Friday, June 30, 2006

Let the Choir Sing!

Once more, with feelin': Monday's and Barry's wedding.

When RSVP doesn't cut it.
Meet Daria - but never share dessert.
The tulle-draped horror of a family bridal shower. And pastry.
Miss Sasha's First Anniversity and a link to the terrifying wedding epic.
Bad wedding, no biscuit!
The family migrates, the family is left behind.
Paulie signs on to a dangerous mission.
Miss Sasha Regrets...
Miracles Never Cease Ceasing
Some do "I do."
Say "Secret Cheese!"
The longest week of my life was one five-hour evening.
Both post-y and script-y.

Remember: I'm not writing history. Don't bother correcting facts or manners and don't make me stab you with my shrimp fork!

Just Like A Prayer, I'll Take You There

Trout, who is just as guinea-wop-dago as I am, sent me a joke.

Vinny and Sal are out in the woods hunting when suddenly Sal grabs his chest and falls to the ground. He doesn't seem to be breathing; his eyes are rolled back in his head. Vinny whips out his cell phone and calls 911. He gasps to the operator, "I think Sal is dead! What should I do?"

The operator, in a calm soothing voice says, "Just take it easy and follow my instructions. First, let's make sure he's dead." There is a silence. And then a shot is heard.

Vinny's voice comes back on the line, " what?"

Let's say it's the cocktail hour and we're erring on the side of thoroughness. Paulie's drinking Bombay Sapphire, as is Mom and I'm not so sure about the six-year-old. I drink crappy white wine until dinner so I don't wake up face-down in the warm crab dip. For an hour, we tromp outside in the sweltering afternoon air. Photographers bark out a list of names. We assemble. We are dismissed. We get a drink. We drink it. Someone taps us on our shoulders. We tromp outside. Photographers bark. We assemble. We are dismissed. We get a drink. Because the temperature difference between inside and outside is a triumph of modern technology, being outside makes everyone look damp and wilted. Finally, our side of the family is dismissed for the evening and we spend the next forty-five minutes body-to-body with dozens of strangers in two small rooms of an old house. With fruit sculptures. I can't explain that. There really is a warm crab dip but since there's no place to put down a plate, guests balance drinks, purses and plates. It's only a matter of time before someone wears a raspberry camembert brooch. Fortunately, Paulie, Dad and Darla enjoy heckling the snackers. Miss Sasha, who traveled from Florida without Mr. Sasha but with their housemate Irena, has either missed me very much or is attempting to form a symbiotic relationship with me in the nature of ivy climbing an oak. I keep finding a person attached to me. Someone should check her for Velcro.

Finally, we are herded like well-dressed cattle to a dining room overlooking the patio where the wedding took place. Miss Sasha sits at my left, Paulie to my right. Mom and Tom sit across the table, making us six. Other tables are composed of eight. Within minutes, music and speeches start. I switch to gin.

For the next hour, this wedding could be any wedding not in a church basement. The food is abundant and bland. The servers are wearing black pants and white shirts. The DJ plays nothing but classic rock, and when the twenty-somethings dance to Taking Care of Business I give up. We can't hear each other talk. Daria resorts to charades at the next table. Auntie InExcelsisDeo moves from table to table, supervising, doting on the guests. Uncle Frank is so overjoyed his sentences lose consonants. There's no wedding cake because Monday and her friends decided it would be more interesting to bake cookies. They must've been at it for a week. The table covered with cookies could feed the population of a South Sea island. In other news, the vulgar garter catching and releasing ritual causes me to pretend I'm in My Happy Place, which is Anywhere Else, With Gin. The only time the guests got up and packed the dance floor was when the DJ went holy and sacrilegious with Madonna's Like A Prayer, by which time I was desperate to hear anything with a pulse.

At 10, the Fabulous Ex-Husband, Karen, Miss Sasha and Irena kiss everyone good-bye and leave for Pennsylvania. We say a lot of filthy words about the my former sister-in-law, who is a dreadful human being. Because it will make her head explode, I tell them to give her my best. After they're gone, Paulie and I get bored and notice the cameras on the tables. We recruit Todd and steal cameras. Paulie puts an arm around kid without pants and Todd takes pictures. The kid says, "Uh...what?"

As the reception winds down, we are all invited outside to hold sparklers while the bride and groom depart. It's 11:40, sweltering hot and a light rain is falling. The shuttle back to the hotel is full. Paulie and I get separated and a minute later when I see him he's lighting fireworks for small children, which is so, so endearing! And then, everything goes wrong. I turn back to the shuttle. I turn back to Paulie. I turn and see the shuttle close its doors and leave. I turn and see the bride and groom skipping down flagstone steps surrounded by sparkler-wielding well-wishers. Everyone stops. Everyone is staring. The shuttle has pulled out of the parking lot, and that little bus-whatsis was everyone's transportation, including the Happy Couple's.

We all march back inside. The bar's closed. The dining room is getting an industrial-strength cleanup. Paulie and I look at each other without the faintest idea of what to do. One of the bridesmaids is a lawyer and she is on the phone with the shuttle company, which has no intention of sending that bus back. Finally, a complete stranger I don't even recall seeing during the course of the evening offers us a ride to our hotel. Since he seems sober and isn't related, I assume he can be trusted. He drops us off. We peel off sweat-sticky outfits and chant, "What the hell just happened?"

You will be pleased to know that on the ride home, Paulie and I sang along with Tom Jones's Black Betty and Ministry's Jesus Built My Hotrod at the tops of our hungover lungs. The bus did come back. And the Catsitter said, "What the hell happened to you?"

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Now I'm Dancing

We interrupt this droll wedding story for photos from the event. The identities of the merely related have been protected from public scrutiny through Siobhan's judicious photoshopping.

The ceiling of Paulie's truck is steel, glue and bits of foam.

Tom, Mom, Marguerite, Arnold and a bus driver to be named later.

A dozen of my relatives picked up cameras and ran to get a better shot.

Monday and Barry, introduced as "For the first time anywhere, Monday and Barry So&So" three times.

Monday's sister Sandy is not actually a blonde. That is a trick of the light.

Dad and Miss Sasha hug.

Daria spins Tyler, Two.

Cousin Tony (Monday's giant baby brother) and my brother Todd yuk it up. The resemblance is scary. We tell them apart by accident.

The Fabulous Ex-Husband(tm) and his fiancee Karen sat next to Dad at the reception. I got custody of Mom.

Auntie InExcelsisDeo with Dad, her brother. I caught them eying dessert.

Monday and Barry. They'll make out great in the Witness Protection Program, where matching six-foot newlyweds are quite common.

For fun sometime: attend a family event and demand your relatives turn around so you can photograph their backs. Though Auntie InExcelsisDeo can't follow directions she doesn't issue, not a single member of my family argued with me.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

No End And No Beginning

Paulie and I put down our beers and walk outside as the shuttle bus arrives. My cousin Marguerite and her boyfriend Arnold - if we can call retirees "boyfriend" and "girlfriend" - coo, cackle and exclaim when they meet up in line with Mom and Tom. I walk up behind them and the cacophony begins anew. We are the bride's only relatives on the bus, which becomes patently obvious when the other shuttle riders stand an average of six inches taller than Marguerite and me. I've never met Arnold and Paulie vaguely remembers Marguerite from some occasion years ago. At the bridal shower, Marguerite told us a story about Arnold's amusing choice of timepieces.

Tata: Arnold, lemme see your watch.
Arnold: I wore the good one!
Marguerite: He wore the Casio!
Tata: Yeah, but it's the formal Casio.
Arnold: We don't go to a lot of weddings and we're not living in sin, precisely.
Marguerite: We have our own houses.
Arnold: So, Tom and Lucy, where do you live?
Tata: In sin, precisely.
Marguerite: Domenica, you're a card!
Tata: Thank you, dahhhhhhhhhhhling.
Arnold: Where are we anyhow?

This is an exceptionally good question because the shuttle has stopped after a sign that said MANSION. One thing strange to those of us from Jersey is that to get anywhere you have to drive ten miles on state highways. The roads have no names - just numbers. Though we know the site of the wedding has a name, for highway purposes we're standing in the MANSION parking lot. Half of everyone I know is standing around, sweating. The Fabulous Ex-Husband(tm) and his fiancee Karen can't wait to tell me everything.

He: Guess what! Guess what!
She: We drove in and parked ten minutes ago!
He: And after dinner we're driving back to Pennsylvania for our nephew's bar mitzvah tomorrow!
She: I've never been to a bar mitzvah!
He: We got changed in the car!
Tata: That is ...awesome!
Stranger: Walk this way, please.
He: This way?
Tata: C'mon, Igor! The kids're gittin' hitched!

I follow someone I'm probably related to through a door, where an employee asks, "Are you coming in for the bathrooms? The wedding's outside." I say, "No, dahhhhhhhling. We simply lack direction in life." Back outside, we turn a corner and -

Look! Paulie and I meet Dad and Darla. My sister Daria, her husband Tyler, their three children. My brother Todd. I didn't know Todd was coming from Los Angeles! Miss Sasha and her roommate Irena. Around us sit other people who have played significant roles in our family life and a bunch of guests I'll never pick out of a lineup, even after the reception. Paulie and I sit down in the same row as Mom and Tom, where we box in Daria's three-year-old son between Tom and me. Sandro's got Matchbox trucks and pennies. Paulie and I look around and spin back to one another with the same observation.

Us: That kid's not wearing any pants!

Indeed, in the row behind us a kid has chosen the unique fashion statement of seersucker blue and white Bermuda shorts, a white t-shirt and a blue dinner jacket.

Paulie: He looks like the kid from Caddyshack! Obviously, I'm trying too hard, wearing a shirt with buttons.

Somehow, the dearly beloved miss some significant cue. Some of us haven't taken seats yet when a bridesmaid walks past with a young man in rented clothing. Dozens of people murmur, "Whoops!" and rush for chairs. For the first time, we notice we're sitting in a little glen with a rectangular pond at its center, a platform at the far end and Doric columns. A pack of young men in odd suits appear from nowhere. Bridesmaids continue streaming past us. It happens so fast Arnold says out loud, "Hey, quit sprinting!" Auntie InExcelsisDeo walks down the aisle. My cousin Monday is escorted down the aisle by Uncle Frank. The ceremony is brief and quiet until Paulie and I hear the words we dread: "The bride and groom have written their own vows."

