Monday, February 27, 2006

You Can Lose It, You Can Fall

Yesterday, I was boiling milk for yogurt, setting up the washing machine, scrubbing dishes and airing out my little throw rugs but felt like I wasn't doing enough so I rung up Daria.

Tata: Whatcha doin'?
Daria: You called me because you thought I'd be at the wedding?
Tata: What wedding? Whose wedding?
Daria: Our cousin Browne. You remember Browne. Tall guy, same age as you, stands next to you in decades' worth of family pictures...?
Tata: Right. Sent my regrets. Forgot all about it. Why are you at home, then?
Daria: My husband came home from Atlantic City with the stomach flu.
Tata: You'd think an insurance agent would pick out the healthy hookers.
Daria: I've finally stopped puking but I'll make an exception for you. Can you hop on over?
Tata: Can't. Gotta read up. Roe v. Wade is going to be overturned and we have to be ready.
Daria: Never happen.
Tata: What? Have you read about South Dakota?
Daria: It will never happen. Never happen.

Bless her heart, Daria is very bright, diligent, well-informed and every bit the feminist pinko I am, yet she's married to an Ann Coulter fan. We love him dearly but the first rule of getting along with Tyler is never, ever discuss politics with him if you want to finish lunch. Or keep down lunch. Or refrain from throwing lunch at your beloved in-law. So Daria's deeply invested in cognitive dissonance as a useful tool in day-to-day life. I get that. I don't like it, but I get it. It is too much and too hard to imagine being the parent of three very young children in a time when one's and one's children's reproductive rights are endangered, especially if a person feels there's nothing to be done about it.

I work in a library. For years, I handed out reserve materials to undergrads. In that capacity, I met some astounding, gifted people but I also bumped into some of the most willfully stupid human beings it has ever been my nauseated displeasure to encounter.

Tata: Can I help you?
Dumbi!: My professor left something here.
Tata: Look up your professor's name, write down what you want and I'll be happy to find it for you.
Dumbi!: I don't know my professor's name.
Tata: What's the class, then?
Dumbi!: I don't know.
Tata: Okay, what's the subject?
Dumbi!: I don't know that, either.
Tata: Is your class in English?
Dumbi!: I think so.
Tata: Do about money?
Dumbi!: Sometimes.
Tata: (Retrieving a slim paperback from the stacks) Your professor wants you to read this.
Dumbi!: Thanks!

Sometimes Good and Evil look exactly alike, and may in fact be exactly the same, and if I'd never taken matters into my own hands there's no way in Hell that idiot would've read The Communist Manifesto. I wasn't trying to turn this mouthbreather into a bomb-thrower and I'm certain she failed her exam - or even to find her exam in, like, a classroom - but there was one chance, just one, to crack a window and get a breeze through that musty little mind, and I took it.

Bless him, Lance Mannion, that smart cookie, has a little problem with uncertainty about abortion, like when and who and why. Maybe not.
We know it isn't during the first three months, which is why a sane country would allow an unrestricted right to abortion during the first trimester, but we don't know what's going on in the second trimester. Exactly when does the fetus start paying attention to its surroundings? When does it start to learn?

Some pro-choice people are content to think and act and argue as if it really is the very first day of the third trimester. Before that day, the fetus is a thing. A growth. And the woman who finds that thing growing inside her has every right to decide all on her own, without any interference from the thing's male co-planter, the state, and certainly not anti-abortion zealots, to keep it and see what comes of it or have it excised, just as she is free to have a burst appendix or an impacted wisdom tooth or unsightly mole removed.
But besides this, the third trimester date is arbitrary. Babies outside the womb develop at different rates; so do fetuses within the womb. One fetus can become a baby a few days shy of entering its third trimester, another might need another week in. We don't know.

On top of this it often can't be said for sure when the third trimester begins. Some women know exactly what day they conceived. Others have to guess. A woman who think she's in her second trimester may be a few days, even a couple of weeks, into her third. What if she has her abortion too late?
Alright, he has a problem.
But because I believe that most people advocating other restrictions are arguing in bad faith doesn't mean that I can't see the point in certain restrictions, including parental notification, waiting periods, and mandatory instructions on how to put an unwanted baby up for adoption and why it might be a good idea to consider.

And if the Supreme Court were to decide or Congress were to pass a law stating that except in cases where the mother's health was at risk, abortions should be banned, or severely restricted, after the fourth month instead of the sixth, I wouldn't be outraged.

The Court would still be guessing, Congress would be guessing, but as it is we're all just guessing.

Lance, darling, you're killing me. Well, not me. I can't have children. Women who can get pregnant - you're killing them. In fact, everyone participating in this debate, however well-intentioned, is killing women. I'm not saying this lightly. I'm completely serious, and I mean exactly what I'm saying: the time for debate about abortion was thirty years ago, and what is happening now in South Dakota and Africa is precisely the result of waffling and bad bargaining on the part of people of good faith.

Stop it. I mean it: stop debating abortion. This is democratic, free speech and lefty sacrilege, I know. I doubt this is going to make sense on the first go-round but I hope you'll give what I'm saying a good think. You're looking at a big picture. Take a giant step back and look at an even bigger one.

The time to say "I'm pro-choice but..." is so, so indescribably over I find it hard to discuss. Before the ink dried on Roe and Griswold v. Connecticut, their opponents were already strategizing about how to mitigate their effects and eventually overturn these decisions. Perhaps, like I was, you were young when these events took place. Perhaps you weren't even born yet. The learning curve is steep, but you must, must, must learn the history and realize the opponents of reproductive freedom are organized, well-funded, and they have political clout. You know this, right? Then why are you acting like talking about the issue is going to change anyone's mind? The religious right has controlled the tone and the language of the conversation for decades. You cannot change the situation without reworking the language to describe what's happening. Nothing but experience changes opinions on abortion - though sometimes experiences that should change minds fail to let in a little fresh air.

Each time you say, "I'm pro-choice but..." you create room to be bargained out of some seemingly insignificant aspect of repro freedom that you personally won't miss. Your opponents take advantage of this by accepting what doubts permit you to give away. Perhaps this bargaining gives you a brief respite from the constant arguing. You get tired. You say, "Well, you're right, I'm pro-choice but I don't want the federal government to pay for abortions..." Your opponent will help you not pay for the abortions poor women now can't have. Then you agree this condition bothers you and that situation is troubling and thirty years pass, and you don't even notice that your waffling and ethical considerations and general theatrics have given your opponent not just the game, but the board, the pieces, and you. This from the comments section is unbearable:
"Who in their right mind gleefully gets an abortion no matter how beneficial the procedure might be to their current situation? I doubt few people take it lightly."

You know - I'm not sure about this. You automatically think it's the rape victim, the incest victim - the horrible cases, that drag themselves to get an abortion - but, I bet there are plenty of women - while not going "gleefully" to the abortion clinic - they choose it because it's there to choose...another problem out of the way.

There is no excuse for this airheaded viciousness. There is no excuse for believing your dime store tin foil conscience matters a whit when a woman 1500 miles or thirty feet away has an unplanned pregnancy and wants an abortion. It's none of your business why unless she makes it so, and even then, it's still not up to you to foist your judgments onto her. Having an opinion does not entitle you to fix her wagon for being sexually active, or whatever your ridiculous problem with her is. It's not your body. When it's your body you can waffle all you want.

You're pro-choice. No buts. No arguments. No concessions. No cowardly "I don't know." Nobody knows - deal with it. If we wait until we know absolutely everything we will be sitting here not-knowing into willful ignorance, unbearable public policy and suffering on a scale you won't believe you had a hand in creating, and by that I mean you will deny its existence rather than permit yourself to know it.

Isn't that what you're doing now?

Saturday, February 25, 2006

We're Gone And We Don't Know Where

As if on cue, a letter arrived yesterday from an academic poetry journal that published three of my pieces in 1992.

In the movie Top Secret, Val Kilmer's character Nick Rivers arrives at a restaurant and finds a note from another character, Nick's manager. We hear the manager's voice read the note to us, strong and echoing. Then the manager steps into the frame, talking through a megaphone, and continues, "I've ordered your favorite ripple blanc..." At least, that's how I remember it. And that's the important thing, really.

This letter from the academic poetry journal says - well, read it yourself:
[Journal name] has been honored to publish your writing in the past. Now we are updating our web site for podcasting, so our readers can have the pleasure of actually hearing you read that work.

We would love to feature a podcast recording of you reading the poetry or fiction that you published in [journal name]. You can record your [journal initials] selection in its entirety or, if your work is long fiction, and you just want to record and excerpt, we also welcome that.
I read this letter over and over. I handed it to other people to read, just to find out if this could possibly be real. My stomach is in knots. Ladies and gentlemen, please note the delivery of an oil drum-size can o' worms and an industrial can opener.

