Sunday, April 30, 2006

We Don't Need This Fascist Groove Thing

At this point, I'm writing my senators at least once a week and sometimes more. That Americans pay more attention to Survivor than the dismantling of our government's system of checks and balances is shocking to me. That our trade imbalance may be even worse than we think, that our debt is growing at a mind-boggling rate, and that our news media is staggeringly slow to get the point that gas prices at the pump are the very tip of the oil industry's exploitation iceberg enrage me. I find it hard some days to compose sentences without fuck, fuckhead, and fucking pigfucker, which won't get me very far in political discourse except in the Vice President's office, where I get the feeling the most ruthless women in the world go to work after they discover eating their young requires only dipping sauce and razor-sharp fanaticism.

Today's reason to write letters comes, believe it or not, from Pat Buchanan, and you can look that up on your own. He's still a soulless bastard, even if this time he's finally right about something. Anyway, a few days ago, Buchanan said it was time for Congress to show some backbone and remind the administration Congress declares war, not the president. I have to tell you, when I read that Pat Buchanan was thinking roughly the same thing I was last week, I almost swallowed my tongue. Of course, then I wondered what he thought about white and black polka dot curtains for my bedroom but he was curiously silent on that.

At Middle Earth Journal, Jazz puts it all together in one neat package I'm shamelessly stealing. We're using our powers for Good here. That requires us to put aside our personal feelings. In this case, I'll send him a nice goat cheese or something and we can all get on with saving the world, because that is what we are doing, and sending someone cheese is a small price to pay. Here's Jazz's letter:
Dear (insert name of Senator or Representative here),

As an elected official, you have a duty not only to the people who elected you, but to the Constitution of our country which provides the framework for our government. As is stated in Article 1, Section 8 of that document, Congress - not the executive branch - shall have the authority " To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on land and Water."

While we remain embroiled in an increasingly dismal quagmire in Iraq, with our military forces stretched thin to near the breaking point, it appears that President Bush is edging closer and closer to ordering military strikes against the nation of Iran because of their alleged nuclear ambitions. It further seems apparent that he feels that he can order such strikes - effectively declaring war on Iran - without the previous consent of Congress or the United Nations, and without the support of any of our international allies. (What few we have left at this point.)

Whether or not you believe that military strikes against Iran are needed or justified, I must appeal to you to step up and perform your duties as mandated by the Constitution. The President has the power to wage war, not to declare war. That heavy burden falls squarely on your shoulders and is one which you accepted by taking the oath of the office you now hold. After the fact will be too late for any Congressional hand-wringing and moaning to do any good. Now is the time for Congress to stand up and formally declare that this President does NOT have the authority to launch military strikes against Iran or any other nation or to start any war without first coming before Congress and having them consider the matter and cast a vote to be recorded for public perusal. Simply stating that I shall not vote for any Senator or Congressman who stands idly by and lets the Executive branch once again usurp the power to declare war is not enough. The next election cycle shall likely be too late to have any effect. Rather, I call on you to take a stand NOW and do the duty you swore to undertake when we elected you.

As to how you should vote, I would urge you in the strongest tone possible to consider the points made by so many authorities on mid-East matters. An attack on Iran - a significantly larger and more militarily capable nation than Iraq - would, without a doubt, result in retaliatory strikes at our troops, interests and allies across the globe, probably including both direct military assaults on our forces and resources as well as terrorist attacks at home and abroad. Iran also has the ability to deliver a savage blow economically which will be felt around the world and especially strongly here at home. Russia and China are also notably sympathetic towards the interests of Iran and it is possible that they might become involved in ways that we not only didn't anticipate, but could not prevail against. Another unilateral, "go it alone" attack by this President on yet another mid-East nation will further alienate us from our former allies and damage our position in the international community, possibly beyond repair. Most experts concede that it would be at least a few years, if not decades, before Iran could produce a working nuclear weapon, assuming that is even their intention. And to claim that such a possibility is some sort of Casus Belli while we allow other nations in that region, including Israel, to sport nuclear weapons smacks of hypocrisy and calls our motives and rationale into question for all to see.

I am requesting that you act NOW, while sanity and reason might still prevail, to draft and pass a resolution on both houses of Congress, declaring that the President does NOT have the authority to launch an attack on Iran without the prior consideration and consent of the Congress in the form of a declaration of war on that country. And God help us all should you and your colleagues decide to do so.


Totally worth the cheese, yes? I'm going to email my senators and a few extras. It never hurts to remind Senator Lieberman he works if not for us then for people like us, and certainly not for President FratBoy.

Listen, you can't save the world or even innocent civilians you'll never meet without licking a few stamps or kicking a few butts out of Congress. Sure, it's time-consuming and annoying but the effort be totally worth it if thousands more young Americans don't march off and die for - die for what? Affordable oil? What, do you think China and India are going to wake up tomorrow and say, "That's okay, you take it all, we'll just sit here in the dark with the grandmothers you sold down the Mississippi, you selfish whores"? No, and bombing Iran isn't going to make America any safer or more secure. In fact, there isn't a single desirable outcome possible in a war-with-Iran scenario - for us. For the American people. Not one.

Don't be fooled. Don't be seduced. Send those letters. Demand that our common sense and cool heads prevail. That may be the only way we get to keep them.

Cross-posted at Blanton's & Ashton's.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Miss Your Company

Sad news from Dad's wife Darla, no stranger to the Blogosphere:
Samara, aka Sam, aka Squidge died yesterday afternoon in the kitty ICU of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Virginia Tech. It was relatively sudden. We took her to the vet last Wednesday for a checkup because she'd been lethargic. They diagnosed anemia and sent her home with antibiotics and steroids. She improved for a couple of days, then got worse again on the weekend. When we took her back in on Monday morning, the vet sent us to the nearest veterinary teaching hospital. They diagnosed dilated cardiomyopathy: apparently her heart was functioning at about a quarter of its normal power. They did what they could, but she died about two hours after we reached the hospital. We buried her in the garden this afternoon.

As you can imagine, I'm a wreck. But it's a comfort to know that she was nearly 13, that she'd had a very comfortable life since she was rescued from the street at the age of six months, and that she didn't suffer. I keep blaming myself for not noticing it earlier, but I suppose if a licensed vet didn't spot it in an examination five days before she died, there wasn't any way for me to guess it was there. It had probably been progessing slowly for months.

Nearly five years ago, Squidge came within a whisker of dying, and was saved at the same veterinary hospital. So, I'm trying to think of the last five years as a bonus; we could have lost her so much earlier.

She was adorable, and an utter pain in the butt, and I loved her madly.

As you might expect, I wrote back to assure Darla that giving one's cats mental MRIs was not something humans should undertake, and omniscience also means you have to keep planets in orbit, which is exhausting. One would think. Still, it's very hard to lose one's cat friends, and blaming oneself is very tempting. Let's look at this moment another way.

Recently, my friends Linny's and Mark's last little old cat passed away. They buried their friend, and a suitable period of time elapsed. One day, Mark said, "Linny, we're out of cats." Linny went to the animal shelter in her town and picked out three black kittens, brothers. They've always been together so they're fine, and they're lovely company but, Linny says, they are dumb as socks.

Linny carries pictures in her wallet of the cats staring at each other like they've just met.

Friday Cat Blogging: Light That Is Reflected

Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, is especially handsome as he lounges, otter-like, on the green-green living room rug in warm afternoon sunlight.

Sometimes, I am an especially slow learner. A woman who works in my building is a local character an observant person may notice walking at a vigorous pace in New Brunswick or Highland Park. We share a birthday, so it was inevitable that I would notice everything she does and wonder when I'd start doing it. In this case: when would I take to speed walking in six-inch heels?

Well, that's not going to happen but about five weeks ago, I threw a bit of a tantrum about working in the library basement's fluorescent glow while actual sunlight was just outside. I pushed back my chair and went for a walk on the small, narrow streets in front of the library. There was sunlight, and trees were budding, and pollen dust fell on every surface. I felt giddy, and decided this going-for-walks thing had potential.

For the past three weeks, if it wasn't pouring outside or a Tuesday, I spent my morning break and most lunchtimes walking around the same grid between the library, the hospital and the park. A few things happened right away:
1. I stopped shoveling food into my mouth;
2. Sunlight made me feel healthier;
3. I've had fewer sleepless nights.
I'm pretty sure I haven't lost any weight because I feel as if I am still expanding. I don't know. I'm working up the nerve to weigh myself.

People outside in sunlight talk to each other. A woman in scrubs walking casually down the middle of the street with a cigarette in one hand says, "Isn't it beautiful?" I say, "It's beautiful." A man is walking along the side of his house with gardening tools. I say, "The pink trees are spectacular." He says, "The mild winter made them flower more than usual." A woman in business attire and heels closes her eyes to let sunlight fall evenly on her face. "It's gorgeous out," I say. "Gorgeous," she says. Outside the senior center, I smile and wave; a block down, the letter carrier smiles and says, "Hello!" The college students who live in these houses, some of which are a few hundred years old, have this spring vitality I love seeing. Everyone is very nice, which is odd in a city where student and resident populations live in conflict. I'm sure each of these nice people would run me over in a heartbeat if I stole their parking space, but still.

Over the winter, my arthritis moved into my hips, which had not given me trouble before. At work, I can't sit for an hour anymore without pronounced stiffness that is not as much fun as it sounds. Going for walks doesn't solve this problem, but it helps. I get to think by myself and without commercial interruption. I meet the local stray cats, who seem well-fed and not at all fearful. Honestly, I can't say enough about this going-for-walks thing.

I feel like I know a secret and I can't keep those. So I'm telling you.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Fight the Urge To Breathe

I'm very close to my upstairs neighbor, and by close I mean near. He seems like a nice man. Almost every time I've seen him he was wearing pants. Each morning, he flushes the toilet twice before 6:30 and twice more while I shower. I'd tell him to lay off the bran muffins but leaping away from boiling water is good for the girlish figure.

Last night, Daria called while I was washing dishes, and yes, I wash dishes with my hands at great risk to my personal manicure several times a day.

Daria: Hear this?

I hear FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFT! I'd know that sound anywhere. Daria's husband went to Orlando on a business trip, leaving her with three children under seven and a can of ReddiWhip for company. My sister's hitting the ice cream hard.

Tata: Yup. What's doing? You never call me at night.
Daria: I got a story for you and no, I didn't run myself over again.
Tata: I love a story with a happy ending!
Daria: So I was talking to Angela and I said, "Did I tell you I almost ran myself over?" She said, "No, but I got a story for you."
Tata: I can't wait!

Angela is Daria's best friend. Angela is level-headed and detached; as things spiral around her while she smiles and cracks wise. Angela almost never breaks a sweat. I love Angela stories with my whole black heart.

Daria: Angela was out running errands with the kids and she stopped home just to pee. So she left the kids in the car and ran inside. She said she'd just unzipped her pants and started peeing when she heard screaming. She said, "You know that kind of screaming that makes you stop mid-pee and run outside?"
Tata: No, she didn't!
Daria: Right, so she runs outside and her car is rolling down the driveway toward the street and Tina jumped out of the car and stopped it!

Angela is married to a giant man whose family is still in Holland. He is simply not drawn on the same scale as other humans of my acquaintance. Their children are also growing at an exciting pace.

Tata: GET OUT! The seven-year-old was big enough to stop a rolling SUV? Thank God for the giant Dutch children!
Daria: Angela said, "Needless to say, I have since shown her the location of the brake."
Tata: I can't breathe!
Daria: Hear this?


Tata: This is like that time you called to tell me what a delicious sandwich I wasn't having, am I right?