Few moments in life offer a chance for one's family and friends to see into the vast mediocrity of one's soul like poorly written homemade wedding vows. You promise what? And, for cryin' out loud, what else? Sweet hopping Christ, you're going to regret that in divorce court. If you're contemplating such a revealing maneuver, by all means DON'T. Take the standard vows and bug out for the open bar, kids. Fortunately for dozens of people, the sound system tanks, and nobody hears Monday's and Barry's vows. I tug on Marguerite's sleeve.

Tata: Is this wedding subtitled?

Don't get me wrong: we love and adore Monday, the bride. She is a good person and during expecially difficult times for our family, even when she was very young, Monday demonstrated a character we could all be proud of, without question. At the moment, it is above 80 degrees and the clouds have parted after a three-day rainstorm, we are wearing uncomfortable clothing and it's not like we've ever shut our mouths for more than a minute. Daria gives a reading and bursts into tears. Auntie InExcelsisDeo is crying her eyes out. Uncle Frank is teary. Monday's sister Sandy's tears interrupt the ceremony several times. I keep looking at Paulie like 'Wha...?'

We all miss another cue and the marriage is suddenly legal, which we know because the bride and groom reach for one another's tonsils for all their worth but everyone plays along since Monday and Barry are, like, really nice looking and who could blame them? The recessional music causes us all to chatter out loud.

Tom: What is that?
Tata: That's Superman, right?
Paulie: I thought it was Star Wars but Superman is funnier.
Tata: So which is it?
Tom: I think it's Superman.
Paulie: It is! It's Superman!

Yes. I squealed with glee. No one noticed, and no one was wearing tights and a cape - that we know of.

One cue we don't miss: the cocktail hour starts now!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

I'm Falling Out Of the Sky

A few weeks ago, I lay supine on my couch watching All My Children when I saw something I would never have imagined in a million years. Such is our training by the passage of time and the formation of assumptions that when I saw this truly small, truly strange detail in a show I've watched on and off since I was a teenager that at first I didn't believe my eyes. Then I jumped up and ran to my television. It was true, I really had seen it. Maybe no one else noticed, and it certainly can't be important in anyone's scheme of things. The impossible thing was this: in a scene in the Pine Valley Hospital, Susan Lucci as Miss Erika Kane was talking to a villainous doctor when she reached into her handbag, pulled out a rubber band and tied her hair into a pony tail.

I almost swallowed my tongue. Paulie and I are standing in a hotel room in Frederick, Maryland at 5:40 in the evening. Let's go back in time to 9 a.m., when the Catsitter calls.

Catsitter: Are you packed?
Tata: Nope.
Catsitter: I knew it!
Tata: I've got everything laid out systematically. My clothing is clean and rolled neatly. My cosmetics, goos and potions fill a grid system on the living room floor.
Catsitter: Why not jam everything into that tiny computer wheelie you drag around?
Tata: What, before I've played Concentration long enough to realize what I've already forgotten?
Catsitter: Rumor has it civilization has advanced and drugstores can be found in the wilds of Frederick County.
Tata: How would you know?
Catsitter: I've bailed out shoplifters. They have a newsletter. And I'm from there.
Tata: Oh God. Did you shoot your own leather jacket?

I can't talk to the Catsitter. I've got important fretting, complaining and kvetching to do. Miss Sasha still has not called back with instructions. My apartment's a wreck and I have errands to do. I pick up medicine for Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul. He has an oral infection that requires medicine twice daily on top of his usual kiddie steroids so I can't leave him for 36 hours. The Catsitter will arrive on an evening train and brave the Wrath of the Feline. It was kind, thoughtful and amazingly stupid of him to volunteer for this dangerous mission. I buy him BandAids and a bottle of bacteriostatic honey to fight infection. You know. In case. Then I shop for fresh fruit and vegetables because when I get back I'm going to be full of cream sauces and puff pastry and strong measures must be taken to fight off that Weekend Wedding Weightgain. Oh, no. I'm not going back to my Fat-Fat Clothes. I'm staying in Merely-Fat Clothes, damn it. By now, Miss Sasha still hasn't called but Paulie Gonzalez has. He's been detained by work, where he is busy saving the world, I kid you not. This gives me time to harass Miss Sasha, who still does not answer the phone.

Google driving directions hinted that our route would take 3 hours, 47 minutes. I laughed and told Paulie we needed 5 hours if it weren't raining up and down the Eastern Seaboard, and we were facing some lame deadline at 5:45 about which I had precious little information except that it would somehow provide me with an excellent opportunity to fail miserably where the whole family could see me. Paulie said he'd be over at 11:30, which became 12, then 12:30, when he pulled up in front of my apartment in a fabulous and disreputable 1965 GM pickup that was red, then Paulie sanded about half of it down to black primer and welded to fix rust. The windows were open. There were makeshift seatbelts. He had to lift the passenger side door to open it from the outside after tossing my suitcase into the bed. I was immediately overjoyed.

The mp3 player in the dash cranked out Paulie's and my favorite songs and we howled the classics at the top of our lungs. We have a mutual love of good, grinding noise. Kill the Poor and Fly Me To the Moon, windows open to the breeze and squeezing shut against the rain; sweat ran down our backs and rain splattered everywhere. When the first drops fell, Paulie pulled over and dragged my suitcase into the cab and a good thing, since I'd forgotten it by then. We stopped for gas often because the previous owner installed the gas gauge upside down, and if the tank were full the truck wouldn't start. We encountered accidents, rain blindness, stop-and-go traffic a good part of the distance from Turnpike Exit 9 until Exit 4. In Delaware, the signs stopped agreeing with Google's directions so we stopped and found out we were accidentally on the right road, which was a 220-volt shocker.

My dear friend Georg weeks ago introduced the idea of making soft blankets for shelter animals. There's nothing to do in a long car trip but whine. I had and have boxes of extra yarn and piles of knitting needles. I can't tell you how many drivers in traffic looked at Paulie's antique and rusting pickup doing 90, blasting the Supersuckers and the Dropkick Murphys, saw me knitting pink fuzzy yarn and decided to up their dosage.

I would've.

Despite our best attempts to defeat the laws of physics, we ran into traffic just outside Frederick that just wouldn't quit. My stomach churned. My stitches tightened. Paulie's lips compressed with tension and effort. The fire suddenly went out.

Tata: It's okay.
Paulie: What?
Tata: If we miss the ceremony because it's in this hellhole at rush hour and traffic's at a standstill - I just don't care.
Paulie: Nothing we can do about it.
Tata: Right, so let's not worry and when we get to the hotel, we see if anyone knows anything. It'll be fine.

Under other circumstances, if I say stuff like this I should be xrayed for concussions immediately, and if the xrays come back clean they're lying. We feel relieved and slap-happy when we check into our hotel and get to our room at 5:40. Paulie showers. I shower. We finally get Miss Sasha on the phone and learn about the 6:30 shuttle, for which we are miraculously early. We get beer while we're waiting and we hardly know what to say to one another. Then something happens we would never have imagined in a million years of Erika Kane putting her hair in pigtails.

Paulie: To goddamn weddings!
Tata: Gaaaaaaaaaaaah.
Paulie: Look who's on time for the shuttle.
Tata: Is that MY MOTHER? This isn't a miracle. It's one long ACT OF GOD!
Paulie: Yeah, well. Looks like God gets the Oscar tonight.

Monday, June 26, 2006

It's Like An Angel Sighing

Miss Sasha: Mommy! I'm driving around Pennsylvania and Monday gave me jobs to do!
Tata: I'm sorry I changed Monday's damn diapers...
Miss Sasha: What?
Tata: Nothing!
Miss Sasha: Okay, so did you leave the house yet?

I hold the receiver away from my head for a moment. Just to stare.

Tata: Sweetheart, you called my house.
Miss Sasha: I did! I'm so confused! It's my job to make all the family phone calls.
Tata: Are you driving on - you know - actual roads? In a car?
Miss Sasha: Yes, I've got an ear thing.
Tata: Aha. So...why did you call me?
Miss Sasha: The wedding's at 7 and the shuttle leaves the Courtyard at 5:45.
Tata: I'm not staying at the Courtyard. Does the shuttle stop at my hotel?
Miss Sasha: I'll call you back!

Ten minutes pass. An hour. Two hours. I go out walking and running. When I get back, there's a message.

Miss Sasha: Call me back! I have the information.

Fantastic. One phone call and I can be totally informed and confident of my ability to embarrass my family in a timely manner. I get voicemail.

Tata: Sweetheart, if you don't call me back I'll stalk my hotel's bartender for gin and a straw!

It's just the kind of threat she understands. She knows I'll use a disposable camera to chronicle Paulie Gonzalez's and my disreputable public adventures. And we have a blog! Hands up - who's nervous? Even so, I call her on Paulie's cell, because I don't have one. The first time.

Tata: Miss Sasha, this is your mother -
Voice: Hello?

And CLICK! The second.

Tata: Hello?
Voice: Sasha's not here right now. Can I take a message?
Tata: This is her mother -

And CLICK! What the hell? The third.

Tata: Hello?
Miss Sasha: Mommy!
Tata: The last two times I called someone hung up on me. Just tell me what I need to know and we can get on with this inspiring debacle. We just arrived and don't stand a chance in Hell of making that 5:45 shuttle.
Miss Sasha: Take the 6:30. Aunt Daria has a portable closet full of clothing for you.
Tata: Too late for that. I brought a ghastly outfit and I'll suck it up and wear it.
Miss Sasha: You'll...what?

As I hang up, Paulie looks shocked, too. Sure, I'm vain but we're on a hard deadline and if I'm not careful I'll cave and track down Daria's closet, which will cause us to miss the ceremony. In a moment of panic, I turn to Paulie and gasp.

Tata: Next time I get the bright idea we should go to an out of state wedding, let's rent a hotel room, a ska band and five gallons of matzoh ball soup.
Paulie: With sushi and a UN translator, we could rule the world.
Tata: I'll settle for surviving the cocktail hour without a subpoena.

Damn it, I hate weddings!