Boring back story:
I don't write poetry anymore, but what I was was a Biblical Revisionary performance poet. This means my Jewish Bible has very dogeared pages and pieces of paper with little notes and dust on it from when I realized I wasn't working anymore. This means I channeled poems out of the ether, edited and edited, memorized them, worked up very stylized choreography, and did these pieces in front of all kinds of audiences. Drunks, students, the Dodge Festival. I seldom stayed on the stage and almost always worked in the audience, in faces, touching their backs. It took years, but I ran out of Biblical characters I wanted to write into the twentieth century, and the stage fright - which was always bad - got worse. By the end of 1995, I couldn't write poetry at all and had moved into a more prose-based form that worked differently on stage. A year later, I fell into that depression I come back to like a broken record and the comfortable understanding - this is what I am - became an uncomfortable memory - this is what I was. During the early nineties, I was also a member of Hub City Spoke Repair, a college radio comedy whatsis, where I learned to hate recording with a fiery passion. Every so often, I go down to Sean Carolan's studio and record a thing here and there for Altrok Radio. I put in a cameo appearance on a radio show every Tuesday, and yes, that is a joke. The sound of my own voice gives me the heebie-jeebies.
End/Boring back story

The poem I would record is twelve tight pages long, with accents, screaming, a biker gang, murders, a North Jersey trucking company, and one delicate Jewish princess whose rape starts a war. I love this poem. I loved doing this poem in front of audiences but it's physically exhausting and one little mistake can wreck the impact of a whole section. Recording this could take all day, wreck my voice, and produce nothing but garbage. The idea of recording this piece is not without its risks - one being that I feel like a one-hit wonder in a blue velour suit singing in a Holiday Inn lounge for losers. I loathe nostalgia. I'm starting to wonder if I should skip this whole exercise and simply hate myself for considering it. Another risk involves the rights to the piece. I can't republish excerpts from my own writing without written permission, which to me feels like this journal owns me. If I - step one - record this piece I can't publish anywhere else anyway and - step two - give it the recording, am I giving the journal all of me that's left?

The idea of having a good sound recording of my best piece turn up on the net fourteen years after the poem was published appeals to me. It might be a good career move, if I still had an art career. Is this all vanity, then?

What would you do?

Friday, February 24, 2006

Friday Cat Blogging: Rubber Biscuit Edition

A pussycat's job is to instruct the human in pussycat care, by which I mean that Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, occasionally kicks a superball to the middle of the living room floor and stares at me. I stare back at those luminous green eyes. One of my uncles told me the warden glared at him and said, "Green-eyed people are the most devious. I'll be keeping my eye on you." The cat, every muscle taut, makes a noise that indicates I am slow to catch on. I march over and kick the ball to him. He kicks it back. I kick it to him. He kicks it back. By now he is already bored. I am not the world's best cat playmate, apparently. If he could have actual playmates I could unlock the front door without stage fright and feelings of failure.

This morning, the cat, every muscle in his tiny cat-person rippling, attempted to teach me another game. I think the object of this game was to get me to stay home with him. It's hard to tell though because I put on my coat and left. Someone has to go out and earn the tuna.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Writing On the Wall Will Tell You

Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, glances around, nervous. I gave up on trying to bribe him with fishes, treats, cold cuts, hunks of chicken, bowls of gravy, saucy cat food and went straight for a dirty. low down trick: I pounce on him while he's sleeping and give him yucky medicine from the dropper. It hasn't been a popular move but it has been effective. After a few more days, I'll return to sweet-talking My Little Predator, when I feel sure he's steadier and plotting my demise.

Sweet fancy Moses, someone left the cap off the glue at Casa Johnny:
I've been a Gillette man as long as I've been shaving. My cousin Bubba, who worked there, recommended whatever their new razor was, twenty years ago, to me. I tried it and, sure enough, it was a quantum leap forward in shaving technology. It had a futuristic name. Quantum or something. So when I saw their new five-blade battery-powered vibrating shaver at Target, I bought one immediately. I took it home and shaved with it and, sure enough, another quantum leap. It felt so smooth on my face, diaphanous, even, that I took off all my clothes and shaved myself all the way down to my feet. Even my most intimate areas, which you would think would be difficult to work with, never mind even reach, are now baby's-bottom smooth. I feel like an anatomically correct, if not politically correct, mannequin.
Cough! Cough! Smooth! Dude, have you met my cat? He's covered with fur.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Saved By Zero

From our Santa Fe newsdesk:
G. and C. from work came to pick me up at the drugstore after my wreck. Fortunately G. had her camera. I was so kited I couldn't feel my head. Details follow.

I'd beg your pardon but neither of us has one. What?
Oh, right. The accident. So, the Village itself is essentially a retirement community, especially for the sheriff. Since there's no crime, he just sits in his jeep next to the convenience store and waits for speeders, so of course everyone goes about twenty-five. I went through town and turned out onto the road, where you can speed up a little. I reached down to put my seat belt on. I guess it took a little longer than I anticipated, because I looked up and there were trees in front of me. I said to myself oh shit, great, now I crash my fucking car. It felt to me like I hit some greenery and got hung up on some bushes and the car came to a stop. I got out thinking I could push it free and get back on the road. I was surprised to find the windshield shattered and the front end stove in like a beer can. I called Mini roadside service to tow me. After a few minutes a bunch of cars started pulling over. I had crashed right at the entrance to Cochiti Pueblo, so the first responders were all Indians. I told them I was fine, but I looked a little shocky to them, so they had me sit down until the ambulance came. By then my neck hurt a little. The ambulance guys strapped me to a stretcher, wedged my head into some kind of brace, and took me to the hospital. The nurse gave me some pills, percs or something, hooked up an iv line for fluids, and they took me to x-ray. I told them I had been there about two weeks before for films of my neck, and they could compare today's to those. They came back after a while. No new damage, they said, but man, your neck is really fucked up. They decided to send me home. The nurse pumped a needle full of dilaudid through my line. I felt the back of my neck go slack and warm, then all sensation disappeared from my head as I felt a burst of sweet familiar joy. They handed me a script for some kind of pills. I didn't know what kind. I couldn't focus my eyes on the script. I took a taxi to the drugstore, got my pills, ate about seven, and called work to update them. I don't know how I must have sounded. They said sit still. A few minutes later C. and G. showed up and drove me home. I read the pill bottle again and thought it said oxycontin, so I crushed up a few pills and snorted them. I thought shit, that experience is overrated. The next day, when I could read, I discovered they were only oxycodone, generic for percocets. Good thing. I might have developed a drug problem.

No hillbilly heroin! Armani Johnny's not buying any rope belts, so help me, Calvin.
So I'm lying in the ambulance with my head in the neck brace, able to talk only through clenched teeth, while the officer is giving me my citations, one for driver inattention and one for driving on a suspended license. I said what a minute, my license isn't suspended. I discover a few days later that I ran a red light in January and the camera mounted above the traffic light caught me. You're supposed to get notification in the mail that you're bagged and tagged. I hadn't gotten it. I paid the ticket on their automated phone line last week. So this morning I go to court with my license reinstated and ready to take my lumps in terms of fines or driver school or lashes or whatever they do. I'd looked when I got home from the hospital at the tickets, and I couldn't focus my drug-soaked eyes very well, but I could make out MONTOYA. I got to the Montoya Building in Santa Fe this morning and couldn't find traffic court. I looked at my citations. They said Montoya *Street* in Bernalillo. Out in Cochiti, we're outside Santa Fe County. They lump us in with Albuquerque. I had driven half an hour into Santa Fe. I now had to drive that half hour back and an additional half hour back the other way to Bernalillo. I went a hundred the whole way and made it in about forty. I followed the signs to the Sandoval County Judicial Complex. I ran in and asked the security guard where traffic court was. He told me no, I was in the wrong building. I drove back, the way I had come, of course, to the other building and ran in there.

I burst into the courtroom just in time to catch the last few minutes in session. I said this your honor, that your honor, just like on teevee. That and my suit, though sweaty by then but worn out of respect for the court, seemed to work. She decided to let me off on the reckless driving charge. I just had to come back next week with proof that my license was reinstated, because on the DMV's computer they have up on the podium, I'm still suspended. I was confused by all the legal rigamarole, which made me feel like I was a property at a slave auction, but I think I get out of this for about a hundred bucks. That and the hundred copay at the Emergency. And the thousand for my share of the ambulance. And the five hundred deductible for front end repairs and a new windshield on my car. And the hundred fifty for my share of the rental car. My neck still hurts, but shit, here I thought I was going to have to pay a bunch of money.