Daria: Ben & Jerry's has a new flavor. I'm celebrating.
Tata: Good thing your husband comes home tomorrow or we'd have to engineer an intervention.
Daria: Can I just tell you my tiny, delicate little daughter trashes my kitchen every single day? Every day, she pulls all the pots and pans out of three of my cabinets. Every day, I put them all back. She only looks delicate. You know that big wooden island in my kitchen? Her new trick is to pull herself up to standing so she can gnaw on the wooden drawer pulls.
Tata: Fifi's teething on the furniture? That is awesome!


Daria: Stop calling her that!
Tata: What, Fifi?


Tata: Okay, so I went to the orthodontist today and because of the Route 18 construction I have to be a genius to get there now. I picked Route 27, sailed across the Albany Street Bridge and up Raritan Avenue with straight green lights. I couldn't believe it! There wasn't even anyone else around me until Third Avenue. I got the orthodontist to put purple rubber bands on my teeth this month. They look great!
Daria: ...Purple...
Tata: Very exciting for me! While I was in that shopping center, I went over to the Pathmark but by that time, the only thing I'd eaten since breakfast at 7 was 6 ounces of yogurt and I was getting progressively more stupid with every passing moment.
Daria: Half an hour before, you were a genius!
Tata: Yes, but then I spent ten minutes in front of the Cool Whip case, staring at the many magical forms of frozen topping.
Daria: They don't jump into your cart all on their own, I find.
Tata: Finally, I looked at the ceiling, and said to the security cameras, "I can't justify this even by my own tortured logic." Because I was sure they were placing bets in the store security Death Star.
Daria: Yeah, that's when I leave the store with $150 worth of red Jell-O.
Tata: So I knew if I didn't leave soon and eat something I might wander the aisles aimlessly. And this is dangerous. That's a 24-hour Pathmark.
Daria: If you turn up missing, that's the first place we'll put posters.
Tata: After fifteen minutes in the baking aisle, I picked out mixes to bake for the bridal shower Saturday and I was so dumb by then I didn't even read the recipes on the back. Good thing I have eggs.
Daria: My husband is so the designated driver on Saturday. After a week in Orlando? If he comes back tan, I'm switching from wine to margaritas. Ooh! Make Mom be your designated driver.
Tata: You know what? There it is: the very last thing I need. That's outstanding. The last thing I need is to get tanked in front of Mom and make her drive me home. No words express the embarrassment of that "you're my besssshhhhht friend" episode.


Daria: If you say so.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

My Life Would Depend On the Morning Sun

Two things of note in my job-related Inbox this morning.

1. Via Rob Brezsny's Free Will Astrology Newsletter:
"In the Babemba tribe of South Africa, when a person acts irresponsibly or unjustly, he is placed in the center of the village, alone and unfettered. All work ceases, and everyone in the village gathers in a large circle around the accused. Then each person in the tribe speaks to the accused, one at a time, recalling the good things the person has done in his life. Every experience that can be recalled with detail and accuracy is recounted. All his positive attributes, good deeds, strengths, and kindnesses are recited carefully. This ceremony often lasts for several days. At the end, a joyous celebration takes place, and the person is symbolically and literally welcomed back into the tribe."
-Jack Kornfield, The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness, and Peace

At last, we've found some real diplomats, the kind we might want to be when we grow up. And speaking of way-grown:

2. At last, the note from Julienne I've waited for with baited breath:
Hello! Last week, [baby] graced us with his presence, weighing 9 pounds, 9 ounces! He had a rough week starting with an emergency Cesarian birth due to a placental abruption, and spent several days in the Neonatal Intensive Care unit. The night before we were discharged from the hospital, [my partner] and I had our first "up all night" as new parents!

We came home a few days ago and now everyone is much happier for it. He is a happy, sweet boy and we are excited. OK, I am going back to bed.

Just over two years ago, Julienne appeared as if by magic, in time to be introduced in Poor Impulse Control's second tentative entry written by me. Paulie Gonzalez, disguised as me, wrote that first entry. Neither of us has a mustache so, you know, you can't tell us apart online.

Anyway, Julienne found me through a series of highly improbable occurrences and one breathtaking case of mistaken identity. At the time, she was a strong single woman who thought she was done with men who weren't Jimmy Choo. Today, she sent baby pictures. For Julienne, it is the kind of good fortune she did not imagine possible. Such, we are reminded, is life.

In honor of our new human friend, how about simple steps for all of us toward a greener world?

Hot Ashes For Trees

I am Queen of Beverages. I have them all. Sitting next to me at my desk, I have a can of V8, which I love with my whole black heart. Recently, I was walking through Costco looking for a bale of cat litter and in the next aisle I saw a flat of V8 juice, and I thought, 'Of all dumb things, why am I denying myself the delicious vegetable juice? It's not - like - tequila and a five gallon tub of Heath Bar Crunch.' So I bought it. My can of juice is about half empty. It's next to a Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey travel cup I've drunk coffee out of at the office since Miss Sasha was even teenier than she is at full adult size. The travel mug was not a hit in my last office, where my co-workers felt it was inadequately adult, but that's nothing next to the 1-pint Wesson oil measuring cup full of cooling Earl Grey tea. I used to sit at staff meetings and slurp just to annoy the Grown Ups. I hate slurping. It is no surprise that my popularity suffered a slight dip along the lines of those suffered by persons on their way to Medieval public executions.

About the bale of cat litter: the giant bag boasts, "Lasts as long as 58 pounds!" This provides us a new measure of time: The Litter Scale. If 5 lbs. of cat litter lasts 1 week before it must be disposed of with great vehemence, 58 lbs. would represent the passage of 11.6 weeks tolerably stinky weeks. I don't think this will replace my Giovanni Paolo II calendar but if Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, would cross his legs and hold it once in a while, I could buy bales of cat litter on a more or less quarterly basis. Some sacrifices are worth it.

A friend forwards the URLs of interesting news stories, usually with a one-word reference. This one was called Paper.
The topic can be delicate: what to wipe our hands, noses and, yup, rear ends with when the need arises. With Earth Day celebrated this Saturday, environmental groups are asking Americans to switch to recycled paper towels, napkins, tissue paper and toilet paper as a way to save virgin forests and the wildlife they shelter - even if it means a slightly rough touch on the backside.

Ain't that a kick in the pants! Wait - he doesn't mean recycling toilet paper, does he? After it turns out he does not, I stop chanting my new mantra, "Ew...ew...ew..." and read on. Author Miguel Llanos holds his (presumably biodegradable) cards close to his vest through the first third of the article, then gets down to - pardon me - business.
Seventh Generation, one of the largest recycled producers, estimates that:
* One million trees would be saved if every U.S. household replaced just one 250-count package of virgin fiber napkins with 100 percent recycled ones.
* 544,000 trees would be saved by replacing a 70-sheet roll of virgin fiber paper towels.
* 424,000 trees would be spared by replacing a 500-sheet roll of virgin fiber toilet paper.
* 170,000 trees would be saved by replacing one 175-count box of virgin fiber facial tissue.

Hundreds of thousands of trees? I don't need to hear another word - and yet, the article goes on.
Paper industry giants like Kimberly-Clark, which makes Kleenex, dismiss the campaign on several grounds.

Most of its products are made with sawdust and wood chips left over by the timber industry, Kimberly-Clark says, and consumers have already decided that you can't beat virgin fiber for softness.

"The options are out there for consumers," says Kimberly-Clark spokesman Dave Dickson, referring to the fact that recycled products are on store shelves but have only won a 2 percent share of the market. "They have voiced their preferences through their purchases."

Even though most hotels and offices use paper with 40 percent to 60 percent recycled content, Kimberly-Clark believes that consumers would rebel at even adding a small percentage of recycled fiber to home products, Dickson says.

Come to think of it, I don't remember seeing recycled products in the paper aisles. At least, I don't remember recognizing specifically recycled products. I don't use tissues because everything I own has sleeves - kidding! Paper towels work better for me and efficiently exfoliate the tender nostrils at the same time. Yes, I'm a brute. I use regular kitchen towels, sponges and mops most of the time but for what I use paper towels, I could switch to recycled. In fact, bring it on! Llanos enlisted his family in comparison tests:
Toilet paper: Here too, my wife and daughter were quick to pick the non-recycled brand out of the five tested. Gabriela had one word for her favorite: "Beautiful." In equally dramatic fashion, Alexis worried about getting paper cuts from the recycled brands. I agreed the non-recycled brand was softer in one's hand, but insisted it made no difference on the receiving end of the transaction. We did agree on one thing: Every recycled brand, all of which were double ply, beat the single-ply paper we've been using in our guest bathroom.

Eek! They must not like their guests much. I hope they didn't skimp on the soap.

Next time I'm in the store, I'll forage for recycled paper towels and see about the toilet paper. On that point, I'm a little less certain. I mean, really. Paper cuts on my sweet patootie are a sacrifice too far.

Monday, April 24, 2006

A Masterpiece Who's Glimpsed the Artist

Our Santa Fe News Desk reports on the status of our newest cat friend:
Bubbahotep has a lot of games, all of them annoying, but his worst is running into the bedroom every time the door opens, sticking his fists into Leon the Pigeon's cage, and trying to eat him, despite Leon's being twice his size. We've spoken to him time and again, but he persists. He's hopeless. This prompted a name change to Bubbahopeless.

That's...a big pigeon. And speaking of pigeons:
Yesterday [the wife] and I bought a hydrid. She drives two hours a day, in a minivan, and in view of gas prices, it was an easy decision economically and environmentally. Roman, the salesman, told me they were hiring and that I should apply. The way I carried myself, he said. How easily I struck up a rapport. My reflex was to shrug it off, but now that I've had time to think about it, I'm not so sure. Before I worked the two animal hospital reception desks, I thought I would never be able to work with the public. I thought I'd be too shy. You're probably the only person who wouldn't laugh at that, although I forgive you if you do. But I was surprised to find out in those jobs that I wasn't shy, not any more. I could sell cars. I could ask people how I could help them, and call them "folks." The shop would teach me about cars and what the steps are of selling. All it would call for on my part would be a firm handshake and not smelling bad, which I have covered. I know, it's ridiculous. I would never in a million years have thought of myself as a car salesman. How could I look at myself in the mirror without laughing? Imagine all the cuts I'd get shaving. But really, at probably double what I'm making now, even in my first year, and with their busy season just starting, what the fuck? I've got nothing to lose. If I don't like it, reception jobs are always there. And I'll have taken a chance, made a leap, that I know I'll be sorry later if I don't. I'll have acted like a man, and you of all people know how satisfying that is. So I filled out the application Roman gave me. I have an appointment to stop by tomorrow and introduce myself to the manager, who is of course named Don. Only bosses are named Don. When in real life have you ever known anyone named Don?

As an Italian woman in New Jersey, I was assigned an Uncle Don. Later, it turned out his name was Dante but I didn't know that until well after a tractor trailer ran him over very well in his Italian sports car on the far-from-Italian-made Routes 1 & 130 Interchange. Ah, the circle of life. In this case, it was replaced by a series of picturesque bridges and exit ramps.

And speaking of well-traveled cats, Katrina-survivor Tom and his human Jazz entered a contest at the Tribeca Film Festival site and need our help. Rate the effective little film five stars; handsome Tom's got fame written all over him.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Eight Hundred Million Heartbeats

I'm sitting at the store, where Anya and Corinne, their children and Anya's husband just now bundled up and drove off to a party at their aunt's house. Whew! The Pizzicato Five play on the store's CD player. My coffee is so hot I keep burning my lip, putting the cup down, then taking a piping hot sip again. Lab mice catch on quicker. It's finally calm enough in here for commerce and blogging.