Like A Dream, You Are Not What You Seem

I learned a lot from reading Jaws in my early teens. Daria, Todd and I went to visit Dad at his house in Toothless, Virginia where television reception was sketchy and programming was downright terrifying. In a way, it was a relief that Dad's nearest neighbors were cattle because at that time the movies in the nearest town's theater were three years old and kids got married at 14 for lack of anything else to do but each other. Dad told us not to leave the house when he went to work but there was little temptation to leave, no place to go and Dad's Playboy and Penthouse collections to study. The summer I read Jaws we'd set up a long jumping pit in the driveway, a calisthenics circuit and an archery range. Though long jumping into gravel and the subsequent abrasions held great appeal, amateur icthyology was pretty keen, too. Mr. Benchley knew lots of things I, a landlocked teen reading "I never thought this would happen to me" letters, did not know. He'd read the Bible, for instance and introduced to me the idea that I could and might read it myself one day. He knew that if you're switching wines you should use a different glass or rinse out the one you're using or expect flatulence. He also mentioned that if you fuck your police chief friend's wife you can't expect a shark cage to keep out the Wrath of God. This seemed like an important point that summer, when I read Jaws 27 times. That is not hyperbole. And canst thou catch Leviathan on a hook?

Nope. When Auntie InExcelsisDeo said, "Save the date. Monday is getting married Friday, 23 June 2006 in Frederick, MD and you will be there," I could see a giant set of teeth swimming toward me armed with crab puffs and squinty-eyed suspicion. When I said, "I love you dearly but I'm not going to any bridal showers," Auntie laughed and issued as sincere and loving a death threat above 110 decibels as I have ever received. So I went. And as much as I tried to say, "I'm not rocketing the length of the Jersey Turnpike, blinking in Delaware and staring myself comatose across the unchanging asphalt and trees of Maryland so I can sweat in the most uncomfortable clothes I own and shove an envelope full of bills down the sticky back of my cousin's wedding dress after she and her Twenty-Something friends inexplicably dance to Taking Care of Business" my refusal somehow didn't stick, those teeth got perilously close and I called up my ex-boyfriend Paulie Gonzalez.

Tata: Dude, like, dude...!
Paulie: What's the matter?
Tata: Monday's getting married, death threats, formal wear.
Paulie: I've got new truck without a complete paint job. We're going!
Tata: ...awesome...

Even so, a Friday evening wedding is tricky business. Gifts must be sent in advance. Outfits must be assembled and packed with care. Maps must be obtained and studied. Family phone numbers must be carefully coordinated. Homes must be secured. Pets must be cared for. Children become a common responsibility. Monday's wedding invitation gave us the name of one hotel, one set of directions and Auntie I. said, "I want my family around me." In the weeks leading up to the wedding, when my resolve against crossing state lines crumbled, I found the appointed hotel full. Another hotel in the same complex was full but a third was not. Since the hotels' front desks were less than five hundred yards apart, it didn't make any difference where I threw my pajamas on the floor so long as the floor wasn't a parking lot and the room around it wasn't also a parking lot, Auntie I. would have to settle for a more generous family orbit.

That theme music is starting to sound a little...fishy...

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Fly Through the Revolution

I don't think much about loneliness until loneliness sits down next to me and orders drinks on my tab.

Grandpa: Domy!

Only Grandpa and Scout call me that. I will punch anyone else who tries it.

Grandpa: Thank you for the Father's Day Card!
Tata: I love you! It's the least I can do.
Grandpa: I won't use it, though, until I pay off this other credit card.
Tata: It's a gift card, Grandpa. You can get 35 pair of socks, if you want to!
Grandpa: What did you say, dear?
Tata: You can buy all of Sears' sock department, Grandpa, it's a gift card.
Grandpa: Yes, dear, but I don't want to get in trouble with it. Just because I have it doesn't mean I'll use it.
Tata: Well...okay.

He hates when I buy him presents. I gave him basil plants and he made Mom take them. It was too extravagant a gift. Seems like a problem you'd solve with marinara sauce but my solutions may be simplistic.

Grandpa: Where's your mother? Do you know where she went?
Tata: She's gone to Maryland for my cousin Monday's wedding.
Grandpa: What did you say, dear?
Tata: She's gone to Maryland for a wedding.
Grandpa: What town? Do you know what town, in case the guys down at the Vets ask?
Tata: Frederick, Maryland. I'm going tomorrow.
Grandpa: Oh, thank you, Domy! And you're going tomorrow! Ha ha!

When Grandpa's done talking he's done. If he's already said goodbye and you say, "One more thing - " expect the next sound to be a dial tone. He hangs up on Mom twice a day at least.

Tata: I love you, Grandpa!
Grandpa: Talk to you soon!
Tata: Talk -

Click. He's a very old man who goes to the Veterans of Foreign Wars post, of which he is a founding member, every day at four for two beers. He is worshipped by the younger members, which I have seen with my own eyes. He has a lot of friends. People take him hither and yon, care for him and cook for him. Mom monitors his doings with an iron will from four states away. I don't know if he's lonely. When he cheerfully hangs up on me I sure am.

On the Morning Sun

I woke up just after five this morning for no good reason. A good reason might be that a well-oiled Mr. or Mrs. Universe contestant baking croissants, filling my house with the aromas of buttery pastry and fresh coffee; sunlight through the blinds, birdsongs, the music of pleasant breezes through the leaves. Criminy, I need bedroom curtains. Anyway, tossing and turning produced no results so I'm up and reading the Blogosphere. Fortunately, as Siobhan says annually with great vehemence and perfect diction, "I'm on vacation. Everyone can bite me."

Tomorrow night, my family gathers in Frederick, Maryland for my cousin Monday's wedding. I hate weddings with a fiery passion so I'm really looking forward to the ceremonial hungover drive home. This morning, I have an appointment with Rosana, my hairdresser; this afternoon, an appointment with soap operas and nail polish. Don't think for a minute primping can be skipped or minimized. We're being photographed for posterity, here. Monday's great-grandchildren had better snap to attention when long after we're pushing up daisies they find these pictures, curled around the edges, mildewy, faded, and containing not a single head of hair its natural color.

These things must be done precisely and with conviction. No one is going to photograph me with the slightest hint of a Sicilian lady-mustache - not without a sombrero and an arrest warrant, anyway. Yesterday, I was sitting in a meeting in a building I don't usually go to, with people I see once a month, give or take a month when deadlines tighten. My boss Gianna is conducting the meeting and it is, um, being conducted to its conclusion when Gianna says, "Okay, that's it, thanks."

Tata: Lorna, what color eyes do you have?
Lorna: What?
Gianna: What?
Tata: What color are you eyes? I can't tell from here.
Lorna: They're brown.
Gianna: Did you bump your head or something?
Tata: Ten of us are in this room. If Lorna had blue eyes that'd make it five-even and statistically -
Lorna: The proportion is wrong.
Gianna: No more coffee for you! You're cut off!
Tata: It's just the kind of thing I notice. Also: everyone's wearing black shoes and I'm an excellent driver.
Gianna: Call me when you're doing this excellent driving so I can get off the road, huh?

The Devil is in the details and he is not alone.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Longer Scissors, Sharper Knives

Gerda and I have an amusing ritual our co-workers have been slow to notice.

Tata: Ohmigod, are you still here?
Gerda: I can't stand the sight of you!

And -

Gerda: Must you - like - breathe?
Tata: Must you - like - like?

These scenes play out with snorting, foot-stomping and head-tossing, so it's either way teenage or the Kentucky Derby. The other day, I was standing next to Lupe's desk when Gerda walked by.

Tata: How tall are you?
Gerda: What? About five-five, I think. Maybe five-six.
Tata: Get out! Without the giant shoes?
Gerda: Five-five!
Tata: How can you talk to me with your pants on fire like that?
Lupe: ...that's not nice...
Gerda: What?
Tata: [snort, head toss]
Gerda: [snort, head toss, stomping off]
Lupe: See? I told you she was tall.
Tata: Yeah, I owe you five bucks.

I like to think that in life things happen for a reason even as I go about doing things for no reason other than that they amuse me. Sometimes a news story gives me both.
Portugal fan Orlando Fonseca, 29, was furious to hear crashing, screaming and shouting from Kim Koeon upstairs as his team played Iran.

What he didn't know was that Kim, 30, had fallen through her broken third-floor window and was clinging to the sill by her fingertips.

As Orlando leaned out to shout, she fell - straight into his arms.

Orlando, from Wandsworth, South London, said: "I saw this girl hanging by her fingertips. Suddenly she just let go and amazingly I was able to grab her as she went past. It all happened so quickly."

It's a bloody miracle! The witness provides the punchline. Whatever you do, don't try hearing this in one of Eric Idle's character voices.
Student Dimitris Themistocleous, 19, who saw Saturday's drama, said: "It was unbelievable - like she was a trapeze artist and they'd rehearsed it.

"Otherwise it would have been splat. She'd have died for sure."

It's like I wrote that scene myself. All it's missing is a banana peel and Dawn French.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

That Topless Lady - She Had Something Up Her Sleeve

This morning, I received an email from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Barack Obama asking me to contribute to their fund.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that "The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

Dr. King was right, it does bend toward justice.

But it doesn't bend on its own. It bends because for over two hundred years, we have had the courage to put our hands on that arc and move it in the direction of opportunity, equality, and justice.

Our metaphor is already a little bent but let's move on, shall we?
This November, these efforts will culminate in a historic opportunity to bring back the America we dream of. When Democrats retake the Senate, we will show that we don't have to settle for the Republican agenda of fear and division anymore.

We don't have to settle for a Republican agenda that tells us we can find the money to give Paris Hilton more tax cuts, but we can't find enough to protect our ports or our railroads or our chemical plants or our borders.

Oh no, he didn't! That just wouldn't sound as scorny coming from Chuck Schumer.
We don't have to settle for the closed-door deals that give billions to the HMOs when we're told that we can't do a thing for the 45 million uninsured or the millions more who can't pay their medical bills.

And we don't have to settle for a Republican agenda that gives billions away to the oil companies and then tells us we can't invest in the renewable energy that will create jobs and lower gas prices and finally free us from our dependence on the oil wells of Saudi Arabia.

Oh, the opprobrium!
But if we are going to win, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the largest national organization supporting the election of Democrats to the US Senate, must raise $1 million dollars before June 30th and its FEC filing deadline to close the fundraising gap with the Republicans.

Never before have Senate Democrats been so united behind one singular goal.