Thank Christ, you're a bobblehead man with an inflatable sports car. Wait, what's with your neck?
Oh, right, my neck. Yeah, the x-ray technicians who looked at me after the wreck were surprised I wasn't paralyzed. Over the last, I don't know, five to seven years, I've been rear-ended three or four times. X-rays, pills, neck braces, days in bed. It's become routine. I once hurtled into a guy's rear end myself, at speed, on the highway, and that was no laughing party either, I'm here to tell you, though just barely. This is much more involvement with plunging into rear ends than is moral or a wise idea. Of course that's never stopped me before.

Nothing moral or wise ever stopped him before. He's got me there. As for the rear ends - if you're waiting for me to say He's got me there, too you will keep waiting - apparently you can go just a little faster than the driver in front of you - briefly.

It sure can cost ya. Has a handsome man ever looked so Capote?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

You See Your Gypsy

When I opened those boxes and crates in the living room I could only take so much before I had to quit. One of the objects that made me wish I could scour myself with a wire brush inside and out was a giant print of a photograph Damiana took of me after bar closing time one night. I'd worked that night and finally sat down to my first bottle of Bud, wrapped in a giant crimson wool jacket on a cold, cold night. Damiana had followed me downstairs into the bar's basement with the camera, which I was avoiding. I was too tired to argue with her. She said, "I want to photograph you in your natural environment."

"Fine," I said. "I'll bring a brilliant blue baby pool, hot pink Lolita glasses, my 1950s Barbie bathing suit and a tropical fruit beverage to your basement at night. We'll fill the pool with water. We'll dangle the uninflated swimmies over the edge of the pool and polish my toenails Hypoxia Blue. I have a perfect carnelian lipstick. We'll use a couple of garage drop lights and leave the basement dark and threatening. It's the image of a lifetime."

"No," she said. "This is your natural environment."

I lay my head on the bar and waited for her to get bored. It was already obvious that she didn't know me; I should have realized then the only original thing she would ever do was have unprotected sex with Morgan and get pregnant - which isn't all that original, is it? She knew the only reason she and I were ever friends was that she'd had a fling with Morgan before she and I met, and it was over. I knew and know him well. He moved out for the third time almost ten years ago but I always know where he is. It's a small town. She and I were friends in that she was about fifteen years younger than me, Italian and with Mommy problems; she played at being an artist but none of it mattered. It was apparent to me she was looking for someone to solve her problems and take care of her. Then one day Siobhan broke down and told me Damiana and Morgan had done something really stupid. Later there was talk of some quicky marriage that never took place. Damiana had an abortion, then suffered complications. It ended very badly for everyone. Essentially, this tore my social circle in half. For a long time, I had to be very clear with friends that if I saw her I wouldn't be able to control my rage; we could not be in the same places. Since I never saw Morgan anyway rage wasn't much of an issue between us. She left New Brunswick, later she came back but doesn't work or live in town.

So here is this photograph. All the dark, blurred edges, the much-too-much booze, corrosive lies, the false friends and lost loves, the pain that is never far from mind, a small spotlight and a blind eye - these things, much as I wish these things drifted away with other lost memories, they do not. I walk by the pile of artifacts, catch a glimpse of the photograph, and wish it had all never happened. My breath catches again. These are my options then: throw away this picture and pretend I've forgotten or keep it and wonder if I'm glad I didn't break every bone in her face.

I'm leaning toward keeping it as a sign that I have more control over anger than I think.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Into the Light of the Dark, Black Night

I keep staring at the blank page. It stays blank. Today, I went down to Daria's relatively new house and helped her with laundry, setting up details in the baby's room and weeding out clothes that no longer fit Miss Fifi but will fit Anya's baby, Miss Sunny. These have got to be the best dressed infants I've ever seen. I'm not sure they wear outfits long enough to dribble on them.

Anyway, a number of things small and not very important have worn me down a little. I wish a few things were different but they're not. It would be dumb of me to dwell. I'm going to get a glass of wine and rehabilitate my mood with ice dancing and ski jumping. How better to combat feeling a little low than with the possibility of flight?

Saturday, February 18, 2006

It Could've Killed You But It Didn't So It's Funny

Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, licks the back of his knee. I would need spinal surgery to attempt that maneuver. The cat is bathing himself languidly next to nine new transparent violet and golden orange glass balls I will hang from hooks in the ceiling all over our apartment. I've returned miraculously uninjured from the family birthday dinner, and I've laid out all my beautiful presents large and small on my gift carpet next to my handsome and irritable pussycat. Hear me squealing with glee? I am squealing with glee!

Last night, Siobhan stopped by to assist in the highly difficult two-woman medicate-the-kitty race. Siobhan speaks the secret language of the pussycats, which is just as shocking each time she translates something new for either delegation. Last night, she followed Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, into the kitchen and as I watched had a brief discussion with the cat consisting of clicks and consonant sounds that ended with the cat sitting peacefully in her arms. I stared. The cat would claw my face to hamburger if I tried that and he loves me. Siobhan frowned and tapped her foot. Startled, I wrestled the cat's mouth open and squeezed the dropperful of icky medicine down the back of his throat. Siobhan scratched his head and put him down gently. Thus, today Larry has been both in a cheery, pain-free mood and unusually bitey.

I'm exhausted! Gleeful and exhausted! Earlier this week, John found the online portfolio of artist Elizabeth Hickok's fantastic San Francisco in Jell-O. I do the Happy Dance each time I look at it. Liz Hickok was nice enough to grant Poor Impulse Control permission to resize and post one of these jewel-like photographs, though we're strangers. The photographs reminded me of a story from the Onion, years ago: Pudding-Factory Disaster Brings Slow, Creamy Death To Town Below.
CENTRALIA, IL--Sweet, creamy death swept through this small Illinois town Monday, when nine 300,000-gallon storage vats violently burst at the local Snak-Tyme pudding factory, burying hundreds of residents in a rich, smooth tidal wave of horrifying pudding goodness.

The death toll from the lip-smacking tragedy currently stands at 350 and is expected to rise.
Tragedy is the shock-wigged mother of comedy, which we may realize with a start when we learn that in the North End of Boston, molasses flooded the streets on 15 January, 1919, killing 21 and injuring more than 100. That was the year my grandmothers were born. This evening, sixteen members of my family, including two baby girls under one and three little boys under seven, invaded a small Italian restaurant in Somerset, NJ. Other people had dinner. We had a gift-wrapped riot.

When I arrived just a little after 5 p.m., I brought with me three bags of Christmas gifts from Miss and Mr. Sasha. A waiter saw me struggling on the sidewalk and opened the doors for me. I'm sure he was sorry later he didn't lock the doors and hide behind the reservations desk. As I turned the corner into the empty dining room, Daria said, "Ta knows what time our reservation was - " Daria, Tyler, their three kids, Auntie InExcelsisDeo, Uncle Frank and Sandy are seated; after I sit down, Anya, Corinne, and Anya's two small children turn up. Mom and Tom arrive last. The restaurant fills behind us. My back is to the room but in front of me is a wall-size mirror. My nieces are the flying babies passing from person to person; my nephews have napkin capes and play superheroes. Our waitress is unbelievably patient and unimaginably competent. During the course of the evening, she makes not a single mistake. Some of us worked a decade or more in food service. We appreciate her skill for what it is: a giant step toward sainthood - just as she knows what we are: a well-groomed punishment from God.

Anya: Tyler Two asked you not to hit him. He doesn't think it's as funny as you do.
Ezekiel: (Being very three) But it's funny for me!
Mom: Why are you laughing?
Tata: Anya told Ezekiel don't hit Tyler Two because Tyler Two doesn't think it's funny and Ezekiel said, "It's funny for me!"
Tata: Did you just spit calamari past my head?

That was hilarious and not upsetting because when the waitress asked, "Would anyone like appetizers?" five voices said, "Calamari, please." Daria, taking charge, narrowed it to three and ordered chicken fingers for her boys, while Anya, a vegetarian, ordered ravioli for Ezekiel. His ravioli looked great, which I noticed just as Sandro grabbed the parmesan cheese and threw it into Auntie I.'s soda. Daria responded sternly but I laughed and Auntie I. kept looking at me with mirth in her eyes, and back to little Sandro doubtfully. Other than Mom, Tom and possibly Daria's husband Tyler, this is a group of people who've spent our lives at the kids' table.