Last night, I read tarot cards for Scout. We drank wine and talked about everything, which is still exciting in my vast old age. This morning, I awoke with a start, as if I'd been dreaming in IMAX and the show was over. Before 10 a.m., my phone rang twice. The first time, Scout was asking if she'd left her wallet at my house. Moments before, I'd climbed out of the shower and hadn't managed to wrap a towel around my startling girth before padding across my living room to tear my couch apart. Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul was perturbed to be shooed from his cushiony perch but not as perturbed as I was when Scout explained she'd vacuumed her car yesterday, and when she left she found on the driver's side floor the same flowers the trees around my apartment are dropping. Someone may have been in her car and stolen her wallet.

Half an hour later, Daria called.

Daria: This is funny today but yesterday it wasn't funny at all.
Tata: Lay it on me, hot mama.
Daria: Yesterday, I got home with two sleeping children in the truck. I got out of the truck to go inside. I get into the garage and I can't open the garage door. The garbage can is right up against the garage door so I go outside. When I got out of the truck I forgot to put it in park and it rolled into the garbage can and blocked the door.
Tata: You're kidding! That's...hilarious?
Daria: So I back the truck up and go to pick up the garbage can. I forgot to put it in park again and it rolled up on me so fast I barely had a chance to get out from between the truck and the garage door. The truck touched the back of my leg and I bolted. What is wrong with me?
Tata: I can see where that might not have been funny yesterday. But hey, you almost ran yourself over. That story can only improve with time.
Daria: "My little children, Gramma's life was saved by a garbage can."
Tata: I gotta go open the store. Call me later.

Ten minutes later, I park across the street from the store, where even from a distance something looks funny to me. The lights aren't on. The closed sign is hanging in the front window. The mailman walks up the street and pulls the front door open. I grab my laptop out of the car and walk across the street ready for a fight with whomever I find inside the store, but it's my brother-in-law, who was up half the night painting. So instead of whacking him with rusty garden tools I know are just inside the door, I hand him a V8.

Recently, I wrote Russ Feingold an email.
Dear Senator Feingold,
Regarding censure of President Bush: rock on.
That is all,
Princess Tata

...Only, you know, I signed my real name. This morning, the Internal Editor recast it as a Howard Cosell interview of the late sixties:

Cosell: Princess, are you sure that Senator Feingold has the rock in him and does in fact rock?
Tata: Well, Howard, I have to say that Senator Feingold is completely hot, and does in fact rock.
Cosell: Interesting choice of words, Princess, but as you know, many times the young senators rock all night long but cease rocking as time and ambition thwart the rocking out.
Tata: If I may say so, Howard, Senator Feingold shows great promise as a person who may not just rock but may rock on, perhaps even roll.
Cosell: Rock of Ages?
Tata: Still rolling!
Cosell: There you have it. Tough words from a smart broad.
Tata: Oh Howard! I'm blushing.
Cosell: Back to you, Jim...

After I don't bash someone over the head and call the cops, I survey the store and discover the floor's covered with the once-lovely petals of the white, flowering trees that line Highland Park's main street. In fact, it looks like super-busy Glenda the Good Witch ran out of bubble soap and switched to organics, creating some kind of magical indoor composting program. I vacuum over, under, around and behind things listening to Randy Newman on the mental jukebox sing the theme from Monk. When I'm done, I've seen all kinds of lovely new merchandise that would enhance the shinyshininess of my tiny apartment, which is a relief when you think about what can happen in, around and under cars.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Friday Cat Blogging: Blinded By Science Edition

The domestic pussycat must be observed from a discreet position lest he start and head for the food dish. Note that the pussycat has located the highly prized afternoon sunbeam on the carpet. More than any other napping and/or stretching location, the sunlit carpet pleases the temperamental older male.

The observer must be on her toes. The pussycat has spotted her and is considering his options. Will he run for the crunchy solace of the dry food bowl? Will he come closer and insist on a good belly scratch? Most terrifying of all, will he insist the observer sit cross-legged so the puss can snooze in her lap? One shudders to think!

Fortunately for the observer, the alpha male has other plans.

Move On Up

I have a cup of coffee, and thank your favorite deity it's spoon-melting strong. At work, I find a message on my voicemail. Because it's probably work-related I wait two days to listen to it. Upon hearing the caller's voice, I immediately commence heckling.

Ivan: I'm driving around -
Tata: ...drinking Stolichnaya from a sippy cup...
Ivan: - and, yes, I'm driving and talking on the phone -
Tata: ...can't truncate no attention span...
Ivan: I saw a bumper sticker that reminded me of you -
Tata: "Life's a bitch. Then you marry one." Ah, redneck humor!
Ivan: It said, "I play the accordian. And I vote."
Tata: [Rendered speechless.]
Ivan: Love ya, baby! 'Bye bye!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Sometimes It Rages Even When It's Calm

First thing this morning, I'm walking past my TV and I see something I don't understand and I am surprised because video on the news is not usually weirder than the movies playing in my head. Then I go to work and forget about it. Mid-morning, I get up from my desk, go to the ladies' room, do lady things and return in less than two minutes. That should have been my first clue. When I return, there's a small gift wrapped in tissue paper a blue usually found in tropical fish. I said what I said last time.


Perhaps you think I'm exaggerating when I say I point at my co-workers and bark. Perhaps you think no one over the age of twelve peels off their socks in a group, slip-covers their fists and talks in falsetto. Perhaps in any other office, I'd be inches from unemploment, but believe it or not, my office is just as interesting as I am "special." Let's leave that in quotes. I grab the sealed package and run to the middle of the room.

Lupe: I thought you needed those.
Tata: You went to IKEA? Did you feel like you were gone for a week and inexplicably smell of lingonberries later?
Lupe: Yeah...and I went in for a couch.
Tata: Look! There's a court jester and a dragon and a king and a really bald queen so maybe it's a king and a king, and there's a prince and a pretty, pretty pink princess and an unarmed knight and a magician and a - what the hell?
Helen: It's an owl. You're an idiot!
Tata: I am an idiot! It is obviously an owl! And this guy wants the throne for himself! A usurper puppet!

It's a good thing I have ten fingers and four friends. For the next few hours, a puppet or two conduct work-related conversations with my co-workers. Then I remember the thing I saw on the news and didn't understand. Googling doesn't seem to help. My friend at NPR comes up with this. I try explaining to DBK.

Tata: I'm telling you, firemen were running from a burning building, waving very hairy goats that looked mostly perturbed. It's the kind of thing that usually happens INSIDE my head, not in West New York, NJ.
DBK: Oh! Oh! Firemen were running from a burning building in West New York, NJ, waving hairy goats. Now I get it. Seriously, not only did I not see this amazing video footage, but it was only sounding a little crazy before and now it sounds truly insane. Not that I don't believe you. I believe that you saw video of firemen running from a burning building in West New York, NJ waving hairy goats. I now wish that I had seen it too so that we could compare notes instead of having this increasingly inane email exchange. Why were the goats hairy? When is Weehauken?
Tata: Some goats have that short hair. These were angora goats. Hippie goats. Hair flying in every direction. And yet you could clearly see indignant looks on the faces of those goats!
DBK: This missive gives rise to so many questions. Why were goats in the building? Were they on the lease? Did they start the fire? The image of goats smoking in bed comes to mind.

While I was still pondering goat-wielding firemen, I got an email that reminded me that I'm not the only one watching the charming moving pictures.
Just a quick email to let you know about our exciting new contest!

Do you yodel? Maybe it's just in the shower or when you're talking to your cat, but if you have the rare talent, we need you. We are looking for a yodel to possibly use in a future McPhee product. The best yodel will win 100 slightly stiff Rubber Chickens, a $200 online Gift Certificate and the chance to be used in a future product! Click below for details and remember, NO COUNTRY YODELING!

I immediately emailed Johnny, who howls every night with his many mutts. The artistic relation between howling and yodeling eludes a civilian like myself, and while we were in high school, Johnny brandished a notorious rubber chicken named Claude. Who knows, he might feel nostalgic. Or maybe not.
I'll watch anything with Val Kilmer in it, and The Salton Sea looked like my kind of cinema. It even said modern noir on the box. A double personality/speed freak/jazz trumpeter/narcotics informant/recently bereaved husband tries to figure out who/which he is and what happened, with the help of large-caliber firearms. I just couldn't get past the first twenty minutes. Val Kilmer is no Laurence Olivier, but as a fellow Santa Fean and as a human being, I feel for a guy who has to read lines like they gave him in that movie. Oh my God.

One of my postings for gigs got a bite. I may be playing a festival gig in Albuquerque with an Australian blues/rock guy. Most important, I have the shoes. It'll be good to be out there again. I'm just glad I don't play jazz trumpet. I'm not sure if I'd have to yodel.

Is it crazy that I still love Val?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

We`ll Be Forced To Use Our Wings

A series of events caught my surprised attention because I didn't expect to, you know, remember a series of events. There were other minor things here and there. Here is a list compiled by a person both small, and covered with fur.

The amusingly misnamed Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005.

Katrina survivors are left high and dry.

The Senate upped our debt ceiling.

Rising gas prices.

The capper:

Oprah put the Oprah People on "America's Debt Diet."

The first four items suggest Andrew Carnegie's spirit has repented in the afterlife of his repentance on earth. Woo hoo! Congress has turned our democracy into a strictly feudal society and we can report to our new corporate owners for ID chips and stylish burlap sacks. I don't know much about economics but none of this can be good for ordinary, tax-paying American people.

The fifth suggests that Oprah has observed the same events and added a healthy dose of consternation over families and individuals bankrupting themselves to give the appearance of prosperity. When Oprah announced that Americans were drowning in debt and she was laying down rules and a challenge, I took notice. It meant there was blood in the water. The credit card companies' secret was out, and what's left of the middle class had one more chance to save itself.

In my office, there is a woman who's worked for the university for 43 years, and by rights she should be able to retire. She can't. Some years ago, Helen took in her granddaughter and paid for the upbringing of the girl while Helen's daughter re-married and had more children. Helen took out loans for her granddaughter's college education and was left with them when the girl dropped out. In fact, Helen buys groceries for the families of all three of her grown children and is paying for a substantial portion of her granddaughter's wedding. The more I hear about $400 veils and tiaras, the angrier I get about the happy couple that goes on vacations and saves not a penny. Helen is in poor health in her seventies. If something happens to Helen, her whole family will go down the crapper. This kind of dependency takes decades to foster, and though Helen's exploitation angers me, it's the life she's chosen. And it's not my life to fix.

But there are wrongs I can right, if I pay attention. About six weeks ago, I was going to write a post about how switching to the New Jersey Clean Energy program seemed to cost next to nothing when careful examination of my energy bill cast some doubt about who was supplying what to whom. I called PSE&G. They said I wasn't signed up. So I did. New Jersey Clean Energy is very friendly. Today I received an invitation to an Earth Day picnic in Egg Harbor on the 23rd. I...haven't got a thing to wear. Driving four hours by my lonesome to and from an energy conservation party seems a trifle outre.

So, for empirical evidence of what NJCE does to a gas and electric bill, Poor Impulsives will have to wait until I actually get one. The management apologizes for any inconvenience.

This afternoon, I received a bill from Kohl's, where I have a credit card for the sole purpose of improving my credit rating. The APR was 21%, so I called them up to see if they could do better. Last month, I forgot what day it was and magically incurred a late fee on an already paid bill but that's my fault and not the issue.

Tata: I have no need of a credit card with a rate of 21%.
Customer Service Rep: Everyone's got the same rate on the East Coast. That's what they're getting.
Tata: That's like saying you're only a little bit on fire, so why complain?
CSR: That's the standard but it doesn't matter because that's an annual rate and you pay off your card every time you use it.
Tata: It's the principle of the thing. Can you reduce the rate or no?
CSR: We can't but it doesn't matter to you.
Tata: It does matter how a person lets herself br used. I'll pay that late fee, and in a couple of days I'll call back and close the account.
CSR: Why would you do that?
Tata: Because we can do business on my terms or Kohl's makes no money from me whatever.
CSR: That's...different.
Tata: I sincerely hope this call has been recorded for quality assurance. You've been very helpful, thank you.