To catch Karl Rove with Boy Scouts and a jug of KY?
To help us blow past our fundraising target, a group of Democratic Senators have agreed to match your donations dollar for dollar - meaning that your gift is instantly doubled. If you have ever thought of giving to the DSCC, now is the time.

Please make a secure online contribution of $50, $75 or more. Your donation will help the DSCC elect Democrats in Senate races across the country.

Yeah, you're blowing, all right. Have I mentioned my three jobs? My austere lifestyle? That I live simply and like it that way? The DSCC should try it sometime. It might make them more sympathetic to those people Congress sold down the river last year with the bankruptcy bill.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee is already running television and radio ads smearing Democratic challenger Jon Tester - a farmer whose family goes back three generations in Montana - as too liberal for the state. They're singing from their same tired song book - gay marriage, flag burning, higher taxes. We can't let them do it this time - and we won't.

Dude! You're in office and you're not stopping them now.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is responding to the Montana attack ads, but this is just the first of many, many such ads to come in tight races all across the country. The DSCC must be ready to respond to Republican attacks wherever and whenever they occur. But it is not enough simply to respond. We need your help so that Democrats can define themselves before negative campaigning begins.

Well, I would care a lot more about this definition thing if Democrats cared less about getting it from consultants than from the people. In fact, since the Dems can't sell us all down the river fast enough they have a lot of fucking nerve asking for money and faith. TBogg's got more.
I would buy Obama's deference to leaders in the Democratic party if I felt that were any leaders in the Democratic party (Anyone? Anyone?) but he doesn't seem to want to fill the void and so we end up with a bland parsing pol who spends all of his time trying to not leave anything distinctive on his permanent record...and we already have an Evan Bayh. Personally I'm tired of Democrats who are obsessed with process and talking about how they need to get their message out. There comes a time to decide what you stand for...and then stand for it.

I don't have a horse in the 2008 Presidential election and I'll vote for any Democrat short of the Joe's (Lieberman and Biden), I only have one requirement for my candidate: someone who can win. And for that, and because both parties bases are pretty much set in stone, you need someone who can excite the mushy middle (also known as the "independents") and I don't think that you can get them off the couch them with more mush.

If you want to lead the party, then lead. Otherwise stop wasting my time and sucking the air out of the room...

I have invested time, money and energy into the Dems over the years and I am still waiting on returns. Note to fundraisers: show me results and I will come back to you. Show me no more anti-choice candidates. Show me solid voting records on gay rights. Show me that you support organized labor and the issues of the poor. Show me corporate interests aren't more important than the people's. Show me you understand and support the Constitution, including and especially the Bill of Rights. Show me the same courage you've demanded of our troops by bringing them home. Show me you can balance a checkbook.

Then you can ask for my help.

Monday, June 19, 2006

All the Nights Are Woven

I was a good girl, then bad good girl, then a bad girl, then a good girl again, then I was a bad girl, then a very bad girl, and here we are today. Somewhere in that list, I bought baby furniture; somewhere else I married the Fabulous Ex-Husband(tm) and those events are unrelated. People have fine ideas about what we should do and when and how and I couldn't care less. Too many rules! Moving on -

The other day, I found messages on my voicemail at work. At first I didn't recognize the voice, then it dawned on me: that's the voice of Miss Sasha's bio-father. I tossed him out twenty-two years ago and never missed him for a minute because I'm much too selfish to care about grass stains on today's synthetics once I've thrown them out on the lawn. Miss Sasha heard little or nothing much about him from me because her relationship with Mr. Collected His T-Shirts From the Sidewalk has nothing to do with his and mine. She has to forge her own relationships with her relatives and her own ideas. He has a son, so Miss Sasha has a brother, a teenager who wants contact with her. Miss Sasha thinks that's marvelous. I think it's fantastic that Miss Sasha has a sibling I didn't have to crochet myself. They will have each other. Everybody's happy, except for one thing...

My place of employment has chosen to put all sorts of information online that might not be in the best interests of its employees. Where we work, our schedules, our meetings, our phone numbers are all up someplace. Mr. Pot-Addled found my work phone number online and called it at 2 in the morning. While he's no threat to me anymore because Miss Sasha is over 18, I felt vaguely queasy that I was so easily found. For more than ten years I had an unlisted home phone number. What a waste of money. If only I could call the phone company and say, "Listen, the job's screwed me here. Can I at least have back my pittance?" If you're a thoughtless department manager boldly publishing details about your employees, keep in mind they have lives you don't know about and sometimes those lives find their way to your workplace with pounds and pounds of ammo.

Mr. Ancient History isn't the type. I have one Ex who is the type. I didn't know if he would let me leave until he didn't kill me. So you see my desire for stabbing-free workplaces is an earnest one, and as such, I hope employers quit publishing directories and schedules before phone trees let us press 9 for our killing spree floor maps.

That's too much customer service.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

How Can You Catch the Sparrow?

Horoscopically speaking, I was supposed to be deliriously happy Friday and who was I to argue with the cosmos even as the police cars raced into my apartment complex while I was leaving for work. Sure, I was curious but I decided to think about how some lucky people get to disrupt whole neighborhoods before breakfast with lights and sirens.

Midmorning, I drove out to a university farm in either East Brunswick or Milltown, depending on which of those "Welcome to..." signs is a bold-faced liar. Trout bought a share in an agricultural program wherein undergrads and and grads study growing stuff by growing stuff and once a week during the season picking stuff, which civilians pick up and convert from a weekly quiz into salads and seasonal herbs. It's a popular program, especially since you don't have to be affiliated with the university or drive a Volvo to buy in. Anyway, the sun was shining, the air was warm, my car was moving smoothly with traffic and a simple, meaningless song was playing on the radio. You have had a moment like this. One hot summer night twenty years ago, I was in the Melody Bar with Johnny and some other friends. The whole place was a dance floor that night. People danced on the stairs, in doorways and at the bars. It was utterly fantastic to feel young and beautiful, to dance to song after song we loved or had never heard before but it didn't matter which with the heat, the booze, the flowing bodies, and after hours of this thrilling, sweaty trance and just before three, the DJ's last song proved a silly, perfect surprise: the Monkees' I'm A Believer. As one, everyone turned back to the people they were dancing with, laughing, and yes, what could one hope for on the dance floor at three but this simple faith in love, a song from our childhoods, but this gorgeous sense that this three minutes could be no more full and we could be no more alive? And Friday, with the sun shining, the air warm, the car moving smoothly and Billy Idol's Mony Mony playing, I felt enchanted and free, buoyant and timeless - as if I could be no more myself, filled with simple joi de vivre, than I was at that moment. Then I turned in the farm's driveway and was greeted by a young woman dressed in a fake fur Pebbles outfit, causing me such Unexpected Costume Glee I could only stand in the shade, jumping up and down. Back at work, one of my co-workers sent the daily absence list around and I was on it for half a vacation day I'd totally forgotten I had to take, so I went home and opened my windows to let in the afternoon breezes. A friend was arriving in on an afternoon train. We were meeting up with the - cough! cough! - editorial board of Blanton's And Ashton's for refreshing adult beverages later. I baked cookies for a party, washed clothes, polished my nails and watched soap operas. That's my surreally joyful Friday. I am having an exceptionally happy weekend, all in all, and as I write this I'm sitting in the family store, surrounded by pretty things that smell great while the Dixie Chicks play on the stereo.

It's not realistic to assume that tomorrow I'll feel as good, or that good days in a row mean life is generally improving. Next week: I have three days off work and a family wedding two states away. Don't worry. I'm assuming events will take a turn for the craptacular before breakfast. Too bad I don't have lights and sirens.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

I Thought That I Heard You Laughing

I call Sears. Forty-five rings later.

Guy: Appliances.
Tata: Hi. I bought two air conditioners. When I opened the boxes, one contained an installation kit and the other did not. I called Sears Parts & Repairs's galactic headquarters and they said I should march over and pick up the kit. Do you have one?
Guy: No. Some air conditioners don't come with installation kits.
Tata: I bought two identical air conditioners so I'm supposing that if one required it then the odds are exceptionally good the other needed it too and perhaps at the factory, they were having a bad day with wood screws.
Guy: That would be very unusual.
Tata: I'm agreeing with you in the hope that you'll tell me whom to call next.
Guy: Parts & Service. They're here in the same building but they're like a different universe. They don't even keep the same hours.
Tata: Can you transfer me?
Guy: Oh, hell no. They've got their own phone lines, too!

Forty-five more rings. As Grandma used to say, "Tempis is fugiting!" She was too polite to say, " bastards," but she thought it often.

Guy 2: Parts & Service.
Tata: I bought two identical air conditioners. One box contained an installation kit and the other did not. Can you mail this to me?
Guy 2: Model number?
Tata: Ah, the flaw in my plan! I left this at home.
Guy 2: Give me the model number and I can get this to you in a couple of days.
Tata: And they say true love is hard to find.

Last night, Lupe picked me up. We braved the permatraffic of Route 1 North after rush hour so we passed only two impeccably placed accidents - eventually - to turn around at Woodbridge Center and head south. If you have never traveled this particular stretch of road or met civil engineers, you should watch out for the trickster gods in more conventional forms like wolves and door-to-door Bible salesmen. The intersection of Woodbridge Drive and Route 1 has been reconfigured a handful of times in the last ten years to accommodate unchecked development and oblivious luxury item shoppers. It used to give me great satisfaction to avoid this mall, knowing it was at least for a time the mall in the continental U.S. where you were most likely to return from shopping to find your vehicle had been boosted. We turn onto Route 1 South. Lupe takes three short breaths, turns right and guns it for the invisible strip mall we know is behind the trees. Then, she parks.

We walk up and down the aisles. Neither of us is one of those crazy women with a Shoe Problem. Eyes focused, we make for the running shoes. Lupe picks up white shoes with pink trim.

Lupe: These are cute. Good padding. What do you think?
Tata: I can't wear cupcakes. Do they have New Balance in colors not found in frosting?

Halfway across the room, we find Adidas, New Balance and a brand I've already forgotten in gray. I try them on quickly. The Adidas feel really good. In ten minutes, we found me a pair of running shoes. The purple trim is a bit of a compromise but at least I don't have to beat myself up on the playground.

