick her trash can out of a trash can lineup.

So when I step outside and see packing materials right outside the store's front door the tables turn. In the crowd of lively activists I pick out one. He is large, young and especially earnest-looking. I stare at him hard enough to burn a hole in his carefully trimmed goatee. Mere seconds later he looks up, possibly because he smells smoke. No words pass between us. We have a conversation of gestures and wiggled eyebrows.

Tata: Dude!
Dude: Note my shiny idealism!
Tata: Hey kid! Get your shiny idealism off my sidewalk!

Oh God. Suddenly, I'm an old woman.

He slaps the backs of three other strapping young activists. As one, they snap up the wood and plastic and move it around the corner. It's gone. I should be happy. Instead, I every ten minutes for the next two hours I climb down out of the headstand or give someone change and march out the front door to glare at the activists, still unloading that truck. It's a really big truck. I'm not just a cranky old woman I'm a made-for-TV-movie business owner and I'm on the wrong side of the plot.

That kid - I bet he's the hero.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Chapstick, Toothpaste, Aspirin, Pennies

I am thinking of small things. There's a rough patch on one of my fingers, and I'm looking through my Dragonball Z lunchbox for a nail clipper. Receipts, earphones, eyeliner, reading glasses, keys and more keys, my wallet, coupons for the next shopping trip, two bottles of OPI nail polish. The nail clipper turns up in a bookbag pocket and not in the lunchbox at all. The cuticle is clipped clean. A little hand cream soothes the spot. Annoying little problem solved. I wonder idly if there's a single nail clipper in the filthy, wilting Superdome.

Miss Sasha and Mr. Sasha, who still has that new-husband smell, moved to Pensacola in June. As the Mommy and an inveterate worrier, I offered to knit them an inflatable boat. Mr. Sasha is in the Air Force, which thoughtfully tossed its charges out of Pensacola for Dennis but demanded they stay put during Katrina. Miss Sasha promised everyone was completely prepared and there was nothing to worry about, but that they'd probably be out of touch for a while. By Tuesday, calls still went to voicemail. I didn't exactly chew my fingernails but I couldn't stop trying to bite my cuticles. Regular scissors didn't help.

Siobhan - who bears an uncanny resemblance to...someone - text-messaged Miss Sasha. Something to the effect of "Are you alive wtf call your mother." In the new, punctuation-free future, we will all speak English that, like Biblical Hebrew, is a whimsical language filled with muscular imagery and ascerbic wit. For instance, Miss Sasha sent back the truly minimalistic, "Fine, thanx."

Next, Miss Sasha called and chatted breezily about the huge rainstorm. They'd turned off their phones in case of power outage, she said.

Tata: That had the effect of scaring your family silly, by which I mean I am wrecking my manicure.
Miss Sasha: NO! NOT THAT!
Tata: You are SO GROUNDED.

In deference to my cuticle beds, Miss Sasha sent the family this email:

Mr. Sasha and I spent Aug 19-Aug 20 in New Orleans. We are so glad we got to see it before the storm but we now have pics that are weird to look at. We are fine, we didn't even lose power. We are involved in many fundraising events. The Olive Garden in Biloxi was demolished and the Red Lobster that my company owns has been flattened by 2 tornados. At work we have been trying to gather cans, clothes and anything else that can help.

Here are some before pictures of New Orleans, I am sure you are all seeing the after. More Pictures are following of how are apartment is doing.

We love you.

Sasha and Mr. Sasha

There is a picture of The Jester at the Jester Bar.

New Orleans

More New Orleans

Some after that

The bridge across Lake Portchartrain.

About the pics-The Jester Bar. Most of streets like Bourbon St.(Darker), Canal St.(Looks like a HUGE main strip), and Decatur (we ate at Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville, we have glasses from them). The road picture is I-10. The bridge across Lake Portchartrain. It is now very broken. I-10 goes throught the southern states like I-95. New Orleans is 200 miles from us, a 2 and a half hour drive (when Mr. Sasha drives!)

As we now know, the storm turned northeastward just before it made landfall, sparing New Orleans a direct hit. As we also know, there is no such thing as being prepared for a Category 5 hurricane. Miss Sasha says:

Yeah, just please tell people that Red Cross needs money BAD! and we have seen people everywhere sleeping in cars and in restaurant parking lots.

I am so glad that my guardian angels weren't on Bourbon Street that day drinking Hand Grenades.

A way with words, that one has. Small things. I am grateful for the small things.