We pick at our salads and pay little attention except to each other. Corinne's kids are with their father tonight so the usual family boy-pack is reduced in number by one. The little boys follow Tyler Two's lead and throw napkins over their heads. After a while, we are grateful the little boys let us herd them against the wall, where they only scream somewhat. Our family used to eat with pinkies up and cluck when someone exclaimed loudly at another table. After seven babies in six years, we feel lucky to make it home without permanent sauce diagrams of our family dinner square dance splashed all over everyone. Sometimes I look around the table, surf the cacophony and laugh. The six-year-old has questions.

Tyler Two: Why are you laughing?
Tata: It is very funny to be me!
Tyler Two: You should ask people why they're keeping secrets from you.
Tata: That is a brilliant idea! I'll walk up to people and ask what secrets they're keeping from me and why!
Tyler Two: They have to be like cashiers and other people you would talk to anyway.
Tata: I will do it!

Our dinner plates arrive with altogether too much food on each plate. We kind of cheated as we always do. Nobody ordered the same things. The plates touch the table. Everyone takes one bite of their pasta. And...and..GO!

Eleven people ask each other what you ordered, pass plates around and take a bite of pasta or dip a piece of bread to taste the sauces. It's like a slow-motion food fight with more "Wow, that's tasty" and "Have another shrimp." For about ten minutes, nobody sees their own plate and when they come back everyone says the same thing: "I thought you'd eat more. Have some more of mine." Nobody finishes their plates and everyone takes home at least a little of their main dish and we skip to dessert, where this shindig's been headed the whole time. Once again, our waitress ought to have a halo around her head because she gets coffee and dessert orders for fourteen straight while holding a tray of Italian confections. I watched her hold the tray over Mom's head, lay the order pad on her own forearm and note everything without dropping gelato down the back of Mom's blouse. I thought that would end in lip-smacking tragedy for sure.

During dinner, an older couple on their way out comes to the table with slightly crazed smiles.

She: What a healthy family you have!
He: It makes me miss my grandchildren!
She: I'm going straight home and I'm going to call them all!
He: I love that we can send them home. To their parents.
Mom: Thank you?

When it happens a second time, I wonder if the restaurant's lacing the grated parmesan with Ecstacy. I fully expect someone to cross the dining room for a turn at holding tiny Miss Fifi, who is wearing a red plaid onesy with a matching cap and spends the evening laughing at the flying baby in the mirror. I'm playing along and I've ordered dessert, which I do once a year so restaurants don't bring me bowls of Bolognese sauce with crooked floating candles. The room behind me takes a breath when my tiramisu arrives on fire and everyone at the table sings Happy Birthday. I blow out the candle.

Tata: Thank you, thank you all! You're like the Alpine Hillbillies.
Anya: Can't we be the Tuscan Hillbillies?
Tata: We're not actually from there. Do Tuscans yodel?

Daria's ordered three desserts she wanted to taste and pass around. She reviews them for us.

Daria: This molten chocolate cake is pretty good.
Tata: What? If it were really good you'd tell us it's terrible and stuff it in your purse.
Daria: The chocolate mousse cake has a nice light texture and the Ghirardelli cocoa doesn't hurt.
Auntie I.: If it were really good, she'd shout, "Look! Tom Cruise is testing couch springs at the pet store!" and when we turned back, she and the cake would be nothin' but crumbs.

When the waitress asks if I want more flavored coffee I tell her no, thank you. I'm too exhausted. That's enough terrifying birthday goodness for me.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Friday Cat Blogging: Love Cats Edition

Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, slept all evening at my feet last night - at least, where my feet were when I napped. When I got up and did things around the house, he slept on undisturbed. He is, after all, the pussycat, a genius of peace and quiet. He seldom nibbles me unless I am exercising and temporarily failing to present him with delicious shrimp. I will reform! He's only trying to help!

You have seen a picture much like this one before because I'm not much of a photographer and the cat is an impatient model.

Cat: Are we playing Peek-A-Boo again?
Tata: I'm trying to take your picture. Focus yourself, wouldja?
Cat: You're not very good at this game. Despite the thing over your face, you still smell like prey in a light CK1 marinade.
[Click! FLASH!]
Tata: Remind me to Febreze myself later.
[Click! FLASH!]
Cat: ...She's got the opposable thumb...she's got the opposable thumb...

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

We're Never Gonna Survive Unless We Get A Little Crazy

Thank you, Mr. Wolcott:
Rich guys pretending to be Jeremiah Johnson is one of the many fascimile editions of rawhide authenticity being successfully peddled in the media with no one willing to stop and say that inflicting unnecessary pain and suffering on animals should be a source of sin and shame, and that the decent thing to do would be to break Cheney's shotgun in two before anyone or anything else is harmed by his buffoonery.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The More I Travel Across the Gravel

I called at 7:13 a.m.

Tata: I'd like a cab at [none of your beeswax] to go to the library.
Dispatcher: Okay.
Tata: How long -

She hung up without telling me how long it would be. Blood pounds in my ears. I put on my coat and stare out the window, ready. Time passes.

Tata: This is [my address]. It's been twenty minutes.
Dispatcher: He hasn't cleared in Highland Park.
Tata: What?
Dispatcher: Ten minutes.

If I ever see this miserable human in line at the liquor store I'll bash her over the head with cheap chianti. I am already late for work. I stare out the window. Time passes.

Tata: This is [my address]. It's been an hour. Is that cab coming or not?
Dispatcher: Number 3, where are you?
Number 3: Benner and -
Dispatcher: He's five blocks away.

Ten minutes later, the cab finally comes. I squeeze into the front. How I slam the door with all that steam coming out of my ears I'll never know. By the time Number 3, who is truly making the best of frozen roads and inexplicable gridlock, drops me off at the library I am starting to calm down.

I eat weird food. Awhile ago, I stumbled on this vegan PBS cooking show that never mentioned the word "vegan." The principles and this particular cook's reliance on Chinese medicinal techniques interest me. I haven't got the faintest idea why she advocates dark leafy green like they're the Second Coming and only steams or sautes them. I plunk them on top of a frozen fish filet, other vegetables and some herbs, a little salt and pepper. When I get up, I throw them in the oven, exercise for half an hour with small weights, then let the packet cool a bit while I shower. Since I started eating this for breakfast, I've stopped looking for snacks mid-morning. This represents improvement over eating as if eating were my job.

Last Thursday, Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, became agitated as I sat down to breakfast.

Cat: Dude!
Tata: Dude?
Cat: Dude!
Tata: What is is, Lassie? Has Timmy fallen down a well and he's in insulin shock and Farmer Jones is crop dusting the south forty with no idea?
Cat: What?
Tata: Come sit with me and explain your problem.
Cat: If you insist. Pardon me while I lick this fish.

Most folks would shove the cat on the floor. I have too much food and enjoy watching an antic play out.

Cat: So as I was explaining while I lick this fish some more, you should buy me more catnip. Mine, while amusing, is stale. Hope you don't mind that I'm talking with my mouth full. In fact, why don't I take this bite of fish and get my own plate?
Tata: Certainly, my delight. Care for another morsel, perhaps all the ones you licked?
Cat: You're so thoughtful!

When I stopped howling with laughter, he was licking his lips and not at all thinking that I am made of meat.

It was warm out this afternoon, most of which I spent hunkered down in my cubicle and avoiding my co-workers. It is no secret that when I'm in a mood the office goes silent. The terror is palpable. I took a cab home. Because I've got my priorities straight, I watched General Hospital and couldn't figure out what's going on. Not on TV, either. Then I went outside, looked both ways for old ladies, and floored it in reverse until my car broke through the slush and snow and onto street. I parked my car where some decent human being shoveled out yesterday. Then I spent the evening avoiding my windows and small calibre weapons fire.

Tomorrow is my birthday. Tonight I Naired my mustache. Just in case. It's a miracle innocent bystanders let me live this long.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Anything You Want, Hundred Dollar Bills

Yesterday, I dug my car out of its parking space with a windshield scraper, which is to say I keep looking out the window at my car behind a plow-reinforced wall of snow I'm going to try backing through, after which I'm going to screw over one of my virtuous neighbors by parking in a spot someone owning a shovel carved out via back-breaking labor and hours of effort. It's a plan. I'm scheming, scheming, scheming - while my neighbors are still at work.

Blast! A squadron of old ladies is shovelling out a few Buicks. I cannot connive properly with spectators. I started my car for a minor thermal advantage and dumped clay cat litter under my tires. Then I kicked down the wall o' snow with my workboots and - as Siobhan calls it - "almost superhuman core strength." The snow had nowhere to go but into the street. One of the little old ladies wedged out her Buick, then drove by me in the cul-de-sac slowly, like a shark surveying a netted tuna. My car's been running about half an hour. In another ten, I'll go outside and rock the car some more. Perhaps later, I can run her over a little.