Lupe tries on pair after pair of black wedge heels because this season sandals are supposed to appear prominently on medical certificates as Cause of Death. In the meantime, everyone within fifty feet hears my running commentary on shoes made of rope. Women pick them up, look at me, then put them back down. Lupe finds a pair of sandals that fit and flatter, finds me a pair of black shoes to kick off under my desk and a pair of what can only be described as cute sandals. I do not have a Shoe Problem! I mean it! Sometimes, however, this leads to putting on something dressy and finding nothing in the closet but combat boots.

Today, Lupe and I both have New Shoes Glee. I have glee! My everyday shoes resemble Paulie Gonzalez's Bruno Maglis, which is amusing by itself, but they also feel cushiony and sort of rounded across the bottom. I walk a few steps, laugh hysterically, then walk some more. Lupe's wedge sandals are just a little higher than she's used to so she caught herself descending a long staircase with both hands on the banister like she was climbing Everest. The whole world is more interesting when one is flush with new physical sensations. From my co-worker Bob Hosh:
As most of you probably know we have umpteen pairs of Barn Swallows nesting at Hageman Farm. There are, in fact, two nests on the beams of the carriage house above where I keep the riding mower parked when not in use. The barn swallows are now into raising their second brood of the season and they get very antsy when I'm moving the mower in or out of the carriage house. They do a lot of frantic flying and swooping toward me, but never really attack me and I tend to talk soothingly to them and they seem to have learned that I intend no harm to them or their nestlings. So yesterday evening when I was completing mowing the last 3rd of the 2 acre lawn I became involved in an adventure with the swallows! As I was mowing the grass around the horse and dairy barns dusk began to fall and the swallows came out to feed; lots of them not just the four from the carriage house, but many more from the lower section of the horse barn. As I chugged along on the Deere suddenly the air around me was filled with beautiful barn swallows on the wing catching the hundreds of insects flying up and escaping the blades of the mower. What a sight it was to to watch the birds approach only a foot or so above ground catching insects and swerving at the last minute to avoid hitting me on the mower! Flitting past me their mouths stuffed with food I could have reached out and touched them easily. They were having a ball and so was I!

Now if I could only develop such a relationship with the resident groundhog!

I had no idea other people had complex relationships with groundhogs but I've bought running shoes for the first time in 26 years. Isn't anything possible?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Sally's Got A New Tattoo

Yesterday, in my office.

David: Where's Lupe?
Tata: I don't know. I turned the corner and she was invisible to me, too.
David: Do you have dibs on her next?
Tata: Can we claim our co-workers? Because if so, I dibs Nina. Hey Nina, this afternoon I'm taking the cat to the vet. Hope you didn't have any plans!
David: I dibs Mathilde.
Tata: Where's my kickball?

In the Good News/Bad New Department, a German man was spared serious injury when he fell off his bicycle and a car ran him over. The bad news is when he got up he weighed 440 pounds.
A 440-pound German man discovered that being overweight can be good for your health - if you get run over by a car.

Police said the extra body mass prevented the 30-year-old man from suffering potentially fatal injuries when a Volkswagen Polo drove over him after he braked suddenly on his bicycle at a crossroads and fell off in front of the car.

"It certainly helped him in this case," said Sven-Marco Claus, a spokesman for police in the western town of Gifhorn on Monday. "Someone smaller would probably not have been so lucky."

Jumping Jesus on a pogo stick, where to start? A 440-lb. man on a bicycle? I'm already afraid for his safety. So what happened, huh?
The man dislocated his hip, which local doctors put back in place, but otherwise suffered only scratches and a bloody nose from the underside of the vehicle, police said.

Christ on a cracker, that guy's lucky. Judging by the next item on the page, MSNBC has strong feelings on the subject.
Click for related content

17 beers a day keep prostate cancer away

Crap, I don't have time for 17 beers a day or a prostate.

Last week, Mom called in a bit of a huff.

Mom: Last night, my friend and I went to see An Inconvenient Truth.
Tata: (spitting coffee) You did?
Mom: It was important we see it opening weekend.
Tata: It was?
Mom: Our male counterparts were unavailable so we just went.
Tata: You did? You know what? I don't sound any smarter. What did you think?
Mom: I want you to see it. I want everyone to see it. It's too important to be missed by anyone. How can we trick your sister into seeing it? Offer to babysit?
Tata: Look at you scheming for the Greater Good! Sure, buy tickets and stuff popcorn in their pockets.
Mom: That Ford Excoriator has got to go! I can't believe they're still driving that monster.
Tata: Mom, Tyler thinks Ann Coulter's misunderstood.
Mom: Then he misunderstands Ann Coulter.

Huh! Look at Mom go! In other news, I have given up trying to think of ways to get my apartment complex to start a compost pile. I'd really like to. I mean, who couldn't use the free mulch? Anyway, I wait until dark and toss aging lettuce into the forsythia below my living room windows and then I feel weirdly ambivalent and carrots would be a dead-giveaway. When I open my bedroom screens to sweep out grime, I feel like Snow White when the groundhog gives me the eye, the birds tweet madly and a squirrel flies in for an up-close-and-too-personal afternoon snack.

Scraps might just add to the confusion.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Call In the Airstrike With A Poison Kiss

The past few days, the media has distinguished itself by dancing like Astaire on the grave of Zarqawi. Our Ginger Rogers in this pas de deux is a military that seems shocked it attained its target, which is not exactly the response you want in your military. Personally, I'd like the boys and girls dropping bombs so well-trained hitting a target is not-worth-mentioning second nature, and I want them so well-adjusted they have the decency to express regret that a job well-done required loss of life in the first place. Unfortunately, my society has gone to war with the press corps it had, not the one I'd like, and not the government, justification or outcome, either.

Human nature is messy, ugly stuff. Humans like the pick the winners and spike the ball. Humans like to kick a man when he's down, and once more for good measure. Humans like to humiliate a loser and pinch his wife. Humans, basically, are bumfuck cruel and at some times more than others the veneer of civility chips and peels. This is such a moment. A great many people are sick of hearing that children are dying for no good reason while the economy's tanking and the federal deficit mushrooms, and these people are looking for a ball to spike, a winner, a loser and a fleshy woman to pinch. Cue the kickline.

This would be an excellent moment for us to take stock of what the hell we're doing. The war doesn't make any sense. Destroying a city to save it is the reasoning of madmen. If our government's aim is to win over the populace bombing the shit out of it comes up short as strategy. If our government's intention was to spread democracy it ought to be noted that desire must arise from the hearts of a people. It cannot be imposed from outside. If our government intended to free a captive society and form a satellite state it will not succeed. A nation cannot simultaneously occupy and release; in the Middle East, we are occupiers, and we are seen as occupiers. Rhetoric is foolishness now. More people will die. More of our brave children will die. More of our treasury will disappear. Our own people will remain divided. This is simple human nature at work.

It does not befit a powerful nation to wage war against a weak one. Any strike against the oppressed does not bring glory - it brings mutual humiliation. The powerful nation loses its brave and patient mien. The weak one may discover its soul in resistance. No good will ever come of it. None is coming, here. Zarqawi's death accomplishes exactly nothing for us except to bring us more footsoldiers willing to die for our defeat. You know this. You know all this. And yet we see dancing on his grave.

There is a great deal of talk about what a great many people think we are doing. What is it we are actually doing?

Monday, June 12, 2006

Writing Songs That Voices Never Share

Yesterday, the faithful gathered at the Court Tavern in New Brunswick a week after the funeral service for our friend Freddy, also known as The Mad Daddys' singer Stinky Sonobuoni. Last week, we heard speeches, antic and tragic; we laughed and cried. This week: Trout picks me up in jeans and a cowboy hat. She tells me an excellent story from when Freddy and his wife had just met. In accordance with WFMU's announcement that Sunday's hoedown would be "a New Orleans-style send off," I'm packing a bag full of Mardi Gras beads. At the bar, we find dozens of people, more every few minutes, talking and raising a glass. Someone found a box of Mardi Gras beads at a garage sale the day before and everybody gets some. I lay a bunch on the bar like a festive placemarker. Trout has issues of her own and fights back tears now and then - which fighting is good because it's tough to drink a Bud bottle with a runny nose.

Paulie Gonzalez takes a chair next to Trout at our end of the bar. When Trout gets up to go talk to someone, a woman Paulie and I can't stand stands between us. As I tell Marcia, next to me, "She's a pig but she thinks she's just the ginchiest." Marcia is shocked that I'd say that with Martine right there. It's okay, though. In Martine's mind, we only exist when we're admiring her. When Martine sits down I point to a pair of patterned underpants hanging over the bar.

Tata: Those yours, Martine?

Paulie drops his beer.

Martine: Those? Those are so ugly.
Tata: Just sayin'.
Paulie: Stella Artois, please...
Tata: Marcia, who is that guy? Is he in the band SUX?
Marcia: Which guy?
Tata: The tall guy.
Marcia: The guy in the black t-shirt?
Tata: Marcia, every guy in the bar is wearing a black t-shirt.
Paulie: One time, I was puking in the men's room and because I was wearing a black t-shirt everyone thought it was Marcia's husband. I said, "Beer, please."
Tata: Awesome.
Marcia: Where is my husband?
Tata: Standing behind that guy in the black t-shirt.
Marcia: You're right! That directionality really worked for me!

Trout returns from talking with Freddy's widow. She tells Paulie a story.

Trout: I can't read Poor Impulse Control. It's like a Russian novel with yoga pants -

No, that's not it.

Trout: My college boyfriend shared a house with Carmen (Freddy's widow) and another guy and they also had a band called XEX. You may have heard of it. No? Okay, one day, my ex-boyfriend came home and found Freddy and Carmen in a "Ride 'Em, Cowgirl" situation. I told Carmen that's why I'm wearing the cowboy hat. She said, "Girl, we used to have fun." Everybody back there laughed.

A few hours later, I'm sitting in my living room when the phone rings. It sounds like Siobhan's purse has called me again. I shout, "SIOBHAN! SIOBHAN! SIOBHAN!" but nothing happens. I sing a verse of "Dixie". Nothing. I hang up. A few minutes later, I call her and leave a message that her phone's running up her minutes again. This morning, she checks her messages.