I sincerely hope you will do the same - not just because it feels good to get out of debt and feels great to not need your creditors. You don't need them! Pay 'em off and kiss 'em goodbye. At this point, the thing Oprah doesn't say but Congress clearly has is this: the only way to survive the current economic shakedown is to completely gut your current life, pare down your expenses and pay off your creditors. I'm doing it too. Not because Oprah said so but because when Oprah's talking about money, maybe it wouldn't hurt me to listen.

Chocolate And Cheese

The blogger known as DBK of Blanton's and Ashton's has informed the editorial board that he and Mrs. DBK will adjourn next month to France. Sensing an opportunity for my own personal gain, I demanded a postcard, to go with the one he brought me from Barcelona. I was about to issue less reasonable demands when he asked me if I'd be the junior varsity admin in his absence.

I KNOW! My first thought was, 'For the safe return of the prestigious blog you will give MILLION dollars!' It wasn't my first taste of corruption but it sure was caramel-coated. Negotiations ensued. My partner in this blog-crime will be Tami, the One True. We consulted.

Tata: Jealousy will cause us to spackle your blog with internet cheese. But you knew that.
DBK: Jealousy is such an ugly emotion, except on you, it looks good. No seriously, not a lot of people can pull of that look, but you have something special. As for cheese, cheese is such an ugly emotion, but so tasty. Almost as good as salty, salty ham. Ummmmmm. Salty ham. In a few weeks I will forego the pleasure of cheese in favor of fromage. Et un baguette. Et vin. Mucho vin.
T,tOT: Cheese blogging it is.
Tata: Sure. Use logic. I should've seen THAT coming.
T,tOT: BAM! You never see logic coming! It's like lightning, but without the teeth!
Tata: You're inviting guest posters? OOOOOH! GIVE THEM WRESTLING NAMES! The Masked Poster! The Killer Blockquote! Sgt. Slaughterhousefive!
DBK: I like that. Or I could give them wrestling names with a twist of lemon: Randy Savage Skewering! Chief Jay Strongbowlemia! Haystacks Calhooyoucallingfat?!
Tata: Hey, co-defendants! May I use this on the blog?
DBK: Blog is such an ugly emotion. But yes, yes you can. I am flattered. I love being flattered. And I love ham. Salty, salty ham.
T,tOT: And unto you, I say, in my flawless French, "Faites le bruit du cochon".
Tata: "Brown the bacon"?
T,tOT: "Make the pig noise."
DBK: Oink!
Tata: Whenever possible, yes.

To quote Top Secret: "LATRINE!"

Monday, April 17, 2006

I'm All Out of Faith

What do you think?

Update: Kevin, Trout's younger brother and my Parsons of Paris-educated high school dance partner, offers:

Kind of feel like I did about Estes' work. It has a certain "Isn't that amazing?" factor, but is it art? People do pay a lot of money for it.

What I really worry about is the point at which "seeing is believing" won't work, and we wind up with faked images and videos of all types of situations that could have been concocted on someone's computer. Then everything will become "take it on faith", and who knows where we will wind up. Kind of where we are now with arguments on the "authenticity" of the gospels according to Judas, as if we ever had any guarantee of the "authenticity" of the other gospels, the Koran, the old testament, the Kama Sutra. Well, at least that one is empirically verifiable...

I love him to pieces.

Baby, Are You Still Talking 'Bout Yourself?

This face! What a face!

I'd do what he says, man.

Money For Nothing And Your Chicks For Free

A friend sent along this email, which asks to be passed around.
GAS WAR - an idea that WILL work

This was originally sent by a retired Coca Cola executive it came from one of his engineer buddies who retired from Halliburton. It's worth your consideration.

Join the resistance! I hear we are going to hit close to $4.00 a gallon by next summer and it might go higher! Want gasoline prices to come down? We need to take some intelligent, united action.

Phillip Hollsworth offered this good idea. This makes MUCH MORE SENSE than the "don't buy gas on a certain day" campaign that was going around last April or May!

The oil companies just laughed at that because they knew we wouldn't continue to "hurt" ourselves by refusing to buy gas. It was more of an inconvenience to us than it was a problem for them. BUT, whoever thought of this idea, has come up with a plan that can really work.

Please read on and join with us!

By now you're probably thinking gasoline priced at about $1.50 is super cheap. Me too! It is currently $2.79 for regular unleaded in my town. Now that the oil companies and the OPEC nations have conditioned us to think that the cost of a gallon of gas is CHEAP at $1.50 - $1.75, we need to take aggressive action to teach them that BUYERS control the marketplace..not sellers. With the price of gasoline going up more each day, we consumers need to take action. The only way we are going to see the price of gas come down is if we hit someone in the pocketbook by not purchasing their gas! And, we can do that WITHOUT hurting ourselves.


Since we all rely on our cars, we can't just stop buying gas. But we CAN have an impact on gas prices if we all act together to force a price war.

Here's the idea: For the rest of this year, DON'T purchase ANY gasoline from the two biggest companies (which now are one), EXXON and MOBIL. If they are not selling any gas, they will be inclined to reduce their prices. If they reduce their prices, the other companies will have to follow suit. But to have an impact, we need to reach literally millions of Exxon and Mobil gas buyers. It's really simple to do! Now, don't wimp out on me at this point...keep reading and I'll explain how simple it is to reach millions of people!!

I am sending this note to 30 people. If each of us send it to at least ten more (30 x 10 = 300) ... and those 300 send it to at least ten more (300 x 10 = 3,000)...and so on, by the time the message reaches the sixth group of people, we will have reached over THREE MILLION consumers.

If those three million get excited and pass this on to ten friends each, then 30 million people will have been contacted! If it goes one level further, you guessed it..... THREE HUNDRED MILLION PEOPLE!!!

Again, all you have to do is send this to 10 people.

That's all! (If you don't understand how we can reach 300 million and all you have to do is send this to 10 people....

Well, let's face it, you just aren't a mathematician.

But I am so trust me on this one.) :-)

How long would all that take? If each of us sends this e-mail out to ten more people within one day of receipt, all 300 MILLION people could conceivably be contacted within the next 8 days! I'll bet you didn't think you and I had that much potential, did you! Acting together we can make a difference.

If this makes sense to you, please pass this message on. I suggest that we not buy from EXXON/MOBIL UNTIL THEY LOWER THEIR PRICES TO THE $1.30 RANGE AND KEEP THEM DOWN. THIS CAN REALLY WORK.

I have my doubts but it's nice to see bad math and hideous punctuation have their day in the sun. For safety's sake, I deleted a whole bunch of exclamation points. They'll put your eye out.

In matters related to oil companies, I know nothing. I mean zero. It's nice to watch someone formulate a plan but it seems more F Troop than A Team, if you know what I mean. I have an Exxon Mobil card in my wallet for emergencies but I haven't used it in over a year. And yet Exxon Mobil seems strangely unaffected. I haven't bought gas at either Exxon or Mobil in at least a year and a half. The company is recording record profits and has yet to send me a remember-me? bouquet. Other than cut up the card and tell off a hapless phone bank employee, I can't think of way to exert influence over Exxon Mobil. If I did, I'd make them pay their Valdez, Alaska oil spill fines and thank Americans for our patience while they worked out their environmental disaster karma.

Still, it's nice to see people scheming. I hope the scheme brings these arrogant pigfuckers to their knees. For my part, I wouldn't buy from them unless I were truly desperate so...the schemers can count on me - sort of. While I would like to take some action in this situation, this is probably as ineffective as mass actions get. I hope someone comes up with a real plan soon.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

I Fell From Grace, I Too Became A Dissident

Yesterday, the Washington Post published a profile of blogger Maryscott O'Connor, which I first saw on Skippy the Bush Kangaroo.
SHERMAN OAKS, Calif. -- In the angry life of Maryscott O'Connor, the rage begins as soon as she opens her eyes and realizes that her president is still George W. Bush. The sun has yet to rise and her family is asleep, but no matter; as soon as the realization kicks in, O'Connor, 37, is out of bed and heading toward her computer.

Out there, awaiting her building fury: the Angry Left, where O'Connor's reputation is as one of the angriest of all. "One long, sustained scream" is how she describes the writing she does for various Web logs, as she wonders what she should scream about this day.

She smokes a cigarette. Should it be about Bush, whom she considers "malevolent," a "sociopath" and "the Antichrist"? She smokes another cigarette. Should it be about Vice President Cheney, whom she thinks of as "Satan," or about Karl Rove, "the devil"? Should it be about the "evil" Republican Party, or the "weaselly, capitulating, self-aggrandizing, self-serving" Democrats, or the Catholic Church, for which she says "I have a special place in my heart . . . a burning, sizzling, putrescent place where the guilty suffer the tortures of the damned"?

The photograph accompanying the article is a dead-giveaway. The profile is not meant to present O'Connor in an objective or flattering light. One look at the posture and facial expression and the Post reader who'd never heard of O'Connor could be forgiven for thinking our special blogger's gone 'round the twist. The repeated mention of cigarettes implies she is a selfish mommy who doesn't consider her children's health. The article suggests faintly that her husband has lost control of his wife, whatever that means, and let's not even discuss what sounds like near-beer for breakfast.

I don't know the woman personally. About once a week, I look in on her blog My Left Wing, and I've never had an email conversation with her. I have seen photographs that make Maryscott O'Connor look like a thoughtful, intelligent and rather attractive human being. Here's one now. So the Post's picture, surely one of several taken that day, casts O'Connor as a raving loony, and though I can't vouch for her sanity or temperament, I can tell you something about the press.

A thousand years ago or in the early nineties, the local papers took some notice of my ahhhhtwork, and several sent reporters to interview me. I admit I was confused and flattered but I was also ambitious enough to go with the flow. In the piles of papers on my living room floor sit a stack of newspapers I can't throw away and can't look at for fear of seeing what an ass I looked. You see, you can't tell what your own story seems to be from the outside or to the disinterested, and you can't count on being quoted properly or in context. No matter what you do, how sane you are or how you doctor the circumstances of an interview, you can still sound like a candidate for the nut hatch. In one of those articles, of which I have no recollection of an interview, I sound like an Oprah guest on crack. The experience of reading this bizarre portrait later contributed to my recognition that being famous might well and truly suck, and after my inevitable three-state killing spree, I won't be granting interviews.

Lots of people have experience creating personal images for those in need of publicity, and bloggers should take note this. I'm not saying we need to close ranks and form entourages. The press has finally turned and taken notice of political bloggers and the blogosphere. More interviews will follow, as well as invitations to appear on the news talk shows. I saw Kos on the Colbert Report and thought he carried himself pretty well but he should be careful about giving the impression he might be a weenie in person, and when I say "weenie" I doubt I'm being overly technical about it.

When people see you on TV, in the paper or on the blogs, they're gauging a few things at the same time:
1. Do they like you?
2. Do they agree with you?
3. Do they want to be/hang with/do you?
*Some people go so far as to consider whether they respect you, but even I wouldn't sleep with them first.

The Republicans and by extention their apologists the TV talking heads and the right-wing bloggers utterly mastered this concept some time ago - except for Jonah Goldberg. Ew. The point remains: Americans like to bet the winning pony, and and when they feel like winners because you're a winner, you can be elected president, can't you? No matter how you do it.

I'm not saying centrist and left bloggers have to hire publicity firms and image consultants. I am saying this: be aware that this kind of unforgiving, damaging and painful scrutiny is coming. Get your shit together. No matter how charming and apparently sympathetic the reporter, the press is not on the side of the angels.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Only Waiting For This Moment To Arise

Sharkey: Why didn't you tell me you wrote about going to the bar last weekend?
Tata: It wasn't my finest writing. Besides, if I called you every time I typed your name you'd get a restraining order.
Sharkey: Oh yeah? I'll Google.