Snow and ice defeat me! I can move the car about a foot but no further. My thermal advantage proved only somewhat advantageous. I call Siobhan to commiserate. This weekend, we took turns failing to enjoy one another's company.

Siobhan: [Insert logical argument here.]
Tata: I can't talk to you now! [Click.]

Tata: I'm sorry I was dreadful yesterday. Please read me the recipe for crispy roasted duck.
Siobhan: I wasn't nice, either. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees...
[Ten minutes later]
Siobhan: Sometimes you are such a bitch!
Tata: I hope your red hair goes green!
Siobhan: Talk to you tomorrow.
Tata: Okay. [Click]

I call her cell but wherever she is, she's not there. I leave a message asking the immortal question, "How does one dig out a car without a shovel and nothing to use as a small snow plow?" While I'm outside, Siobhan calls back.

Siobhan: Hopefully, you're outside using something as a small snowplow. I myself like using a teenage boy.

Sometimes, Siobhan can be such a bitch! She knows I don't have one!

What's the use of having a son-in-law if he's a thousand miles away and noticeably not digging out my car? That is so selfish of him, to have joined the Air Force and moved Miss Sasha somewhere they can both work on their tans! I plan to spend my evening working up a fine lather of righteous indignation. And growling. Chances are good I will take a cab to work tomorrow morning. It is Mr. Sasha's fault!

Saturday, February 11, 2006

She's My Bitch

I am sitting in a small room at the hairdresser's. Rosanna has lightened most of my hair twice and has applied red dye to the roots. Frankly, I look like a tropical fish with an excited orange mohawk. You'd think this would be an obstacle on the path to beauty but you'd be mistaken. This is the exit ramp to Comedy Town, and my foot's mashing the pedal.

This week, essays on Shakespeare's Sister have delighted and depressed me. The appointment at the hair salon was made a month ago but I considered calling in sick, since the plan was to put in a full day in Rosanna's chair and emerge from the chemical cocoon as my own light at the end of my mid-winter tunnel. I wasn't sure this morning I had the gumption to put myself through a full day of anything, but I stood myself up straight and decided, to paraphrase the philosopher, if I am not for my new hair colors who will be?

My father's mother was a hairdresser and a successful businesswoman. In my bedroom now stand the appointment desk and chair from Edith's last salon, where Daria and I played dolls under the desk and read books or on many, many Saturdays. Permanent solution reeks, and yet it is one of the comforting smells of my childhood. To me, its meaning rather than desperation or oppression is carefree experimentation. Within certain limits, a person can recreate her- or himself, and why not? Edith told me all kinds of people came in with the latest photos of Liz or Sofia and said, "Make me look like this!" Edith never said, "I'll just wave my magic wand..." but she thought it. One of the best things about growing up in the salon, under the desk, was watching the beauticians experiment with color, texture and length on themselves and each other. Edith, who was always the North Star for me even when I sailed off in other directions, did not disapprove of plastic surgery. She was cognizant of some of life's harshest realities, and though she was both proper and funny, she was the toughest person I've ever known.

Beauty has meaning. Beauty is a light over one's head, mostly unearned and it's usually trouble. Beauty ought to come with instructions and disclaimers: beauty does not come two-for-one with happiness or beauty may be accompanied by the obsessive expectations of strangers. Beauty does not offer the free ride that may appear as an enviable blur to the stunned observer. My mother was a very beautiful girl and remains a wholly uncommon-looking blonde woman, resembling no one so much as the aforementioned Liz. It was a nightmare for me to grow into my own face and figure with Mom standing around, incidentally spectacular. In retrospect, I see it was no picnic for her, either.

Mom's beauty made my teen life hellish for several reasons. Let's make a list.
1. I have dark hair, hazel eyes and paler skin than my siblings by the same parents.
2. My body hair issues became a real problem when I was in gymnastics and Mom saw my maturation as reflecting her own aging. I had to shave my legs in secret. Picture that scenario: "What are you doing in the shower?" " soap..."
3. Mom and I walk down a street. Frat boys whistle. Not at me. I can't tell if I should be pissed or if I should be pissed. So I guess I'm pissed.
4. Wherever we go, men turn to putty. Mom doesn't notice.
5. Starting when I am 14, Mom mentions my weight constantly. We have nothing essentially, so she buys me a leotard I desperately want and tells me I can have it when I get below a weight I can't meet, not even after I learn from a fellow ballet dancer how to make myself yak. Even after I stop eating, I never get to that weight. When she gives me the leotard later, it is because she's given up.
6. I could go on, and on, and on.


Now I am at home, and my hair is three colors, and I love it. Five hours after I arrived, I left the salon in a snowstorm and picked up some delights at the grocery store. Food is not love or a reward; it is part of living a fulfilling life. I had a yen for a BLT. I made myself a BLT and I am going to enjoy it passionately and without excuses.

I could tell you a long, boohoo! story about how after my mother left off torturing me, accidentally and less so, society picked up the slack. In the seventies, muscular Italian girls looked like nobody on TV or in magazines. Oh, so sad! Poor me! Fuck that, the eighties meant everybody found a special, individual way to look awful in blue eyeshadow and spring-loaded shoulderpads. I was sorry when Brooke Shields tweezed her eyebrows but hey - they were her eyebrows, right? A girl should tweeze a little if she wants to, and she really wanted to.

Ugly and disenfranchised was going around. And around. Which brings us to the comments on Shakespeare's Sister, which saddened me. Women are a mess! Fabulous, brilliant women are going down in flames; charming, enlightened menfolk seem powerless to influence the situation in any meaningful way: "Honey, you look meow meow scrumptious!" goes unheard or enjoyed.
Disclaimer: I am smart. I am stupid. I am no raving beauty but I have sometimes benefitted from being attractive. I am brave. I am afraid. I change with the wind. I have sometimes been unbelievably stupid about love and my lovers. I am rebuilding my life after paralyzing depression and stage fright. I cannot reach the ideal weight for my height on the insurance charts no matter what I do, and never will. I have no credentials but my lifelong struggle and a wild idea. A commenter on ShakeSis has pissed me off beyond what I can tolerate without response. Brace yourself. We're not taking another ounce of that shit!

Women! If I could, I'd grab you by the shoulders and shake loose that lifetime of programming, failure, despair and self-destructive dieting, you'd need some Dramamine and a lengthy lie-down. Forget your doubts. Forget what you think about yourself for a minute. Rosanna said something this afternoon that made me think hard and long about you.

Rosanna: You have to train yourself to see what's healthy for you.

Women! The ShakeSis commenter advocating shunning, punishment, behavior absolutes stated outright that we should discourage drinking, smoking, drug use, and behaviors leading to obesity. Fuck that. That kind of ill-mannered buttinsky behavior doesn't go over big with Americans - ask those pesky bureaucrats who failed to foist off safety regulations on mining operations! Because I have a long public history of sampling at life's buffet table, I won't condemn others when they do it without hurting anyone else. I'd love for people to live healthy and exercise and enjoy prop comedy in public places but if you think I'm giving up martinis to stand around looking virtuous, forget it. And even though I quit smoking, I love the smell of cigarettes and won't apologize for wanting my favorite dive bar to stay filthy and smoke-filled.

Being a Good Girl has gotten you nowhere. It's time to be the Bad Girl you always hoped you could if Mom and Dad weren't looking, your kids might not notice and the PTA wouldn't ban you from bake sales. You've been good and you can't win. Stop playing the beauty game in competition with other women. Your only competitor is that voice inside that says you're not beautiful, you're not good enough. Fuck that inner voice. Fuck that! Let's go shopping for fishnets and fake fur. Let's smash the mental projector and burn the film.

Remember the scene in John Waters' Cry-Baby where the chubby Rikki Lake says, "Let's give her a bad girl makeover...our bazooms are our weapons"? I love that scene. Let's make it our model, shall we? Throw away your pastel jackets! Throw away your uncomfortable clothes and your Disney princess ambitions. You're a tshirt and jeans girl? Wear 'em and walk away sassy. You're a Betty Page vixen? Mrrrrrrrow! Your secret mojo wants fresh fruit and palm trees? Lutefisk and turtlenecks? Rooftop gardens and urban skylines?

What are you waiting for? Approval?

On ShakeSis, I said stop it, just stop it. Waiting for approval guarantees a lifetime steeped in misery, resentment and degradation. Stop waiting for the magazines to change; don't read them! Stop waiting to see your type on TV. Stop waiting for that douchebag boyfriend to quit admiring Lara Flynn Boyle while you rub his back; dump him! Stop waiting politely for politicians to finally get it; vote them out! Register. Vote. Accept no substitutes for representatives who understand women's political issues. Fat is political. Health insurance is political. Reproductive rights are political. Who has control of your supersexy self is political. There is no escaping it: you must stand up for yourself or you must accept that you are owned by someone besides yourself, and you must never, never accept that. Stop waiting for conditions to be right for you to fit in. Be the character you are and offer no apologies.