Siobhan: Where was I when my phone called you?
Tata: Bridal shower, I guess. It was pretty loud and I was shouting your name. You didn't hear me.
Siobhan: Wait, what time was that? I didn't call you after lunch and my log says my phone didn't call, no matter how much she loves you.
Tata: It must've been Paulie's pants! They've called me before!
Siobhan: Maybe...
Tata: From his perspective, Paulie's pants were shouting, "SIOBHAN! SIOBHAN! SIOBHAN!"
Siobhan: I was drinking water when you said that. And I remain parched.

A few weeks ago, a story circulated that bothered me on general principle: MSNBC's For Wiccan soldier, death brings fight.
Nevada officials are pressing the Department of Veteran Affairs to allow the family of a soldier killed in Afghanistan to place a Wiccan symbol on his headstone.

Federal officials so far have refused to grant the requests of the family of Sgt. Patrick Stewart, 34, who was killed in Afghanistan in September when the Nevada Army National Guard helicopter he was in was shot down.

Honoring a person in death should be consistent with the person's life. Sgt. Stewart gave more to his country than just his sacrifice -
Stewart enlisted in the Army after he graduated from Reno's Wooster High School in 1989 and served in Desert Storm and in Korea. After completing his active duty, he enlisted in the Nevada Army National Guard in 2005 and went to Afghanistan with Task Force Storm.

- he gave his entire adult life to our military. Doesn't he deserve our respect and veneration?
Stewart, of Fernley, who was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, was a follower of the Wiccan religion, which the Department of Veterans Affairs does not recognize.

Wiccans worship the Earth and believe they must give to the community. Some consider themselves witches, pagans or neo-pagans.

The Veterans Affairs' National Cemetery Administration allows only approved emblems of religious beliefs on government headstones. Over the years, it has approved more than 30, including symbols for the Tenrikyo Church, United Moravian Church and Sikhs. There's also an emblem for atheists - but none for Wiccans.

Stewart's widow, Roberta Stewart, said she's hopeful she'll receive permission to add the Wiccan pentacle - a circle around a five-pointed star - to her late husband's government-issued memorial plaque.

While Memorial Day services are scheduled Monday at the Northern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Fernley, Roberta Stewart plans an alternative service at Fernley's Out of Town Park. She's calling the ceremony the Sgt. Patrick Stewart Freedom for All Faiths Memorial Service.

"This is discrimination against our religion," Roberta Stewart said. "The least his country can do is give him the symbol of faith as he would have wished," she recently told the Daily Sparks Tribune.

Sgt. Stewart was killed in September 2005 and the article was dated May 25, 2006. I Googled his name to find out if there'd been progress in the matter. Wikipedia offers no new information. I hope for acceptance, because in the wide world it never hurts us to live and let live. And damn it, I'll drink to that.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Flying High In Birdland

My sisters, those fools with excellent taste, have left me with the keys to the family store. Sarah Vaughn plays on the stereo and verbena perfumes the breeze, now and then tickling the wind chimes. Everyone went to Dunellen for Anya's son Ezekiel's birthday party. Corinne accidentally left me half a snack-size bag of salt and vinegar potato chips. I've made coffee. It's like I died and went to shinyshiny-sweet-smelling Heaven. With chips.

This morning, a person in the form of the blogger known as DBK came to my apartment with a toolkit and installed an air conditioner in my living room window. This was exciting because I can generally assemble stuff with power tools and a bottle of merlot and yet when I opened the boxes containing my air conditioners, I knew immediately installation would be a two-person job and extra personalities don't count. Mr. DBK volunteered to help, if only to make me quit complaining. So I'd opened one box, dragged everything out of the box and when I looked up styrofoam was settling on every surface in my bedroom like a gentle, toxic snowfall. My cat took one look at this and, muttering, slunk off to nap somewhere softer and furrier. I tossed the box and went so far as to paw the manual like it might read itself to me before bedtime. I even looked at the pictures. When the pictures didn't help I knew merlot wouldn't either. Merlot gives me a headstart on an attention span when I forget for a while that I don't have one. Then I commenced whining until Mr. DBK stuck fingers in his ears and volunteered to help me, which was very funny considering this was all over email and how did he type that?

Last night, to prepare for his visit, I opened the second cardboard and styrofoam container and realized right away I had a problem. On top of the unit itself sat a plastic bag full of little parts. I knew no matching bag of little parts sat on top of the air conditioner in my bedroom. Merde!

At 9 this morning, I phoned Sears to ask about a replacement of my goody bag but no one answered. Perhaps my complaints can only be heard by the ears of men holding tools and the guys in Appliances knew better than to pick up. At Sears Appliance Repair's interplanetary headquarters a woman answered the phone who, like many civilians, at first did not understand my problem.

Tata: Okay okay okay so last night I opened Box Number Two! Sitting atop the whatsis was a bag full of teeny pieces, and I don't have a twin from the other box. I am vexed!
Lady: What's in that bag?
Tata: A bunch of these, two of those and a plastic thing.
Lady: The air conditioner has over two hundred parts. Can you be more specific?
Tata: The bag says "Installation Kit". Does that help?
Lady: It doesn't! I don't understand this. My parts list does not list these parts.
Tata: The manual has a list of 14 wood screws, two more wood screws, two more after that, two braces and a plastic jobby. Should I just march myself over to my local Sears and ask if they have an extra one?
Lady: Extra nothing, those parts are yours.

I've got a convert! Anyway, it would have been nice to get both whatsii installed but no dice. The living room was obviously the place to start and by obviously I mean in the apartment in which I've lived since September I'd finally noticed someone had already drilled air conditioner bracket holes in the living room window sill. Mr. DBK rang the bell just after 10, while I was washing dishes. Wide-eyed, he stares at the adjacent building off to my left.

DBK: Have you noticed the crack that runs up the side of that building nearly to the top?
Tata: No. I bet the front of those apartments peel off like a banana peel that is especially ready to be peeled. Like a banana.
DBK: And the orange spot. I've read about it and now I've seen it.
Tata: That means neither of us is imagining you're at my house. Please come in!

About five minutes later, Mr. DBK is holding the manual and swearing. I sit on the floor and shrug. If installing the air conditioner were an ordinary puzzle I would have solved it myself. I built the cabinet in my bathroom and ended up with extra pieces. He is pleased to hear this and hopes I'll take up cabinetry, the art form of my ancestors. No, really. They made cabinets and knives and carved sculptures and Mr. DBK goes a little spastic.

DBK: Is that a Thighmaster? I'm so embarrassed.
Tata: Yes, my cat loves it.
DBK: Are you talking dirty?
Tata: No. See the cat? He finds it cushiony. One of my exes gave it to me because he used it and that made it funny. While you're here, will you help me medicate the cat?
DBK: Sure!

Holes drilled by someone else for another air conditioner prove a blessing and a curse when some of them are in the right spot and some are too large to provide any grip. Mr. DBK and I put the air conditioner in place and he affixes it to the windows from all sorts of angles using little chunks of wood he brought with him. Then I corral the cat and Mr. DBK, a veteran cat-medicator, squeezes droplets of a foul-smelling elixir into the mouth of the cranky pussycat. Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, then climbs over my shoulder with claws fully extended and makes a break for it.

Tata: I'm sorry. One more thing: will you help me move the credenza two feet that way?
DBK: Sure. Howcum?
Tata: When I move it myself it gouges the floor. And I need a handstand wall.
DBK: People say that to me all the time, they say, "I need a handstand wall," and I say good for them! What does that mean?
Tata: It means I am an Upside-Down American and I've been right-side-up long enough!
DBK: By all means, it's upside-down for you.

We relocate the credenza and I am happy to say there is plenty of room for inverted me. Now, I'm at the store and the sun is shining, and I'm smoooshing little grape tomatoes between my molars. It's been a good afternoon for me but tomorrow morning, when I can do head- and handstands in my own living room again, will be better.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Friday Cat Blogging: Don't Mess Around With Slim

Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, likes nothing better than to find me tapping away at the keyboard. This means I have to stay put, at least temporarily. He leaps. He stands on my lap. I type around the pussycat while he bumps my hands. Half the typos in Poor Impulse Control are cat-related accidents I failed to notice during proofreading. I don't mind them. Nobody becomes a decent artist alone, we know. One must learn to accept criticism.

In this picture, Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, offers a withering critique of my decorating skills. My weights are extraneous to his happiness. You're so selfish, he seems to say, On that spot, you could put a heating pad, kippered herring or a six-pack of pink mousies.

Perhaps he has a point. If you have use for some of the heavier weights, write me. I don't need them anymore. If no one wants the weights, I'll give them to a school or a Y with a free weights room. Best to release these creatures back into the wild.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Underneath the Strobe Light

For one of those December holidays, Siobhan gave me a giant orange chef knife of the brand shilled by Rachael Ray. Siobhan knows I despise Rachael Ray but my kitchen is a non-toxic mottle of yellow and orange. The knife's handle is orange but even better: the blade is really sharp. I have a pineapple and I'm armed. Since I shot my mouth off, I'm betting life-threatening injury that I can combine pineapple, knife, cutting board and a simple carving technique I saw on television, and end up with fresh fruit.

Some methods sound a little dangerous. Gee, I hope that pineapple's a cube. I saw Alton Brown make short work of a whole pineapple with an electric carving knife. Last time I saw one of those in action my grandfather carved up an ice cream cake. Poor Fudgie! There was crumbled cookie everywhere! So while I have no intention of training for my killing spree with fruit and a six-foot cord, there's still plenty for me to learn from how Alton did it. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a decent online demonstration or even a crappy online demonstration of the technique. FoodNetwork seems stuck on the idea that pineapple comes in cans. Roll up your sleeves and put on your 3D glasses. We're going in!

If you're old like me, you remember the scene in Diva in which the hero, while buttering a baguette, explains to the sweet, misguided kid that life is art. That is possibly the most economical bit of zen sensuality on film. It also helps that the apartment is a warehouse and there's a girl roller skating around the living room. If you're paying attention, you're panting. I've always wanted an apartment I could skate in. As I approach the pineapple, I am aware that a firm grasp of the knife, a clean, steady surface and focus on the task at hand are essentials. For instance, this would be a bad time for the cat to adore me but he is asleep. I checked.