For the next hour and a half at fifteen minute intervals, Sharkey emails back Poor Impulse Control paragraphs with the same question and answer.

Sharkey: Did I really say that? I'm frigging funny!

No doubt. He can't tell the difference between his own remarks and dialogue I wrote because Sharkey's memory is even worse than mine. Perhaps you've heard of the Algonquin Round Table, where a good handful of famous writers, actors and delicious characters had lunch every day for a few years in New York? The reason you've heard of it is that after lunch, the writers dashed back to their desks and rewrote everything they said and heard. That had pros and cons for everyone involved. So I'm not writing history. Sometimes he said it. Sometimes he didn't.

Daria, Anya and Corinne are back from Todd's place in Los Angeles. Todd turned 40 and three-fifths of his sisters showed up with two nursing babies, Mom and Tom in tow. When I think about what that full house must've been like, I'm grateful I live alone with an exceedingly cranky pussycat who requires constant assurance that I remember how to use the can opener - the electric can opener.

And my sisters with the small children are jet-lagging and confused. Daria's got bronchitis and plans to spend this afternoon dyeing Easter eggs with Tyler Two and Sandro. Anya's at home, doing what she does every day: trying to take over the world - one tasteful living room at a time. I called Corinne at the store and when I found she was composing sentences in a manner unfamiliar to English speakers I forgot why I called.

Corinne: Complaining! Holiday complaining!
Tata: Are you there alone?
Corinne: Ex-husband competitive, children eggs. Mad at mommy!
Tata: Listen, I'm going to Sears to buy an air conditioner or two. I'm going and you can't talk me out of it! at all. Do you have a fever or something?
Corinne: See you later. Unless I do!
Tata: What?

My sisters and I ask that question a lot, like earlier this morning when I told Daria she had much too much clothing and I was going shopping in her closet, for which she thanked me for thinking only of her welfare but it sounded a lot like, "What?"

Corinne: Sears! Go!

Ten minutes later I marched into the store with a bag of food for her. It was just after noon. She was on the phone with Anya, who'd paused her iron march to accessory domination long enough to agree to everything Corinne said.

Corinne: Domenica thinks our store is Sears.
Tata: I brought you lunch.
Corinne: Good! I didn't have any. Gotta go, Anya.
Anya: [Peas and carrots peas and carrots peas and carrots.]
Tata: Tell her your conversation is inconvenient for, you know, me.
Anya: [Peas and carrots peas and carrots peas and carrots.]
Corinne: She hopes your flan separates. 'Bye, Anya.
Tata: This morning, I went to make breakfast and next thing I knew I was spraying Mazola Pure on sheets of phyllo dough and making golden brown savory pastry like my clothing wasn't so tight my legs feel like they're in sausage casings. I mean, is this rational? How many people do you know have phyllo dough within convenient, terrifying reach, I ask you? You should take that out of the box and the foil before it becomes moist. Moisture is the enemy of flaky pastry!
Corinne: You baked for no reason? And you brought me lunch? We were just complaining about the holidays but I want to declare one.
Tata: About the holidays, sweetie - all you have to do is say no. Say you're not going, thank you.
Corinne: I can't!
Tata: You can. I've opted out. For the most part they just weren't working for, you know, me. And when I sit bolt upright in bed and shout, "OH MY GOD, NO!" I want it to be alcohol-related and not, say, blood-related.
Corinne: Well, thank you for lunch.
Tata: Now, I'm going to Sears. I'm really going this time!

At Sears, I stared at six air conditioner models on sale. I'd worked out the square footage of the apartment, the size of my windows, used an online BTU calculator and found an energy star-rated Kenmore model that would do in my bedroom window for $139. At that price, I could buy a second for the living room I might never use. I hate air conditioning! There are times when that's the only way to get any sleep though so I decided to solve this riddle before it became a problem. While I was staring, a salesman came around a corner and decided I needed a larger model. I turned on my heel and said, "I'll take two of the small ones, thank you." We'll see if I've made the right decision but it doesn't really matter because they're in my house.

On my voicemail, a message from Auntie InExcelsisDeo asking why she hasn't received my response to Monday's bridal shower invitation. I rang her up. She was glad to hear from me.

Auntie I.: We've changed it to a family picnic. The women will do Victorian women things. The men will hit golf balls, drink beer and punch each other.
Tata: Couldn't we drink beer and punch each other?
Auntie I.: No punching! We're Victorian ladies.
Tata: What part of the British Empire was Sicily?
Auntie I.: Now, now. I'm asking the ladies to bring only serving ware in white, pink, baby blue and lilac. I still have your bowls from Christmas.
Tata: You have my duck. He's white. We can put marinated mushrooms into him.
Auntie I.: I was wondering why I didn't hear from you about the invitation?
Tata: I thought when you told me I was going that kind of killed the suspense.
Auntie I.: I thought you might have forgotten.
Tata: Oh no. I try to remember death threats long enough to avoid them.
Auntie I.: Love you, sweetheart. See you soon!
Tata: Love you, too!

Yes, it all really happened. No, it's not history. Sure, I may soon sit bolt upright in bed and shout, "OH MY GOD, NO!" for alcohol- and blood-related reasons. And you are there.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Friday Cat Blogging: Luck Is On Your Side Or Something Edition

Audrey acquired a creature by accident.

Sadie is her name. She's a runt, but she's star material. A friend found her on his engine block...she was 3 weeks old.

Sadie has no face except for her eyes and eyebrows. So she has 3 expressions: awe, surprise and outrage. She always seems to be saying, "ARE YOU AWARE that (the food bowl is empty; there is a bird in MY garden; you are not cuddling me right NOW)?"

I am now concerned there might be unnoticed kittens on my engine block. With eyebrows. And what does one do about that?

It is my usual practice to put breakfast into the oven before I exercise, then turn off the gas before I get into the shower. After my shower this morning, I was turning the nozzle on a bottle of hair goo when I thought, 'I forgot to turn off the oven.' Then the contents of the bottle spilled over my head. Instead of opening the tip, I'd twisted off the top completely. So I knew I shouldn't be trusted with the life or death struggles of kittens and engine blocks.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Your True Colors Shining Through

Senator John McCain
241 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear John,

I've a few things I must get off my chest, darling. We used to be so close but now it's as if we're strangers. We don't talk anymore. It's a shame because you once seemed so very, very understanding, and I had such hope you might be different from all the others. Ah, the thought of you in a leather jacket and a fit of righteous pique still gives me that tingly feeling. Alas, my love, it's over between us. It's not you - it's me. When I say it's me, I really mean it's you. You and Jerry Falwell. You and George Bush. You and Karl Rove. I've taken a long look at myself, and of course I'm smokin' hot. My sweet, you and your friends have got to go. Take your things, darling. I won't change my mind. A gal's got to know when to cut her losses.

I wish we didn't have to do this in writing. You know I'd prefer we didn't, but every time I think of you my lip curls reflexively and it's ruining my kissably fresh lipstick.

Air kiss,
Princess Tata

Things Get Damaged Things Get Broken

Tuesday morning, during my breathtakingly brief commute, I saw a pack of five helicopters hovering, apparently unmoving, overhead and not far off. I tried to gauge where the attention of their occupants might be focused but could only guess. Times being what they are, I noticed the helicopters were not exactly alike, and didn't appear to be military - either way: let the creepy feeling begin. Inside the library, a co-worker explained a five-alarm fire (later, we heard four) was working in Franklin Township on Whittier Avenue. I couldn't place the street, which bothered me. In the meantime, housefires generally do not attract news helicopters. Something else must be up, we sensed, and I say "we" because my co-workers and I worked like huskies that morning, though we talked about nothing else.

A co-worker received an email that a member of his historical society died in that fire, which was very upsetting. Shortly thereafter, a friend who's an EMT in Rhode Island emailed that a fire fighter from his old firehouse had been killed. An EMT friend from North Jersey passed along news from an EMT listserve. The local newspaper had nothing, then a vague, three-sentence write up. The university was silent on the subject of the fallen student volunteer. It was as if this local tragedy created a blast zone in which no one could hear or speak. I expected Wednesday to be the day everyone caught his or her breath and started screaming, and that's what happened.

Funeral arrangements have been made for the fire's elderly victim, Betty Scott, email to that effect circulated. The university's newspaper - for once written in complete sentences - found its voice and wept for all it was worth. The story was horrific, a scenario we all fear. There's no making it an easy or peaceful event we can live with. It is just painful, that's all.

This morning, during my embarrassingly brief commute to work, I came to the intersection of Seminary Place and College Avenue. Directly in front of me, the steps to a building I never really look at were covered with solemn bouquets, a handwritten banner, flags. This was where he lived. With nothing else to do, I turned right and drove to my parking lot.

Yesterday, I arrived at my apartment, scratched the cat and turned on General Hospital, as is my dumb habit. To my utter horror, the episode depicted the funeral of a young police officer. I am not ashamed to say I cried my eyes out, thinking, 'It's not that we are seeing too much of this. We are not seeing the real thing enough.' The televised 9/11 funerals and memorials come to mind with a freshness and an ache that even now surprises me. The soldiers who die and slip into unreported obscurity should pain us all. The absolutely unmourned civilian casualties of our wars should haunt us night and day.

I am speaking very carefully here. These emotions and thoughts are mine. I have no wish to steal and use the difficult deaths of these good neighbors for my own purposes. Their lives had meaning and purpose all their own. Mine is to point out there is nothing unconnected in the great world.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

In Love With Your Mom

Johnny ducks in for a spot of good news:
It's relaxing not needing to play music or I'll die, but it would be fun. I just found a surf guy on craigslist who's trying to put something together this summer. That would be a gas and a half. I've already got the Nehru suit. It would be a nice change to be in a band where it isn't a race to see who can fuck the singer first, because there is no singer.

I like friends with zero impulse control because by association I look positively restrained. Before the head swells, one must use it to take a humbling look at the facts - or in this case, an email from Sharkey, asking the musical question, "What the hell am I wearing?"


I required oxygen and the assistance of a very handsome rescue worker who could bench press me without breaking a sweat.

Tata: No wonder your dad didn't take you camping. That's like waving a GO! flag at pedophiles. Can I use it on PIC as an example of photos our mothers MUST EXPLAIN?
Sharkey: Mom MADE the outfit!
Tata: I can't breathe! Your mom made you a polyester leisure suit? Out of an Italian tablecloth? Even felons get natural fibers.
Sharkey: Wasn't I a lucky child? No wonder I can't remember my childhood, I'm blocking out the fashion.
Tata: We must prevent your mother from entering fabric stores at any cost. Dear God, what if she buys gabardine?
Sharkey: Yes, you may use the picture. Knock yourself out, cupcake.

Ordinarily, calling me "Cupcake" would be cause for a head injury but I'm still cackling after half an hour. No photo posts to Poor Impulse Control without the delicate resizing efforts of Siobhan.

Siobhan: Crap! That made me laugh really hard, too! My gut hurts now!
Tata: It's fantastic, isn't it? His mom MADE that suit!
Siobhan: I think I just passed out for a few seconds. My mom made me polyester clothes, too.

Attention Miss Sasha: in the mid-seventies, when I attended junior high school, college-bound femmes were supposed to stick strictly to academic subjects so when I registered for a semester of cooking and sewing classes it caused a riot in the Guidance Department. Oh, yes. Apparently, women pursuing advanced degrees were condemned to a life of staring mournfully at a cold and empty kitchen and wondering what measuring cups and frying pans were for. Since I listened to nobody, which is a great way to pursue learning experiences, I tried desperately to use a sewing machine well. We made polyester skirts and were supposed to wear them to school. Mine was beyond hopeless and looked accidentally like something Andy Warhol made on purpose, leaving me with the impression that I was somehow too smart to operate machinery.