And while we're here, what part are you playing in your own subjugation drama?

Tata: That's a fantastic outfit you're wearing.
Antonia: What's wrong with it?!
Tata: It's fantastic! You look great in it!
Antonia: What's the matter with you?

When people offer you compliments, stop oppressing yourself long enough to say, "thank you." Then consider what it means. You've succeeded at something. Register it, and if you like what it means, do it again. Then, you know what you have to do? Pass it on! When you see a woman doing something you like or admire, tell her! There are two kinds of divas: the ones who tear others down to lift themselves up and our beloved Auntie Mames, who make everyone within earshot more and better for their presence. Walk it, talk it, mean it.

You don't have to be a size 2, a 4, a 6 or a 16. You have to walk with a straight spine and a purpose, even if at first you have to put it on. You take no crap. If someone belittles you, say, "That might really hurt...if I cared what you thought," or "Gee, I'm sorry you're having a Bad Self-Esteem Day. I'm not." Think it through before it happens and spit out that snappy line like it just came to you. Bullies are never expecting you to be unhurt, and they're frustrated when they fail. It's good to thwart them with a smile and a bounce.

I can own a room, if I want it. It didn't come naturally; I taught it to myself. I watched the behavior of the most confident people I knew and imitated them until it came naturally. If I can do it, you can too. Sometimes what you need and want is something life has not trained you to achieve. You have to teach it to yourself.

Stand up, you wicked, wonderful thing. Stand up, you spicy genius. Strut your fabulous stuff. Don't wait another minute for society to catch up. You've got to train yourself that you're just fine, and what you don't like - change it. You want to lose some weight? Lose it because you want to, and for no other reason. You will find joy in change you orchestrate for yourself and your joy will be contagious.

I ate a second BLT. It was delicious and exactly what my mouth wanted, as Edith used to say. Tomorrow, I'm going to roast a duck. For myself. And why not? I'm not waiting. Next week, I turn 43. Like you, I am hot as lava.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

See For Miles And Miles

Mary opines:
A quick glance at the calender took her breath way. It couldn't be. Had it been that long? She looked around and slowly the feeling became a somewhat grim certainty. Though the location of her desk, her duties, and many of the faces had changed the harsh reality was that tomorrow it will have been 20 years ago that she started this job. Although there were many accomplishments along the way and her pay had risen dramatically from her meager first check (in point of fact, that was just a testament not to how much she currently made but rather to how truly low her pay once was) she was struck with a profound sense of melancholy. If tomorrow made twenty years that she was employed here and her 40th birthday was coming up in September the reality was that she had spent half of her life in a job she was ordered to get after being caught smoking pot in Johnson park. She stared blankly out the window at the tops of the bare trees, then wrote a note to herself to remind her daughter not to smoke pot in public places...

Ah, the folly of youth! If only we knew then what we know now: some of our high school friends would join the Army to see the world, and some because they knew where to find better drugs. Some would go on to universities and seek refuge in the academe, if you could call what they found there "refuge." Some of our friends married young and remarried only slightly older. Some of us took our Budding Bad Girl act on the road and came back credentialed. Mary's philosophical observation made me laugh so hard I almost peed.

Miss Sasha, if you're reading the blog today please remember it is your mother's duty to pass along her - which is to say my - worldly wisdom, no matter how hilarious its acquisition: Don't smoke pot in public places...

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Gotta Get Up, Gotta Get Out

Yesterday, Siobhan decided I could have a good day at work, with the added benefit of possibly appearing to have fun. It all seems iffy and oh so tricky.

Tata: Most people would give their right arm for a job like mine. I have to try calming down and accomplishing more - starting tomorrow! But think of the wardrobe demands...
Siobhan: Remember, we're supposed to be dressing for the job we want, not the job we have. You shouldn't wear a trapeze artist's outfit to an office, though, so I don't know what they're talking about.

Inspired by our dear ae, we Poor Impulsives are assembling an index of action and charitable organizations. AE's list is impressive, and it may take us awhile to look at each one and learn how to link them up. As we know, I am small and covered with fur. Siobhan does all the heavy lifting while I lick my paws. Thus: teamwork.

In the meantime, if you have favorite agencies or groups working for the common good please forward your suggestions through comments or email. Meow meow thanks for your help, meow meow meow.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

That's the Way Love Is, That's How It Goes

Suobhan: Someone must hear of my foolishness. I nominate you.
Tata: Spill it!
Siobhan: That new guy I'm seeing? I have to call him later and I'm rehearsing what I'm going to say.
Tata: I do that constantly. It prevents me from acting on my desire to speak with my tiny fists.
Siobhan: No, I mean I'm rehearsing what I'm going to say!
Tata: Oh. My. God. You're used to saying the right thing the first time around!
Siobhan: I'm so embarrassed!
Tata: Don't be silly. I was taking a nap this afternoon and my doorbell rang. Okay, not so much rang as startled me out of a light sleep with the terrifying buzz Sharkey says sounds like ringing my doorbell is always the wrong answer. Anyway, so I open the door and a man I've never seen before hands me $4.48.
Siobhan: Why?
Tata: I don't know!
Siobhan: You don't know?
Tata: He had a clipboard and needed my signature. The apartment complex was handing out security deposit interest checks without the year-end tax information. I'm truly inspired but I don't know why they didn't just mail it to me.
Siobhan: Hey! Email about cheese!
Tata: Send it along, little lady, I've got $4.48 burning a hole in my pocket.
LOVE BOX: Why go out to dinner when you can stay home next Tuesday and explore in
seclusion for only $49.99! Surprise your sweetie with a basket filled with two French Crottin, nuggets of goat cheese aged in our caves; a heart-shaped Camembert, bloomy ripe from the Hudson Valley; a rich, triple creamy Delice de Bourgogne; a vial of dark buckwheat honey; and a threesome of mini chocolate bars from Barcelona.

And in case you need some sweet nothings to whisper in your honey's ear, a Valentine poem from our very own Casanova of cheese, Rob Kaufelt:

There's a Casanova of cheese! I can die happy!
"on valentine's day
the cheeses say,
'i'm such fine cheese,
so eat me, please!'"

He's not much of a poet but I can't fault his enthusiasm.
Get your special night rolling with a little extra excitement. Pop the cork and enjoy our Champagne Board for Two, including triple crème Delice de Bourgogne, luscious in your mouth or anywhere else you want it; nutty and sweet (just like your beloved) Piave; and smooth as silk Fontina Val d'Aosta. $40 each, ready to serve on a bamboo cutting board.

Finish the evening with a freshly made tart. Made in individual servings, our Chocolate Tart $6.99ea, is deep, dark and naughty with Spanish artisan chocolate. For a lighter finale, we make a White Chocolate Raspberry Tart $7.99ea, with Vermont crème fraîche white chocolate, fresh raspberries and a dark cocoa crust.

To reserve a Champagne board or Valentine's tart, call 212-243-3289 ext. 26 and place your order by Saturday, February 11th with Made by Murray's Manager Sarah Zaborowski. All Made by Murray's orders can be picked up at our Bleecker Street location beginning noon Monday, February 13th through 8pm Tuesday, February 14th. We're sorry, but these items are not currently available to ship.
WISCONSIN SAMPLER: Don't forget that we're celebrating the fine cheese Wisconsin has to offer with a special, limited edition selection.

Nothing says 'romance' and 'disappointment' like Wisconsin. What?

Meanwhile, Paulie Gonzalez is using his powers for Good.
You know about my pocket change "thing". I have been inspired to do something about it!
Garden of delights
Keep a pocketful of dimes and quarters with you at all times, and constantly leave them in knee-level weird places where only a child would ever look. Inside the hollow shafts of toilet-paper holders. Balanced along the ridges of decorative molding. Inside pencil sharpeners at the local elementary school. In the coin slots of gumball-dispensers (give 'em a half-turn.) Imagine the eventual entertainment that will result.

I just need to figure out how to transport the change from my hand, to where I will leave it to be found by children.

On behalf of children everywhere, I'm going to take a breadcrumbs tumbler, wrap a different piece of construction paper around the outside of it every week and stand in Paulie's driveway like those pop warner players at traffic lights. Maybe one time, I drop the change at the animal shelter and the next, St. Jude Children's Hospital. I'll get him receipts. I'd never be so selfish as to save $49.99 and eat Fontina Val d'Aosta. That'd be...wrong...