I am lefthanded. Your mileage may vary. I lay the pineapple on its side with the top facing right. Firmly holding the pineapple in place, I briskly slice off the bottom, then grasp the spiny top and slice it off, too. It is delightful to work with a really sharp blade. I discard the top and bottom. I stand up the now-barrel-shaped fruit. Slicing down the side and turning the barrel toward me, I remove the prickly outsides off in two- to three-inch strips all the way around, turning it around again to remove any thorny patches I may have missed. The flesh falls away easily and offers little or no resistance.

I'm not done yet. The core of the pineapple is fibrous and very exciting to eat if deliciousness doesn't count. I cut the pineapple in half straight down, and cut the halves in half, straight down again. Then I cut off the center point. I now have fresh fruit that smells fantastic, and is nothing like the stuff that comes out of cans - nothing against the stuff in cans but this is different, and better. Life is art.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Home Is Hard To Swallow

It is frequently apparent to me that not only don't I know what day it is or what's going on but I also have no idea what coded messages I'm missing in ordinary conversation, possibly even with myself. This morning, I dreamed my sister Daria had brought her secret agent friends to Grandma Edith's apartment and the three of them were being followed by assassins. Edith's tasteful apartment had been redecorated in circus tent colors and I was sitting on the kitchen floor, trying to avoid being seen from the front windows. Family members reading these words are already suffering seizures of laughter because no sliver of light ever passed through the trees concealing those windows, but I digress. The assassins get into the apartment, now filled with people who should not be there. Edith, for instance, has been dead nearly fifteen years but she's sitting on a couch next to one of my co-workers and a son the co-worker does not have. The whole room is like that. I'm sitting on the floor cross-legged, with my fingertips arranged in the dharmacakra mudra. I know we are all going to die. The shooting starts in the other room. People are falling dead. A tall, shaggy haired man who looks like Bruce Dern after the coke runs out walks toward me pointing a pistol at my head. He walks around to face me. I say, "Please, just make it quick." He kisses my forehead and places the gun against my teeth. I relax and wait for the headache but instead I am suddenly wide awake at 4:30. It's still dark out. Instantly, I regret that my last words weren't, "Let the little boy go." Damn it, I'm editing my last words! And I can't fall back to sleep. Because Siobhan and I start work while birds are still hitting the snooze bar I call at 7:45.

Siobhan: You have got to be kidding.
Tata: No, I'm pissed! My subconscious has a secret it's not sharing with the class!
Siobhan: The Jewish old wives' tale is that when you dream your death you're getting married and when you dream your murder you're eloping.
Tata: I don't know what you're talking about. I have no intention of sharing a bathroom on any but a temporary basis. Damn bathroom hogs!
Siobhan: I've decided your cousin Monday's wedding is bothering you more than you let on and your brain wants to put this behind you.
Tata: I made reservations. Auntie InExcelsisDeo informed me that the hall runs shuttle buses to the hotels and no one will be driving drunk. I need a camera for pictures of the right and left Darias lying across the seats in formalwear.
Siobhan: Which you take from the floor?

By then I'll have given up holding a camera in favor of looking at someone and saying, "Click!" Everybody wins! On the other hand, perhaps everyone can still lose if I understand this sage and our docile pussycats are plotting the end of civilization as we know it.
Anyway, my first inkling that something was amiss in the Human vs. Every Other Animal Species sweepstakes came this fall, when I noticed that you could not drive more than a mile on an Iowa highway without seeing a deer carcass.

At first, I thought, "How dumb can a deer be? Don't they know the difference between a busy highway and a quiet forest?"

And then I thought, "It's a deer, you idiot. They don't know about highways."

And then I thought, "You probably shouldn't be sharing these ignorant debates with yourself in the newspaper. People might begin to worry."

I figured the deer were innocent until I saw several reports that they seemed to be "attacking" vehicles, by waiting until a car happened along and then running full speed into it.

Which is why I, for the first time, actually cheered for the hunters during the most recent deer season and proposed that they be allowed to use machine guns.

He seems smart. Maybe he knows what's going on.
For much of the winter, Des Moines served as the Crow Capital of the World. (New city motto: "Welcome to Des Moines. Don't look up.")

Half the sidewalks in town were covered with so many crow droppings that they resembled a Jackson Pollock painting.

These birds knew exactly what they were doing. I left my car parked on a street for five minutes and found, "Surrender, Funny Boy" written on my windshield - and it wasn't in ink.

I haven't seen the crows lately. They probably moved to Waukee like everyone else.

It would explain a lot if I'd moved to Waukee, Iowa without my knowledge. Damn sneaky subconscious! No wonder I'm eloping to get away from me!
In the beginning, I found it charming that the [giant monkeys] had cute names like Kanzi, Panbanisha, Matata and Nyota, although I kept confusing those names with those of the McCaughey septuplets.

And, yes, it was amusing when Sen. Tom Harkin visited the facility, and the creatures immediately signed a petition to impeach the president.

But I've watched enough bad movies to understand what's really going on: The apes are telling the other animals to attack us.

Snap! How will we save ourselves?
The fact is, I think the apes are so incredibly smart that they are participating in one of history's greatest scams.

During the day, they tease the researchers by showing that they've learned another simple phrase, like "pizza delivery." At night, they send out complicated telepathic instructions to crow and deer on how to release all the animals in the Blank Park Zoo.

I know how troubling this all sounds, so I promise to stay on top of the story. The last thing we need is for your pet cats to scratch your eyes out as you sleep.

If my cat gets a gun permit it's him or me - no matter what the monkey says.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Crimson And Clover, Over And Over

My days have become so eventful I can barely keep a journal and blogging is getting weird. I shouldn't say weird. I should say Where do I start? I should say I'm not sure what to leave in or out. I should say Change is in the air. What's a girl to fucking do?

Last winter, I tried switching via the New Jersey Clean Energy Program to New Jersey Wind. I went on merrily paying my dumb old PSE&G bill without a second thought and months later, in a stroke of nowhere-close-to-genius, when I glanced over the bill and realized I couldn't see any reference to the company polishing my energy karma. I called and set the whole thing up a second time. A month passed. I didn't see a bill. Another month passed. I tried calling and the number connected to a fax machine. I was just about to give up when Siobhan convinced me to call one more time.

Tata: Hello, tiny energy company! I am Miss Tata, and my address is [redacted, you geeks. Kisses!]
Nice Lady: Hello, Miss Tata.
Tata: I signed up. Then I signed up a second time. Then, mysteriously, the PSE&G bill that was about $35 per month suddenly dropped to less than $15.
Nice Lady: Wait, your bill should have increased by point blah blah blah per kilowatt hour.
Tata: You're nice and all but I feel we haven't known each other long enough for me to accept gifts.
Nice Lady: I see what you mean. You should check your next PSE&G bill.
Tata: It's going to whack me like a pinata, isn't it?

I had just paid such a bill days before and when I got home I found another. It was like a $15 Groundhog Day. This is a little frustrating but I'm going to stick to the plan. As yet, I can't say to you this transition is effortless and inexpensive - I can't actually say it's possible! - but I won't give up. I may change my mind and I may yet accept this green energy company's lavish gifts. I never have. It seems naughty!

For the last few weeks, I've been working on a couple of projects and, yes, I have been distracted. Today, one of them came to interesting fruition but as yet, I can't mention it. Soon. In the meantime, after last week's episode in which I found myself advising Lupe on how to carve up a pineapple without having done it myself - well, I bought a pineapple. I have a sharp knife. I'm going to make like Mount Rushmore and report my results - if I have fingers.

It's an adventure!

Monday, June 05, 2006

We'll Be the Pirate Twins Again, Europa

I'm experimenting with a new form of agriculture wherein I plant seeds and keep them wet. Little plants sprout and promptly drop dead. It has been a rousing success. I suspect an international corporate conspiracy to prevent me from having fresh mint.

While I'm demonstrating my special powers of reasoning, let's talk about Me - not just me, but Me. I take visits by Me very seriously because I can be unbearable, and I reward my bad behavior with appropriate punishments. This evening, for example, I went out walking in a sweatshirt so holey it verges on crochet and a pair of blue and green yoga paints so Seuss I should have keeled over from the shame of taking them to a cash register and presenting them to a blue-haired teenager who almost certainly would rather chew off her foot than wear these pants in a closed room devoid of all light. Ever. I knew these pants would be comfy when no one was looking and if I wore them outdoors, the power of nearly mortal shame would propel me around town with impressive velocity. And my plan succeeded until I met a friend on a bicycle.

It is important to remember the little things I do to kick my own ass can injure bystanders. I think one look at me and she sprained something but tears in her eyes told me I'd inspired her - and maybe her riding could be improved through the judicious use of Suess Wear.

I am so awesome. It's coulottes for Me!

Update: Colbert's Word today is Me. It's like he knows!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Not Much Between Despair And Ecstasy

It's Sunday and I am re-redding my hair. Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, is determinedly catnapping on a carpeted pedestal plainly designed for a smaller kitty. Outside, the air fades to blue with early evening and intermittent rain. It's wet out there but not like yesterday. Trout and I went to a funeral service as grown women and turned into those people. You know, those people, the friends the family doesn't understand.

The tribe to which I belong traces its origins to the music and art scene New Brunswick, based around certain bars, most of which are no longer standing. The characters are colorful and wounded, many destroyed by heroin, alcoholism and AIDS, but many more turn up in droves at the weddings and funerals of those more and less fortunate than themselves. I know many of them by face, most by their first names and precious few last names. I knew one of my closer friends only by his nickname for six years but I always knew what he drank and when he was playing guitar.

I knew the deceased as Freddy and never knew his last name. He was the singer and driving force behind the trashy and fabulous Mad Daddys, with a stage persona named Stinky Sonobuoni. Many nights, the band played in New Brunswick bars, and many times, the tribe showed up to see Stinky turn in fucking great sets for crowds that always begged for more. I respect that in a fellow tribesman. Last week, Freddy died after a long fight with cancer; I ache for his wife, his parents and his closest friends. I really do. That's why when Trout and I showed up at the funeral home and the crowd poured out into the hallway, silent and still, we did our level best to even breathe quietly to hear the speakers inside the viewing room. Some voices were low and indistinguishable but the people inside laughed crisply. Some voices were perfectly audible, and outside, we laughed, too. I looked around the hall and said, "I've ended up under a bar somewhere with about half these people." Every eye was red and everyone was laughing. Freddy really lived, the only tragedy was that he hadn't lived longer, and each story was about traveling with the band, dancing, singing somewhere unlikely and buying leopard print underwear. Everyone had a story about leopard print underwear. The funeral service developed a motif.