This is also why when you called me up with your cooking school homework I made up the answers, because I wanted you to pursue your own learning experiences without my sage counsel. So, sweetheart, braising is not actually what causes bacon to turn blue.

I lied. I hope this is not interfering with your career in the food service industry.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Temptation's On Its Way

Well, I was a little moody yesterday, wasn't I? Fortunately, I've just discovered the salad dressing I dribbled across my lap a few weeks ago left stains in the shape of the Galapagos Island Chain on my black pants. So all is not lost.

On Sunday night, the National Geographic Channel premiered its special The Gospel of Judas, which I watched with rapt attention. The part of my adult life not spent with booze and loose women - perhaps an hour or two, all told - I devoted to studying the Bible, the history of its formulation and what people do with it. And dancing. I can't explain that. In any case, I'm no scholar and I know just enough to snicker at the literalists, but you know as long as they're all about the good works and not bigotry, I snicker respectfully.

The first hour-fifteen of the two-hour show described the discovery of the manuscript, its journey through the antiquities black market and its authentication. There's a whole lot of historical reenactment that's - let's take a step back, here - a bunch of men with historically imprecise hair and loose-fitting garments. Also: the actor who plays Peter turns up as Crixis in the NGC's Spartacus, which is just funny.

Certainly, the viewer wants - me - I want to know the provenance of the document. The language of the program itself is very cautious. One of the Coptic text experts comes clean about having seen the document while it was in the hands of an antiquities dealer - and if you don't know how these breathtakingly important documents change hands this section of the program could provide a bit of a wild ride. It seems simple, right? You dig something up in Egypt, it looks old, you take it to the Egyptian Antiquities gurus you see on the Discovery Channel all the time. History is saved! Nope. A bunch of the Dead Sea Scrolls burned under cooking pots. The story of the Gospel of Judas' strange journey merely hints at what's floating around among private collectors, sitting in bank vaults and turning to dust in a dresser drawer.

Finally, the script gets around to the contents of the text, by which time I'm talking to the television like it's Jeopardy's lightning round. "What is carbon-14 dating?" and "What was the Gnostic Heresy?" and "Who was Emperor Constantine?"

Tata: I'll take GET TO THE POINT FOR $1000, Alex.

Yes, I really said that and if I didn't there were no witnesses because Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, knows which side the cat food is buttered on...or whatever. Anyway, the text is in Coptic, and the scholars suspect the original was Greek, as a lot of the gospels were. The papyrus was carbon-dated at about 360 C.E., which is not a sticking point. The text is the same text derided by an early Christian bishop in 180 C.E., so copies of this gospel were in circulation for about two hundred years or more before this copy was made. So: hooray! Genuine artifact. About the text itself?

I'm not sure what the hold up is. I'd like to read it myself, as I'm allergic to taking anyone's word for what scripture says. Well, I have to live with what the translators say but meaning is another story. Hopefully, a book is forthcoming.

Our story: Jesus laughs a lot. Jesus makes a big fat distinction between the god who created this world and God, the One and Only worthy of worship, which theme one also finds in the Gospel of Thomas and much later in the Cathar Heresy. Only Judas gets it. Jesus asks Judas to turn him in and bring about his execution. Here, there is a giant omission on the part of the NGC program: Jesus has said he is the fulfillment of prophesy, but the prophesy is also very specific about the way the messiah is treated and dies. Jesus needs Judas' help with the timetable, and Judas agrees. The gospel ends with the apparent betrayal. This is another reason this gospel was considered heretical: for the early church fathers, the important part was the death and resurrection, not so much the actual teachings, which were carefully scrubbed of militant, observant Jewish piquancy. Mmm, lemony!

This is very exciting stuff. It's no more or less important than any other book that got left in or left out of the Christian Bible. What interests me is that the four official gospels offer no real, human reason why Judas would do as the text says he does. The handed-down story doesn't wash, especially when you figure in prophesy: the messiah has to die a dreadful death. For Jesus to be the messiah and not just some wandering rabbi - of which there were heaps and piles, historically - that ugly death thing was the target. For there to be a Jesus, there had to be a Judas to bring it about; without Judas you would never have heard a peep from Jesus. If you read the four official gospels, Jesus reads as a solo part, but it feels wrong - to me. It feels to me like a pas de deux scrubbed of a compliant partner. Maybe it's Judas. Maybe it's Mary Magdalene. I don't know. What's more: I never will.

The last ten or so minutes of the program featured Biblical scholars of several interesting stripes. One jovial fellow said Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were all he needed, he didn't need anything else. In a stroke of hilarious and masterful editing, the next second, Elaine Pagels blurts, "How would he know?" I'll tell you, I spit some pinot grigio then!

In related news, Miss Sasha reports that it's now safe to blab our excellent news. The Fabulous Ex-Husband(tm) proposed to his equally fab girlfriend and she accepted. Miss Sasha helped pick out the ring. Everyone's thrilled. My whole family is overjoyed because we adore him. The fab girlfriend says I should give him away at the wedding. All we were waiting on, it seems, was for the Fabulous Ex-Husband(tm) to inform the excitable Auntie InExcelsisDeo - one of his best friends - in person.

Damn it, another glorious wedding! This one's destined for the record book.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Whatever We Deny Or Embrace

Today, I took a vacation day from work because despite the fact that I have the best job I could ever hope for in the most pleasant office I've ever heard of, being sentenced to a country club hooskow and not a super-max prison still means you're on someone else's clock. My life is pretty good. My job has purpose. Do I have a great desire to spring from my bed and sashay into my office, brighten everyone's day with my sunny countenance and disturb everyone with my warbling as birds land on my fingertips?

No. I want to stay in bed until 10, throw open windows and curtains and hope the birds outside don't go all Hitchcock on my lazy rump. What I need is a month alone, fresh fruits and vegetables, fragrant banana and date breads, crispy grilled fish and long, sun-drenched afternoons of reading and repose. But hey, I've got dental! A person of my startling vanity needs dental like lightly carbonated bottled Italian water - which is to say: desperately.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Hold the Secret Close - I Hear You Say

Friday, Siobhan and I joined Dom, Theresa, Sharkey and Terry for dinner at an Italian restaurant for dinner, where once again the words, "I don't want birthday presents" were ignored just because. Sharkey is a fine-smelling, fastidious gentleman. This is something we both appreciate about him. I brought him a hand soap and lotion set ideal for the kitchen of any fine-smelling, fastidious gentleman, and because Dom has been mocking Sharkey for years for the fastidiousness, I figured we're all already over the abuse and could just enjoy the herbal-scented soft-skinned fastidiousness of our manliest man-friend. Then we went to a filthy bar in Bound Brook to see a band.

In 1996, I started seeing Sharkey in the bar, and when I say "the bar" I mean one particular filthy bar in New Brunswick, where he and I eventually worked - but this is years before that. One September night, I looked across the barroom and said to Lala, "If that guy has a brain, there is no God." Weeks later, I was sick and depressed, and let me tell you that did great things to my looks, when one morning, my horoscope said the universe was giving me a new playmate. Before lunch, Sharkey walked across the library's flagstone patio toward me, hand extended, saying, "I've seen you at the bar. My name is Sharkey and I thought I should introduce myself." I stared at him and giggled. He'd look odd in high heels and a cotton tail.

The Rail is a terrible, filthy bar with a strange layout and a teeth-optional clientele. When Siobhan and I follow Sharkey into the bar a band called Dirty Dick is playing so loud we walk through, out to the back and hope some day our hearing returns. The Rail was or is also a train station and trains on the Monmouth line fifteen feet behind my back interfere less with conversation than the band inside the bar, and when I say "the bar" I mean the bar I wouldn't set foot in without six of my bar-fighting friends. I turn around and a guy whose face is full of metal is three feet from my face and I'm overjoyed. His name is Mike, he is always smiling and he hugs me so hard my feet leave the floor. We are joined by our friend Jason from New Brunswick who bartended with Sharkey and me for years. I am content to sit quietly with these people because I love them so and have for such a long time, but that makes for lousy company. So we shout about Monty Python and our plans and meet people and the second band tunes up and starts to play. Matt, Mike, Chris and Erol are McMe, the latest incarnation of a series of kickass bands by mostly the same guys and a few other guys here and there. The sound is muddy and the mix is bad but it doesn't matter because we know many of the songs anyway. After their set, my throat is scratchy, so Siobhan and I say goodnight. This is important because the carefully considered recording at Altrok studios was ahead of me and being able to talk in recording is - you know - key.

Yesterday, I dressed up in sweats that barely touched my frame, drove down to Freehold in a pounding rain and Sean recorded the piece I've been fretting about for over a month. I hate the sound of my own voice and feel sorry for people who listen to it day after day. Some people really enjoy recording. Also: some people enjoy having sex in giant animal costumes, and I'm not one of them, either. Suffice it to say, as little as I enjoyed the recording, the playing back, the editing and the playing back some more, three CDs are sitting on my lap and I'm going to mail the mp3 to Feminist Studies for their podcast project.

In any review of my own work, I don't see where I succeed. I see my failures. In the playing back, I heard things I could do differently but even so perfection is not attainable. The recording is not what I would have hoped for, but that is exactly the feeling that prevents me from taking on projects anymore. The piece should have been recorded in front of an audience because I am best in front of an audience but live recording has its problems and I have stage fright. So it's done. I'm so glad it's done.

Now, for my next project I will buy an air conditioner and I will succeed. Will too!

Friday, April 07, 2006

Friday Cat Blogging: Dog Eat Dog Edition


I claimed the couch. The couch is my couch. It goes without saying the claws are my claws and they are sharp and I must sharpen to keep them sharp. Therefore, I will sharpen my claws on my couch. As you were!

Interesting note: the weather changes drastically from day to day, even hour to hour here. A day that begins with frost on the windshield may end with windows thrown open wide. A few days ago, we had such a day. Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, leapt to the windowsill for a good sniff and a stretch in the sunshine. I happened to glance in his direction and saw him raise his front paws and dig them through the screen and I growled, "Stop it. Don't do that."

I'm sure it wasn't that he understood exactly what I was saying. I mean, it's not as if the pussycats care what we want, is it? No, I think the glance over his shoulder, his loosening his claws and putting them back down on the sill meant, "I considered, and I've reconsidered. Perhaps I'll tear this screen to shreds at a time more to my liking. I'll have a delicious, fishy snack now. Hop to!"

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Softly Spoken Magic Spell

Miss Sasha called me up to blab but I was napping.

Miss Sasha: Mommy! Are you awake?
Tata: Gnvpj wpgh dphp cpape...
Miss Sasha: You're asleep. Cluck like a chicken!
Tata: Cluck...
Miss Sasha: Tell me I'm the most beee-yoo-tiful girl in all the land!
Tata: Mmmm...pretty...bok bok...
Miss Sasha: Give me power of attorney!
Tata: Pressing your luck zzzzzz...
Miss Sasha: I'll call back.

This morning, I remembered hearing her voice in my sleep. That can only mean one of two things: either she has news or I'm on my way to a nursing home. I leave a message at a nice, uncomfortable hour.

Tata: Good morning, sweetheart! The birds aren't up yet so I thought you'd want to hear from me. Call me back or I leave my vast fortune to a pack of stray cats. Kiss kiss!

My phone rings ten minutes later so I know it's good news and not that she's re-written my Will with disappearing ink. Which she will if genes have anything to do with it. In the meantime, our cheeky ingenue is so overjoyed it's hard to hear what she's blabbing.