Monday, February 06, 2006

Since You've Got the Pistol You Get the Pesos

Paulie Gonzalez bought a house in the 'burbs.
I want to go back to the city. Fuck this country living.

I have monsters in my fucking house. After I moved in I started hearing them in the walls. Walking, scratching, bumping around. I pretended not to hear them. I saw squirrels in the yard and assumed it was them just napping in the walls. Squirrels are cute. I was willing to share the heat with them while they work on their nut fortune.

Then last week I walked in the door and Pops was yelling about the lights being out in the hall bathroom. I went to the circuit breaker, nothing, unscrewed the socket, poked it with a screwdriver, still didn't fix it. Told Pops we need an electrician. I went back to my work, which I am about a month behind in. If I work hard enough, all this bullshit can be solved with money. This is not a problem to get emotional about. I was wrong.

The monsters got louder and much bigger as time went on. I could hear their footsteps in the attic. Big footsteps. You can't hear squirrel steps, they're crafty. These were monsters, I was sure of that. Again, I decided that I was too busy to deal with this shit, and completely unprepared. I realized that I am living in the country and hopelessly unarmed. This needs to change. Pops is anti-gun, otherwise I would have shot the shit out of the fuckers right through the wall. Sheetrock is cheap and easy. I had business to work on. My back expenses are closing in on 5-figures, I have millions of dollars in deals depending on me. I decided to drink more, and be home less, this was very effective at mitigating the problem.

Friday, the enormous TV in the living room went dead. Pops really went ape shit at this time. I told him it must be related to our electrical problems. Bad wiring. On previous occasions, we discussed the monsters a bit, but he didn't listen. He did not hear them, thanks to the ear-shattering TV. Pops did not put the electrical problem together with the monster problem. In fact, he seemed to be in more denial than myself regarding the monsters.

Yesterday evening, the fuckers were really loud. I ran out of alcohol, and the liquor stores were closed. I took inventory of the weapons in the house; Screwdrivers, Mag-light, several lengths of steel pipe, can of gasoline, and various household chemicals. None of these seemed to make a good weapon against the matter at hand. I had some pot, but decided that pot and monsters in the wall would only make the problem worse. Alcohol was the only proper remedy for the situation. I opened a bottle of very expensive 12 year old scotch. Anyone knows from watching horror movies, there are no sacred cows when you need to deal with monsters. Have a collection of silver bullets hand-made by Teddy Roosevelt? Passed down from your grandfather? Werewolf shows up, what do you do?

I was almost asleep when things went from distractedly drunk to bad. It was 1AM, and I had someone shouting and knocking on my door. Pops had heard them. After three fucking weeks he finally noticed the sound of busy monsters right above his head. "Are you sure it's an animal?" No Dad, maybe a homeless child broke into the attic and is busy walking around slowly, making a nest, and executing his plan to scare us from the house. At which point he will have the house all to himself. Sure dad, maybe it's Macaulay Culkin. It's 1AM, we have no guns, what do you want to do? "I want to call the police."

At this point, even I started to panic a bit as I was sure there wasn't enough alcohol in the house for this. My panic was justified. He didn't call the police, but he did say he planned to call animal control first thing in the morning. "Dad, we own the house, Animal Control doesn't give a fuck about our monster problem unless it escapes to the streets." To this, he accepted that I was not helping, he was on his own. He closed my door, and went away. I soon discovered his method for dealing with the problem was about as sane as mine. He took up arms in the form of a broom. For the next 1.5 hours he patrolled the house, every 5 seconds pounding on the ceiling. Occasionally, he would shout -"GET OUT OF HERE!" I wondered if the monsters might be illegal immigrants. Could they be sitting up there wondering, 'Que?'

I was happy in the city. Drug dealers would steal my parking spot, I would kick their asses, peace would follow. Now I move 2 miles away, and I'm in a horror movie. Me, in the master bedroom, drinking as hard as I can to drown out the insanity, my 72 year old father pounding the the ceiling and screaming, a family of small Mexican monsters in the attic cowering in fear.

After a couple hours at work today I got the call that the exterminator found evidence of a raccoon family living in my attic. They went in through the attic vent. They went in there to eat the squirrels that had broke in through the eaves. Supposedly, the 'coons did not eat the wiring, squirrels eat the wiring, 'coons eat squirrels. After my father explained this he told me it will cost $900 to seal up the attic. So by tonight, the attic will be sealed. I expect I'll need to patrol the perimeter. The 'coons were happy there, they want in. I need guns. This can only get worse.

I can't breathe! Another rodent-based incident! Poor Paulie! There's not enough scotch in Scotland!

Say It In Broken English

To say that Mondays suck is to understate the case so completely one's point may be missed with a microscope. Mondays are the merde-scented essence of suckitude. Mondays are the whirling black holes of cosmic sucktasm. I can hardly stand the sight of my co-workers, who are actually very nice people forced to share a florescent-tinged basement office recycled-air hell with - you know - Me.

John: You write me so...bland.
Tata: You only talk bland. You become more exotic every time you shut up.
John: That's insulting!
Tata: Only if you intended to keep talking.

He knows that after a third pot of coffee I will help rearrange his office and make each shelf count because he needs help and has no one else to ask, which when you think about it could turn tragic but somehow doesn't. I point to my Sigmund Freud Action Figure above my desk, next to the Magic 8 Ball, a penny Morgan cut into curliques over ten years ago and a small statue of the Andorian ambassador.

Tata: Note my Action Figure. Those who demand I see a psychiatrist should know I do.
John: There he is.
Tata: It's almost like I care what people think.
John: No, no, you don't.
Tata: C'mon, straight man. You can do better than that.

At the very end of my last week, a charming representative of the systems department converted my comfy old browser and mailer into two stiff, new electronic contraptions. This morning, I called Systems, where Mary was already laughing.

Tata: I can't find my bookmarks. This is way pathetic. Wait! There they are!
Mary: Hahahahahahahahahahaha!
Tata: I'm having Little Old Lady problems. This morning, I discovered the up/down toggle switch on the seat of my car.
Mary: Hohohohohohohohohohoho!
Tata: I've had my car for - what? - three months now and today I discovered this switch. Do you know I've been driving around in a car I can't see over the dashboard of?
Mary: I'm sure you've done splendidly! Hehehehehehehehehehe!
Tata: Not at all! I've been driving by the Braille method. Everytime I shipwreck my car and get out I risk a beating by outraged fellow humans in the 360 degree blindspot outside.

The only reason I saw the toggle switch was because I dropped the bag of garbage I was planning to walk over to a dumpster. That added a certain piquancy to my sucktastic Monday morning I could've lived without - and don't get me started on the early morning athletic triumph of being a five-foot woman holding open a dumpster lid while flinging in a bag of trash like a personal chicken-bone-and-discus-throw competition.

It's not all bad news, I suppose. At least from now on if I hit you it's because I aimed.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Friday Cat Blogging: Late To Supper Edition

The car next to mine honks. It's been so long since I made friends in parking lots that I don't notice until the third time and finally I turn around. It's Mom, which I can tell from a distance because Mom's little truck-like whatsis is a special electric blue that seems to have short-circuited the factory since nothing else on the road is that same exciting hue.

Mom: So many people beep at you you don't look around anymore?
Tata: Yes, Mom, strangers honking are just friends I haven't met. As we know, in close proximity to libraries, you are rendered invisible to my eye.

I work in the university library where Mom worked when I was a kid. One day more than ten years ago, I learned not to stare at my feet as I walk when I was leaving the building and found my path blocked by a pair of feet. I tried to go around but the feet stepped into my path again. I looked up and found myself about to curse out Mom.

Mom: I've been chasing you for minutes. Didn't you see or hear me?
Tata: Since you've cut me off, at some point it may come in handy to know you can outrun me.

Right: so no racing Mom for the last life preserver. No wonder I spent my teen years grounded. We're now exchanging oxygen for carbon dioxide outside the public library.

Mom: Did you pick up the yogurt maker?
Tata: Not yet. The food bank's drop off bin is right inside the door.
Mom: I'm returning a book. Look at my knitting!

She's sitting in the truck-whatsis, explaining why she chose eyelash yarn and I'm asking through the open window about a casting-on gesture her mother taught me. We look like middle-aged drug dealers in in bright colors and sensible shoes conducting an unwise transaction in the municipal complex. I persuade her to lock up the eye-catching vehicle and go inside with me, where I slip a bag of canned goods into the bin. I remember I'm also on my way to her house to drop off a gift from Miss Sasha just as Mom gets a call. We both walk outside and I skip for the gift to my car and back. As if by magic, I can't see her again.