The final speaker was clergy of some kind and this guy had never met Freddy. Didn't know a thing about him. Spoke about a flock of sheep and parsed his own sentences. Spoke about meadows and still water in the 23rd Psalm. I started to smile. When he spoke about irrigation, even Trout started smiling. After a few minutes, I laughed out loud. One of the guys against the back wall blurted, "Man, that guy rambles." Suddenly, it was all over out in the hallway. The disreputable friends were laughing and talking and nobody heard another word from inside. I said to Trout, "At my funeral, none of this grim crap. Everyone should talk about fucking."

The funeral director offered us a room dozens of us could be disreputable in but almost nobody took him up on it, preferring to mill about under an awning outside. The rain had stopped temporarily. When crowds of old ladies filed out, we went back inside the viewing room. Trout and Freddy's wife go back to the late seventies New Brunswick punk band XEX, when Freddy's wife was known as Thumbelina Gugliemo. Thumbelina, Trout says, was the first person Trout ever knew who decorated her Christmas tree with blinky lights and empty White Castle boxes.

I admire that in a person. I really do. The widow is thrilled to see Trout. She's happy to see me, too, but she's thrilled to see Trout. Trout and I leave the funeral home and feel we've gotten off easy somehow, though Trout is a little wilted and sad. In Highland Park, she pulls over the Volkswagen and parks. We bolt for my sisters' toy store, where we inch around the room, squealing with glee, set off by our discovery of a book: Who Moved My Cheese? Trout perks up. My six-year-old nephew Tippecanoe is talking to customers like the toy store's maitre d'. On our way out, we meet his older sister Lois on her way in. The rain has stopped. In other news, our New Mexico correspondent starts a new job:
I've been up since the coyotes started started their insane laughter about five this morning, half nervously and half gleefully anticipating my first day as an honest-to-Jesus car salesman, taking "ups," people who wander onto the lot. I'm still weak on product knowledge, but I wasn't hired to be a mechanic. The job is about rapport, and I can do rapport. My manager told me that at this point in my career I don't have to do any hardball negotiating, which was the thing I was most dubious about in taking the job at all. He says my part is to find them the car they want and get them to my desk, or "in the box," and he'll take over while I watch and learn. I've spent the last couple of days out on the lot, making sure no one is close by, then practicing my pitch out loud. I've sold myself one of everything on the lot, and I already have a car, so obviously I have great promise. I still feel like someone else, like an actor, but that's no surprise, it runs in the family, my dad being a porn star. I don't even have to take off my pants. Except if it's absolutely necessary to make the sale. Still, I've got to tell you, the boost this whole thing has been to my confidence, even if I never sell a car, has been vast.

I'll make time later this week to sketch in my colleagues for you in more detail. They're primarily younger than me, the usual mix down here of white, Indian, and Spanish, and to fit in at all I've had to get used to calling everyone "brother" and "dog," or, in Spanish, "perro." Because they're young they've all seen that Adam Sandler movie where his character's name is Bobby, so of course that's become my name. We were a bunch of us riding in a van to pick up cars from another lot, and Dave the used car manager heard Me and My Bobby McGee on the radio and suddenly sang along "Good enough for me and my Bobby McGee!" Steve my manager at first tried to remain professional and call me John, but yesterday he slipped and called me Bobby. It's official now. I put it on the order form for my business cards.

It's getting to be showtime. I've got to floss my teeth and buff my shoes and look one more time over my flash cards of the prices of the various models of Hondas, Subarus, and VWs. I have a guy from the real estate office where I worked who I hope will be in to let me take him out to test drive an Element. I don't even care if he buys it. When he walks onto the lot and asks for Bobby, my dick will feel about two feet long.

Wish me, you know.

I love you, princess.

He calls me "princess." Wanna make something of it? Finally, Garnier has a new dye color: Hot Tamale. Yep. It's a hair color almost guaranteed to be visible from space - or under the bar.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Speak Like A Child

Ah, the truth hurts. It's giving me headaches, that's for sure. I was doing some work for a guy whose entire business is built on a co-dependency problem. The chaos was poisoning my dreams and making me bitter and defense. More than usual. Yesterday, I quit but it was more like a breakup than quitting and I keep wondering who gets custody of our mutual friends.

The humidity yesterday made being outdoors in the afternoon difficult and sweaty so I waited until after 7 to go out walking. I'd watched a weather report and the storms appeared in a variety of threatening colors to the north but not over Central New Jersey. In the park, I noticed the air looked a little bluer than usual but I was determined to at least run as far as I'd run the day before. So I did, thinking if I got struck by lightning behind the deserted construction equipment nobody would know, but not for long because lots of upstanding citizens ignored the approaching lightning with aplomb and herds of children. The park was full of people. I...left. Up on the avenues, people scurried about as the lightning drew nearer and thunder rumbled in the obviously decreasing distance. Just before a storm, a great gust of wind blows through, changing the air temperature and creating a distinctive rustle of leaves. I was six blocks from my front door when I felt that wind and thought I was about to get soaked but rain held off. Two blocks from my house, again, that same wind swept over everything. I couldn't believe it wasn't raining as I put the key in the front door. Inside my apartment, I marched straight to my bedroom and as I touched the window the skies opened. I'd arrived at home just in time to close the windows.

And I felt great except for my knees which felt a little sore and a little more inflamed than I liked. It may be true that running even a little bit on consecutive days is too much for them. The only thing to do is spread the pain, so let's start with the Oklahoma University College Republicans who seem like they've cut earth science classes on a more or less permanent basis. Mr. Blogenfreude is too kind to these douchey douchebags, whose douchebaggery could use a little refresher course in ...something, anything. Yesterday was the first day of hurricane season. This morning, Al Roker mentioned on the freshly Katie Courie-free Today Show that the Atlantic is 2 degrees warmer this year than usual. He said some variation of "You wouldn't think that was a lot but it increases the number of severe storms and drives them to be stronger." I propose we send the OU College Republicans, who are most certainly landlocked, boarding passes for those special planes that fly through hurricanes and drop devices to measure the damage climate change is about to do. That could be educational, and perhaps our future leaders wouldn't parade their truly extra-stupid stupidity across college campuses where, perhaps the OU CRs haven't noticed, exams are over and these idiots should be moving back home like two weeks ago. Go paint a house, kids! We'll talk more about your plan to resurrect Frankie and Annette's beach blanket non-boinking when you get back from your one and only real-life-like experience!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Standing In the Way of Control

I used to have an absolutely perfect butt. I'm not saying I had the perfect butt because bottoms of great beauty cross our lines of sight in all forms and shapes, and the world of derrieres is - pardon me - wide. Yes, for decades I walked around all day with a tuchas so perfect in its own right that telling people to kiss my enchanting bottom was no ordinary insult. Yes, though I had the Great Butt of Happiness and today I possess the Rump of Mild Mirth, I can die happy, knowing I contributed to joy in the eyes of the world because my darling Miss Sasha has an absolutely perfect bottom for her tiny frame, and yesterday, she hightailed it to a phone and called me.

Miss Sasha: WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! I'm having the worst week! [Beep!][Silence.] Aunt Daria's on the other line. [Click.]
Tata: She called to cry on my shoulder and put me on hold?

After about ten minutes, I figured I could hang up and wait. An hour later, Miss Sasha regaled me with a gut-wrenching tale of catering horror, which was bad but nowhere near as bad as the Sword of Damocles hanging over the heads of her Dad and me: What if she breaks up with Mr. Sasha and wants to come home? So, really, the degree of disaster here is all relative. She was crying the first time she called but Daria seems to have calmed Miss Sasha down.

Miss Sasha: Okay okay okay it was so bad, Mommy! The bride was crying in my face and her father was following me around, threatening me and he sent back the rentals and blamed me and he was shouting, "Don't any of you know how to use a calculator?" and every one of us fell down the steep stairs in the house, which they had to have known we would if they live there and my bartender was soaked in crab boil and -
Tata: Sweetheart -
Miss Sasha: Aunt Daria said everyone in catering has a story like this and she told me about a disaster with the bride's sister and I was going to have to give them back the money and Daria said I might need legal advice and -
Tata: STOP! What did Daria say?
Miss Sasha: She said this is not my fault.
Tata: Okay, then. You know very well if she thought you were the slightest bit to blame she'd tell you you'd screwed up.
Miss Sasha: Yes...
Tata: And you know how she hates when anyone plays the victim, right?
Miss Sasha: Yes...
Tata: So...did the people get married?
Miss Sasha: Yes.
Tata: And did everyone have cake?
Miss Sasha: Yes.
Tata: Awesome. Don't take any crap, sweetheart. Mommy can't cross state lines and kick ass for you. That's assault.

Just the same, I waited for Daria's call and less than half an hour later, it came.

Tata: Did you get a straight story out of Our Darling?
Daria: Yep.
Tata: So what happened?
Daria: You know I'm very good at what I do, right?
Tata: Yep.
Daria: The bride threw Sasha under the bus.
Tata: Really?
Daria: Her family didn't like the decisions the bride made and changed everything on the day of the wedding. You can't miscount guests and send back tables and chairs you rented three months ahead on Memorial Day Weekend and expect anything but trouble. Sasha was right there, so all the hate went her way.
Tata: Wow! People are stupid!
Daria: Yeah, I told her to get back on the horse.

Hours later, Miss Sasha and her friend call for no real reason but they're laughing and making mango lhasis.

Tata: That might be good with vodka but I bet the hangovers would be a bitch.
Miss Sasha: Tawny, what do you think about vodka and hangovers?
Tata: Be sure to drink water with those! You sound better.
Miss Sasha: I am. Aunt Daria told me to learn from this.
Tata: It's true! If this is the worst moment of your life, then the worst moment of your life is behind you!
Miss Sasha: Well, I'm still not sure what to do.
Tata: I am! My advice is to drink heavily. This painful lesson may fade into distant memory but stories of drunken hijinx live forever!

Some of life's lessons come at a dear cost but on some special lessons, interest compounds daily. Miss Sasha's intentions were good, and she deserved better treatment. This other character is getting his just desserts, and his ass kicked in a way that will haunt him all his working life.

Bon appetit!