Miss Sasha: So blab blab and then he blab blab so I said, "You're going to need a blab blab. Let's go shopping." Then we did and picked out a blab blab blab and he asked blab blab blab blab blab and said, "If not, I throw you into the Everglades with the alligators." I said, "Blab blab, that is kind of blab."
Tata: That is AWESOME! I am SO HAPPY!
Miss Sasha: Me, too!
Tata: I have to hang up on you now so I can destroy the dreams of publishers everywhere!
Miss Sasha: Your cruelty is inspirational. Love you, Mommy!
Tata: I love you, too!

Hours pass. I'm much too selfish to dwell on other people's good news so I forget all about the phone calls. Miss Sasha calls again, a note of panic in her voice.

Miss Sasha: Mommy! Are you awake?
Tata: Yup. Whatcha want?
Miss Sasha: It's a secret! No-blab blab until no-blab gets no-blab blab blab and tells no-blab blab no-blab's self. Did you tell anybody?
Tata: No, darling, I didn't tell anybody.
Miss Sasha: Mommy!
Tata: I didn't tell anyone.
Miss Sasha: Mommy!
Tata: Didn't know it was a secret but I blabbed to no one.
Miss Sasha: Did you call no-blab?
Tata: I didn't!
Miss Sasha: Okay.
Tata: I thought about blogging...
Miss Sasha: No! Not until no-blab no-blab blabs to no-blab! Probably on Monday.
Tata: You expect me to keep a secret over an entire weekend?
Miss Sasha: Yes!
Tata: It's a good thing three of my four sisters went to Los Angeles today. I can't even blab blab blab blab by accident.
Miss Sasha: Let's put it this way: if you blab, I'll leave comments that'll snap your butt like a wet towel.
Tata: That's an excellent comic threat. Mommy's so proud!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Run Away Turn Away Run Away

Back in the seventies, when talk was cheap unless it was impossible, Dad took the change on his dresser and bought a few shares each of a utility stock for Daria, Todd and me. Because we were young, stupid and interested in other young, stupid people, we forgot all about the stocks until about ten years ago, when our names turned up on one of those lost property lists and we just about had aneurysms trying to remember a time before Travolta.

Don't get excited. Dad's pocket change is still pocket change. What makes this interesting is that now the utility sends me annual reports and I, with my tiny handful of shares and even tinier capacity for listening to grownups talk, try to read them.

The timing of this year's report is also interesting. Last week, I looked over the utility's website for information about green energy programs. The site seemed strangely dense to me, by which I mean it was particularly opaque and lacking information I could clearly and simply grasp. I just plain didn't understand what I was reading, I thought, so I wrote the utility's investor relations department a letter asking simple questions like, "Where are descriptions of your green energy programs?" and "What do you mean, you're proud of being the third largest nuclear energy producer in the country when there is not now and never will be a safe place on the planet to put nuclear waste?" This letter has not yet received a response.

So I try to read the annual report. It comes with voting materials. Every year, stockholders are supposed to elect a board of directors. The candidates all look alike to me: they're all old white men. Even the women are white men. The lone black man looks like an old white man. Is that ideology or bad lighting? The first time through the annual report, I look specifically for green energy accomplishments. You'd think these folks would be anxious to crow about how they're helping us move toward a healthier planet - but no. I find nothing, so I look for green energy proposals and still find nothing. I'm starting to think I need stronger glasses or a stiff drink and can't decide which would help more but it doesn't matter because I have neither.

So I'm supposed to vote on stuff. Fourteen people want to be on the board. I immediately decide I can't smell sulfur well enough from this distance to decide who's more and who's less evil, so I skip over that and hope someday the utility fields a slate of less voracious lower mammals. Herbivores, even. I might be able to distinguish them from the old white men.

Question 2 is about ratifying independent auditors. The board thoughtfully tells me it wants me to vote in favor of this proposal. I' that proposal again. Nobody in their right mind wants you to watch them, and hire other people to watch them. So I'm suspicious.

Question 3 might as well be written in Welsh.

Question 4 starts out sounding like more impenetrable hooey about scientific...wait! It's the environmental questions and answers I've been looking for, but it's only a proposal for a report and the board recommends I vote against it. Wait, what? The question is long and worded like any blog entry at Hullabaloo, which may only be inches over my head. The board responds that it's doing plenty on environmental issues. I would transcribe the proposal, the resolution and the board's response but I suspect I'd need a legal team by suppertime. Anyway, the arrogance of the board's response is freaking unbelievable. It reads a lot like, "Hush, shareholders! Don't you worry your pretty little heads about it." By the time I slogged through the whole thing and got to the end of it, I wondered if I should go outside and picket my own damn house for investing in an eeeeeeeevil empire.

Question 5 seals the deal: executive compensation. For the life of me, I can't figure out what I'm reading until I get to one line I hear clear as a bell: "In our opinion, [the utility] already provides Mr. [Old White Man] very generous compensation." A list of unbelievably shameful, gigantic numbers with lots of zeros follows. Jill's recent Brilliant@Breakfast post about horseshit executive overcompensation packages bleeding the middle class and the poor dry came to mind and I felt a little like I might faint. I didn't faint. The board advises me to vote against this proposal.

There just aren't words for how special this makes me feel. It's as if everything I speak, write, protest and vote against came to my house and asked for my blessing before it fucked over its customers, of whom I will never be one. So I'm going to read the annual reports again, read the questions again and I'm going to vote against this douchebaggery but I have bigger questions now.

If you've come this far, you're interested in the political ramifications of decisions in daily life. That - and melted cheese - is what Poor Impulse Control is about, and so I find myself with a decision to make and I just don't have the knowledge to make it. I have no vast fortune to make or lose here. Do I hang onto this stock so I can vote against this company's firmly 1970 policies? Should I sell this stock and invest my pocket change into companies more in line with my politics? I think there must be companies that treat their employees decently and don't fuck up the planet to turn a profit but where? How does one find them?

I am kind of moving toward the idea that this company is so completely backward I can't justify associating with it in any form but I don't know. The idea of being an environmentally conscious fifth column is appealing.

What's the buzz? What do you think? I'd love to hear better ideas.

Monday, April 03, 2006

III. Throwing Wishes To the Sea

Part I.
Part II.

All in all, it's a great day for screaming and yelling. We meet Ivan in the parking lot of a strip mall called the Pacific Pavilion and the most "Pacific" thing about it is the California Tanning Salon. It is the kind of place swearing in traffic was invented for. Paulie and I drove there last time in his 1960 Catalina and we thought we were late for dinner so Paulie was extra creative with traffic rules. Suddenly, we both realized we were about to pass the one and only entrance, so he spun the wheel to the right, launched the giant Pontiac at the strip mall and slammed it into Park. We sat there, panting, for a few seconds, unable to truly believe we weren't in a smoldering heap, until I said, "Well, then, should we start searching for the transmission?"

Tonight, Siobhan parks and we bounce out to stretch our legs. Ivan bounds the length of the parking lot to meet us. He is more than a foot taller than me so it's nice seeing his thorax again. I'm shivering so we climb back into Siobhan's Ford Excoriator which is full of other people's stuff so Siobhan sits in the driver's seat, Ivan sits in the passenger seat and I fold in thirds and sit upside down between them, hoping it's not flattening my hair. We sit this way until Lisa yanks open the passenger seat and uses my right leg like a first-class lever.

Diners at the Moroccan restaurant arrive in parties of two or more and are seated in sections that challenge Western notions of personal space. Though Mila is still en route, we are seated in a section with two tables and the other party in our section is young women and an older couple. We make every effort to avoid eye contact with the other party; when Lisa and I overhear someone say, " was like that time I had my uvula removed..." we glance at each other but not at them.

Ivan hands around packs of pictures. One is a roll of his kids, who are beautiful. I have photos of them in my living room. Another pack is from a costume party everyone at the table went to but me. They're all members of the SCA, and I used to hang out with them for fun and know half the people so I take the pictures and three pictures into the pile I get a bad feeling, and five pictures later, there's Morgan. Ivan can be such a bitch sometimes. I hand the pack to Siobhan and look away. Just as I mention to Lisa there's a whole empty section a party of more than twenty twenty-year-olds piles in like they're one giant organism.

Half a dozen waiters circulate around the room, bringing water to pour over our hands, and napkins. Soon, appetizers arrive along with glasses of water. Warm, fresh pita and pickled carrots share plates with savory hummus and an eggplant pickle so delicious I take bites and do the Happy Delicious Thing Dance. Siobhan calls Mila twice before she resorts to going outside for better cell reception. Mila is adorable, always lost, and hopelessly late. When she finally arrives, she sits and rests a hand on Ivan's knee. At the front of the restaurant, a handsome man in a fez switches on a synthesizer and from now on, everyone's shouting over dance music and ululation. And then there's the belly dancer swishing all over the place. For about twenty minutes, waiters dodge swirling fabric and awkward diners the belly dancer pulls to their feet. Soon the narrow restaurant aisle is packed with writhing bodies and mysteriously unspilled trays. The pack of twenty-year-olds are wriggling without the slightest hint of self-consciousness in a homoerotic frenzy.


A waiter leans against our booth, shakes his head and mutters, "Egyptians," on his way back to the kitchen. I have no idea what this means but he is smiling. Our entrees arrive. The only way to eat on the minimal table surfaces is family style, so we each take spoonfuls of flavored rice, fish, lamb and chicken. By now I'm very close to full so I stick to rice and grilled vegetables with dollops of gravy. Everything is nicely spiced but it's 11 p.m. and I'm tired now, and this is three and a half hours already of extreme togetherness and I'm looking at two more, so Mila and I get up and dance with the majority of diners. The twenty-year-olds are tanked and the guys are all over each other in a way I see is hypermacho. But it's still gay, and I can't stop laughing.

Dessert is served, after which we pay the check. We get the hell out. Siobhan drives home for an hour. I love Lisa dearly but if I have to do that again I'm moving to Borneo. There's one more thing:
1 April Lisa
2 April my brother Todd
5 April Scout
7 April Sharkey
8 April Miss Sasha
9 April Lupe
And I'm pretty sure at least one someone's going to email me a "Doofus, you forgot my birthday" greeting.

I predict more delicious dinners, shiny shiny gifts and utter exhaustion. It'll be fun!

II. You Know Your Voice Is A Love Song

Part I.

Siobhan: Did Lisa tell you who's coming?
Tata: If she did, it sounded a lot like, "Join my guests or I keeeeeeell you."
Siobhan: Ivan's meeting us there.
Tata: Damn it.
Siobhan: He and Mila broke things off two weekends ago.
Tata: Is Mila coming to dinner?
Siobhan: Yep. I feel her pain.
Tata: Which pain?
Siobhan: The In Love With A Married Man pain.
Tata: That shit never ends. Still, you can't help who you fall in love with, and the people I've been in love with, I still love them. I think of Morgan every day, that still hurts and it's been - what? - ten years?
Siobhan: At least you're mad at Ivan for something he's doing to himself and not something he's doing to you.
Tata: Didn't you have an epic tale to tell me?
Siobhan: I do!
Tata: Okay, I want to hear it, but first, try to remember I want to buy an air conditioner in the next two weeks, before they become ungodly expensive.
Siobhan: Noted.