I have been gone for about a whole minute and in that time, I've lost her. I ask a woman standing by the door if she's seen the lady I was just talking to. She says the most interesing thing.

Woman: She went outside with you.
Tata: That's what I thought but now I've lost her.

I go outside and look around again. I go back inside and look in a reading room, around the reference desk, past the circulation desk, and there's no place to go but into the stacks. There she is, picking out a book. I hand her the box.

Tata: Turns out you're actually invisible near libraries. The woman by the door thinks you're still outside.
Mom: That's just silly. Have you read Janet Evanovich's books?
Tata: Yes, and while they sometimes make me laugh, the constant eating of disgusting, sugary foods makes me sick. I haven't read the last two because I fear diabetic coma.
Mom: The books on tape are even better. This comedienne reads them and does all the voices. You should here her do Lula and the stalker sounds like, "Stephanie!"
Tata: I'd rather read it myself than get in my car and drive to...nowhere...and drive home after a denoument.
Mom: This author writes about the backwoods Pennsylvania Dolly Parton of detectives.
Tata: My stars! Possum and perm solution!
Mom: These books are very, very funny.
Tata: Since you're visible again, I'm leaving now. See ya!

I drive to her house to pick up the yogurt maker and stand on the front lawn, shocked. She and Tom are rearranging stuff in their truck-things. I shouldn't be surprised since this is my mother and we go way back but I'm flabbergasted. How does the person who's always three hours late move faster than I do?

Mom calls Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, "my grandkitty." Mom's grandkitty is quite neurotic about eating in front of his human friends - or as he likes to call us prey. If I walk into the kitchen while he's nibbling kibble, he'll gaze at me over his shoulder, past his ivy topiary and around the washing machine. If I don't turn on my heel and leave, he runs past me, muttering. Though the cat spends every possible moment perched on me, he wants to eat alone - unless he wants company. There's no telling what with the fickle pussycat!

On the fridge: a red Q. I have magnetic letters, which means the cat may secretly be spelling. Perhaps he'll be more successful communicating in the mysterious language of magnetic, plastic cats. Watch your refrigerators for the feline news crawl.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Don't Deny Our Flesh And Blood

I place the back of my hand to my forehead and wilt.

Tata: In the next phase of my life, I will live for others!
Siobhan: Listen, Mother Teresa, you're much too selfish to live entirely for others. I can't picture you without someone scooting along behind you, peeling you grapes. And - neither can I picture you not annoyed by that.
Tata: Yes, yes, but I want to place myself at the service of the universe and use my immense personal charm for Good.
Siobhan: We have no answers! We should go dancing.

We settled on Costco. Everyone should have at least one friend who tells the absolute truth about everything from the most trivial detail to the most important life decision, and for me, Siobhan is that friend. Once I turned up at a party wearing baby pink lipstick.

Siobhan: Christ on a cracker, what happened to your face?!
Tata: Nothing an industrial accident couldn't fix.
Siobhan: Don't ever do that again!
Tata: We'll give the lipstick to Miss Sasha. Jeez, don't get an aneurysm!

She had a point. If I'd picked it out, I guess. People have always given me bizarre gifts. One year, my housemates gave me a vibrator. Conveniently, they waited until my car died on a street in Highland Park and when I called home, they drove over to where my car was beached and gave me a wrapped box plus ribbon. I opened it. At the top of my lungs:


We supposed I was louder than the evening news - or for blocks around, I was the evening news. Anyway, days later, I met Siobhan at a bar.

Tata: Guess where I got this red vinyl skirt!
Siobhan: Off the body of a dead hooker?

The truth is important. So when Siobhan says I'm being overly dramatic and we should buy coffee filters in bulk, she picks me up and we go.

Tata: Brian Boucher was on MSNBC.
Siobhan: In handcuffs?
Tata: He's a good boy. I was shocked that he wasn't still five.
Siobhan: Which one was he?
Tata: The one his brother and I chased around with a Nerf bat.

Okay, we might've chased a couple of little kids around, but only because they thought we were so cool and they were laughing so hard. Kids!

Siobhan: Calm down or your head's going to pop.
Tata: The administration has me irate blah blah blah blah blah blah...

Ten minutes later.

Tata: Blah blah blah blah blah -
Siobhan: Endora! Why not get on your broomstick and magic wand some justice?
Tata: What?
Siobhan: Start small. You'll get more done.

Today, I joined the ACLU. By this I mean I gave them some of my vast pittance and wrote some action letters. I started researching local children's charities but I've had contact with some of these organizations and wasn't thrilled.

It's a longterm project and I have doubts about myself but I have no intention of turning back.

Like A Bird On A Wire

One of my younger brothers via the extended family, Brian Boucher will be on MSNBC's Abrams Report today at 4 and 6 p.m.

It's a pretty strange story.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

You Can't Kill the Fire That Burns Inside

Lisa and I try not to talk about politics after unemployment, her particular form of crazy and gossip following the fall of the Towers collided.

Lisa: Everyone knows the firemen stole from those apartments. Everyone was calling the firemen "thieves in high boots." Do you see them under arrest? No! Those people who died were the lucky ones! I'll never find work again in my decimated industry!
Tata: (gasping for breath) Lisa, you will get another job if you have to flip burgers to do it. You will make a living. And those people will still be dead. I do not know where you heard these stories about the firemen but don't give them even another thought. Moreover, they don't really have anything to do with you.
Lisa: I can't pay my rent! I don't have health insurance! My doctors are puzzled!
Tata: I've got to go, um, floss the cat. Feel better! Buh-bye!

We shouldn't talk on the phone. As I recall, the receiver was in six pieces ten minutes later. Lisa described herself as a Republican, and there's nothing wrong with that, per se. Recently, she's taken a turn at being Libertarian because she got another job and now she's decided as a product of the public schools that she doesn't want to pay for anyone else's education.

As friends go, Lisa is a warm, generous person who has driven and would drive miles out of her way to help me. As long as we don't discuss how unbelievably selfish she can be and entitled she acts, we're good. Live and let live. My affection for her may be puzzling but the world is wide, the spectrum of possible opinions is broader than we know, and as Gandhi taught us: non-violence is the way to create change, even when we want to punch our friends and enemies in their noses.

Yesterday was a bad day to sit on the left side of the aisle. Mom called twice before lunchtime.

Mom: How do we stop this thing?
Tata: Can't stop it. Alito's going to be confirmed.
Mom: But he's awful!
Tata: Yes, he's awful.
Mom: What can I do?
Tata: Start saving now for any extended "rest cures" to Switzerland we might send your granddaughters on.
Mom: Is that supposed to be funny?
Tata: Only in a crying-on-the-outside kind of way.

Yesterday, I thanked the universe for the tumors that led to my hysterectomy. I do not fear unplanned pregnancy for myself anymore, and while I was thrilled at the time to be free of pain, pain and more pain, I am now thrilled that I will never be Samuel Alito's bitch and George Bush's disposable incubator. In fact, though other post-babies grownups' results may vary, I recommend tubal ligation as a fine way to short-circuit discussion of what chemicals and whose controls, because Target could change store policy, and what, in your small town in the middle of nowhere, are you going to do?

It is no sacrifice to say I will not have more babies. I don't want them. In the unlikely event I develop that baby fever so prevalent in our society, I can sign up at a hospital in town to hold AIDS babies for an hour here and there. I don't have a problem. Even so, I am very, very concerned for the future of my daughter, my cousins and my nieces; I am concerned for every girl in this country who is about to have her first period because sex education in this country is scandalously, perilously bad. It's bad enough that grown women can't find health care and birth control options that make sense for them but that young girls will have to fight their modern, industrialized society to find basic information about their own bodies is so mind boggling I can hardly find words to express my anger. The overturning of Roe v. Wade and Griswold v. Connecticut isn't chess pieces moving across a board; it is life, death and terrible, grievous injury to girls, women and unwanted babies who find themselves at the losing end of cold, political games.

In the narrow light of morning, the feelings of helplessness and fear dissipate. If last night I felt I had no options and my United States was now an empire in freefall, today, I see the fight begins anew, as if from the beginning. Digby quotes Robert Kennedy:
Like it or not, we live in times of danger and uncertainty. But they are also more open to the creative energy of men than any other time in history. All of us will ultimately be judged and as the years pass we will surely judge ourselves, on the effort we have contributed to building a new world society and the extent to which our ideals and goals have shaped that effort.

Yesterday, Alito was confirmed and our president gave a campaign speech, as required by the Constitution. This morning, it would be easy to give up. It would be easy to turn my back on society as a whole; to say only: I will protect girlchildren, gay children, children of color from this government with every fiber of my being.

Why, at this moment, does this feel like it is not enough?