We are hurtling up Route 287 North on Saturday night toward some road that connects to some road that is the hell on earth we call Route 46. Because we are realistic and truthful, occasionally we point at motel signs and remember some old paramour and it is a space-saving device in that we don't have to keep their stuff. Shoot, I'd have to dedicate a wing just for band tshirts. This trip is over an hour and Siobhan's story takes more than half of it to tell. The condensed version:

Siobhan: So last night, I went out to the Frog & the Peach for Ann's birthday with Gary, Ivan, Agnieska and Kevin. The banter was excellent. I laughed really hard for hours. But that's not the point.
Tata: It isn't?
Siobhan: No. On my way over I stopped at the PNC Bank on Franklin Boulevard to use the MAC machine because I had no cash. I stuck my card in, punched in my pin and the machine went dead.
Tata: Lights out?
Siobhan: Exactly. So now I have no MAC card and valet parking at the Frog & the Peach is $8. Why you should have to pay for valet parking at the Frog & the Peach when a glass of water requires a down payment is beyond me.
Tata: To, you know, maximize the feeling of high-priced extortion.
Siobhan: It's not classy, it's cheap. I don't know why but as I leave the PNC Bank I call my Dad and tell him what happened. He says he'll go over there first thing in the morning and get the card. I tell him no and I'm about to tell him why when I see an accident and police in front of me so I tell him I have to hang up because I lost my headset and don't want to get an expensive ticket so I hang up.
Tata: Uh huh.
Siobhan: He calls right back. I'm like, "WHAT PART OF 'I HAVE TO HANG UP' DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND?"
Tata: Did you pick up to yell that?
Siobhan: No, I yelled it at the phone.
Tata: Crafty!
Siobhan: I find a ten in my bag I don't remember having and pay for parking.

Siobhan proceeds to describe the menu options in minute, flavorful detail and how she chose items that would fit her Atkins lifestyle. I'm only half listening because the best time to describe a restaurant's menu is not on your way to another place that does not serve seared scallops, and I will want those.

Siobhan: Agnieska says, "I had a hard time getting here. My apartment complex is on fire or something." I ask her, "By any chance, do you live in Highland Park?" She says, "I do! How did you know that?" I say, "I just got off the phone with Ta and a groundhog got his head stuck in a sewer grate." And Agnieska says, "I know that groundhog!"
Tata: GET OUT!
Siobhan: His name is Pudgy.
Tata: Of course it is. Agnieska used to hang out with our friends the Halo.
Siobhan: The waitress comes to take our order and Ivan says, "To start, I'll have the salmon...then, I'll have the roast duck...and to continue my aquatic bird theme, I'll have the cheesecake." So I said, "Few people remember the young cheesecakes can swim."
Tata: I can't breathe!
Siobhan: This morning, I go first thing to the PNC Bank. I wait-wait-wait in line at the information desk and tell them their machine ate my MAC card. She says to go to the teller where I wait-wait-wait my turn. The teller turns and says she can't help me but Debbie can. Debbie says she'll be happy to help me. "Is it a PNC Bank card?" she asks as she's walking into another room. I say no. She's holding my card. She says, "It's our policy not to return ATM cards our machine confiscates from other banks." I shout, "YOUR MACHINE DIDN'T CONFISCATE MY CARD. IT BROKE." Debbie's waving my card in my face like a cape at a bullfight, saying, "It's our policy..." And the security guard with the gun walks over. I glared at him and left. In the parking lot, I called my bank and they just didn't believe it. Then they gave me free checking.
Tata: You'd have to be stupid to work in a bank on that corner with that attitude. It's inevitable that kind of bitch karma's going to result in someone taking that very personally. Don't ever go to that branch again.
Siobhan: Not if my ass is on fire and they're holding a hose.

Part III.

I. Everyone's A Superhero

Friday, I got up from my chair and went to the ladies room, where I did lady-things, washed my hands and returned less than two minutes later to find someone had carpeted my cubicle with bubblewrap. I did the only thing a person can in this situation: I jumped up and down and squealed with glee. For the next hour, my co-workers heard only:




This attracts a crowd.

Lupe: What's...what's going on?
Tata: I walked away from my desk and I came back and there was bubblewrap and see - see - see -


Tata: It's the best prank ever!

Finally, Mathilde, who did not escape ethnic genocide and seek asylum to be driven mad by shipping supplies, turns the corner and demands the bubblewrap. She lets me keep one sheet to play with, preferably when she's not there. Mathilde shares a cube with another woman; I recently informed them that every day at 2 p.m. I hear them laughing. The whole office was dumbstruck, but after a few days realized it was true, and when it wasn't, someone would send them a joke. Thus, my record as a prognosticator remains unblemished: at 2, there will be laughter in the land. Or else. And then there will be laughter in the land!

Well, sort of.

Lisa: You're coming to my birthday dinner.
Tata: I'm not!
Lisa: We're going to the Moroccan place. You're coming!
Tata: I'm not!
Lisa: We'll see.

Lisa: You're coming to my birthday dinner.
Tata: I'm not!
Lisa: We're going to dance! You love dancing.
Tata: I'm not going!
Lisa: We'll see.

Lisa: You're coming to my birthday dinner.
Tata: I'm not!
Lisa: Siobhan will pick up up at 7:30 Saturday night, whether or not you're dressed and ready. She will be armed, so just get in the car. The food will be delicious. You will have a good time. You're coming!
Tata: Huh! I guess I am.

Damn it!

Part II.

Meet the New Boss

While I'm watching the New Jersey skies darken in an oddly welcome threatening manner - we need rain and we'd prefer to be on fire a little less, thank you - Johnny writes from the sun-drenched desert.
His Most Exalted Highness Bubbahotep just spent his first night out in the main house with the other cats and the dogs. I was a little concerned, because he's so small, and I haven't forgotten Kismet killing my baby mockingbird back in Massachusetts. I was giving the little guy flight lessons in the living room, flying from my hand to the chandelier, when she leaped up in the air and snapped him in half. I guess he reminded her of a rabbit. A flying rabbit.

We're off to the Folk Art Museum for an exhibit of Latin American, uh, folk art. In my plaid suit, black shirt, spectators, and switchblade, I hope to be mistaken for an exhibit. God damn, I love this town.

Clothes make the man. Attitude makes the cat. I think Bubba needs an eyepatch and his own parrot.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

You Place the Flowers

The music that was playing in my dream is blasting from a car in the cul-de-sac, and that's okay because death metal on a languid, sunny afternoon is funny. As I awaken from a luxurious afternoon nap, my curtains float on the breeze, my cat snoozes at my feet and I sip cool raspberry tea I was drinking before I fell asleep. At moments like this, it seems wildly unlikely that I'm awake. How could every bit of madness, every stupid decision and terrifying turn of events, every long, anguished night have led me to this lovely afternoon, where outside my pretty apartment, forsythia blooms and birds buzz in old, old trees?

Two hours later, I call Siobhan and 50% of my sisters. I leave identical messages because who the hell cares. This is no time for originality!

Tata: Hi! Hope you're well. Right now the fire department, two police cars, animal control and a dozen of my neighbors are parked outside my apartment because a groundhog got its head stuck in a sewer grate. Call me later!

Anya calls back first, frightened.

Anya: Are you okay? Should we come get you?
Tata: I'm fine. I didn't mean to scare you. My street's completely blocked off. I'm so glad I live in a town where a trapped groundhog is the worst thing that happens on a Friday night.
Anya: You're serious? The whole fire department?
Tata: Yup. If this happened where I lived across the river some fool would've gone outside and shot up the sewer system with a pistol. Is groundhog "a third white meat"?
Anya: Oops! I'm a vegetarian again. Right this minute.
Tata: Anyway, this is all quite hilarious, I am fine and you must be exhausted. Are the kids in bed?
Anya: We were all down at the store, setting up for tomorrow's event. Will you be there?
Tata: What event?
Anya: I sent you postcards and email.
Tata: I remain ignorant. What event?
Anya: Art show after 5:30. Artists you know. It'll be a blast.
Tata: Count me in. See you tomorrow.

Now, the thing you can't tell about this easygoing conversation is that when the fire department has set up outside your living room walkie talkies a-crackle, and your neighbors have all thrown open their windows to find out why, and your TV's on, and generators hum, the volume compares with any bar at closing time, so if anyone overhears me shout the words "COUNT ME IN SEE YOU TOMORROW" it might sound a little on the vehement side.

By this time, Jennifer Love Hewitt is doing no whispering. She is the Ghost Shouterer. I look in on Shakespeare's Sister during a loud commercial. ShakesSis is on about a serious issue: bias in the media. I try to be a grownup - just my first mistake.
I was trying to compose a cogent response but now surrender. My town's entire fire department is parked and staging right outside my apartment. It's really loud out there, and then there's the blinky lights.For an hour I didn't know why three fire trucks, two police cars, a mobile ICU, the fire chief's Suburban and animal Control, not to mention a dozen of my neighbors were gathered and are gathered around a sewer. I've just overheard the firemen saying a groundhog's got his head stuck in the grate.

As for the event, I'm reporting in the groundhog's favor.
Tata | Homepage | 03.31.06 - 6:14 pm |

Let's face it. Hold up your hand. How many fingers do you see? I'm THAT MANY. I am completely used to walking around in the world and seeing things other people walk past. I mailed Johnny a package of shiny objects only he will recognize as art supplies and I'm playing Gift Roulette with Anya.
Here are the rules:
1. I specify an amount of money and tell Anya minimal details like birthday, woman, fascinated by interesting things. For [those December holidays] she gave me a maribou picture frame.
2. Anya wraps the present before I get to the store. I pay the bill.
3. The recipient opens the present and it's a neat surprise for me, too! Wheeeeee!

As a possibly fantasy-prone personality, I have to say having half the town and some of the next turn out with all the passion and commitment we expect when a child falls down a well in Texas to rescue a trapped groundhog was not at all in the mental catalog. I am overjoyed by the new addition. At ShakeSis, conversation is stumbling forward like I whacked it one.
Tata, do you live in Punxsatawney, PA?
blogenfreude | Homepage | 03.31.06 - 6:24 pm |

I try. I really do.
No...I'm in New Jersey, and a giant tactical vehicle from two towns over has just arrived. Why no one thought to get a sedative from a vet and butter the groundhog I sure don't know.

Hey, it works on toddlers. Still: pro-groundhog. Can't think...
Tata | Homepage | 03.31.06 - 6:49 pm | #

Near as I can figure, that's Chicago time, and it's a good thing the Jennifer Love Hewitt Fashion Parade features angry shouting people who must by now be going hoarse.

I live within spitting distance of a cliff over the Raritan River. If I sit up straight on my couch, I can see Route 18 skirt along the other side. New Brunswick and Highland Park are littered with signs over grates:

Are you kidding me? The Raritan is a tidal river that flows into and out of the ocean and in doing so irrigates one of the largest and most toxic garbage dumps on the planet. Everytime it rains, that crap dripping off of and out of our cars spills down those drains, and anything that didn't thrive in motor oil-vinaigrette died off decades ago. I'm not saying I approve and can't wait to don my swimmies. I'm saying let's be honest about expecting the wildlife to spring up from the bottom in a bad mood when someone warbles, "MOTHRA!" So I never do.

And I wouldn't dream of speaking against this sophisticated display of high-tech humanity, because animal suffering is every bit as real to me as human suffering. In fact, my biggest fear is the firefighters will give up and leave the animal to die, trapped in that sewer. But as we are reaching the three-hour mark of this rescue and they're setting up giant lights, I keep thinking of Steve Martin in Roxanne. There's a kitty trapped in a tree. The fire department arrives, buckles up their gear, sets up ladders. Steve Martin watches. Shakes his head. Opens a can of tuna. Snaps the can opener shut. Puts the tuna down on the sidewalk. Kitty leaps from the tree and has a nosh. I can't tell you how many times I start for the door with a can of cat food and a bottle of Crisco - but you know, they're professionals, and I am just Me.

At 9:36, there's no sound, no signal but everything is different. The firefighters begin to disperse. From the body language, it's clear to me they've obtained the outcome they wanted. The little old ladies hold the hands of uniformed volunteers in what can only be heart-felt gratitude. My upstairs neighbor skips outside and asks what's what. He skips back.

Tata: Did they get him out?
Neighbor: They got him!

This place is more than I imagined.