Your Eyes Make A Circle

Gianna and I are standing in the ladies room discussing my cousin and our mutual hairdresser Carmelo, who’s been AWOL since Friday night. His shop is on the main street in our little town and the front wall is glass. When the doctor is OUT, the whole town can see it. So where is he? We discover neither of us knows what Carmelo’s doing besides covering our roots just as the lights fail. We are left in total darkness just as Gianna walks into a wall with a thud! and delighted laughter. I ask if she’s heard what I heard on the Italian news last night: the Pope’s still nursing a grudge against Galileo. Last night, I couldn’t believe what I thought I was hearing, though that’s perfectly okay since I don’t speak Italian. But holy cow, I was right! In a related note: if you want to have fun with an Italian news report put it through Babelfish. Did you know Italian names are nouns and adjectives? It’s like someone squooze all the naughty out of Mad Libs.

Today is the actual birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., which I would have realized if I ever knew what day it was. Further: if I’d picked up a datebook in December I might’ve known, for instance, that today was Wednesday. Even so, I was surprised to find that on this day Answers.com highlighted a king of redneck culture, NASCAR’s A. J. Foyt. For me, being small and covered with fur has some distinct disadvantages. Fortunately, Digby and the littlest gator reminded me of what I was missing. I can’t write more eloquently than they do on this or any other topic, so those posts speak for me, and for the loving us that we become when we work to make this world more just. We learn, we fail, we learn more. Just this morning, I marveled at my own idiocy. I was mulling over zapping an email to my local NBC affiliate asking what happened to my morning newscaster, when I have been rendered completely and utterly speechless by this by brownfemipower, via Shakes.

Lesbians sentenced for self-defense

That sound you hear is all the oxygen sucked once again from my lungs.

On Aug. 16, 2006, seven young, African-American, lesbian-identified friends were walking in the West Village. The Village is a historic center for lesbian, gay, bi and trans (LGBT) communities, and is seen as a safe haven for working-class LGBT youth, especially youth of color.

As they passed the Independent Film Cinema, 29-year-old Dwayne Buckle, an African-American vendor selling DVDs, sexually propositioned one of the women. They rebuffed his advances and kept walking.

“I’ll f— you straight, sweetheart!” Buckle shouted. A video camera from a nearby store shows the women walking away. He followed them, all the while hurling anti-lesbian slurs, grabbing his genitals and making explicitly obscene remarks. The women finally stopped and confronted him. A heated argument ensued. Buckle spat in the face of one of the women and threw his lit cigarette at them, escalating the verbal attack into a physical one.

Buckle is seen on the video grabbing and pulling out large patches of hair from one of the young women. When Buckle ended up on top of one of the women, choking her, Johnson pulled a small steak knife out of her purse. She aimed for his arm to stop him from killing her friend.

The video captures two men finally running over to help the women and beating Buckle. At some point he was stabbed in the abdomen. The women were already walking away across the street by the time the police arrived.

Buckle was hospitalized for five days after surgery for a lacerated liver and stomach. When asked at the hospital, he responded at least twice that men had attacked him.

There was no evidence that Johnson’s kitchen knife was the weapon that penetrated his abdomen, nor was there any blood visible on it. In fact, there was never any forensics testing done on her knife. On the night they were arrested, the police told the women that there would be a search by the New York Police Department for the two men – which to date has not happened.

After almost a year of trial, four of the seven were convicted in April. Johnson was sentenced to 11 years on June 14.

It turns out the newscaster was on vacation, so there was no need to write. For details of the actual outrage, please see FierceNYC. These events happened months ago, even more than a year ago. I read about this yesterday and I am still reeling.

A datebook would not have helped except to remind me it is 2008 and our futures can be deftly stolen from us, whoever we are.

You Got It, Now You Know

My hair has grown out for the last year, which means when I wake up in the morning or from a nap, there’s a nest on top of my head. One morning, I looked in the mirror and decided to call storm chasers: Hello, fearless IMAX guys? My hair is on the rampage. Last week, Pete and I began playing a new game called How Crazy Is My Hair? Here are the rules: my hair does whatever the hell it feels like, and Pete assesses the insanity. “Pete, how crazy is my hair? Is it Son of Sam-Crazy or Ed Gein-Crazy?” If I’m feeling movie madness: “Is it Errol Flynn-Crazy or Joan Crawford-Crazy?” And there’s always politics: “If my hair is crazier than Giuliani, I’m getting a restraining order against my head.”

It’s just a game. Or is it?

At 7:17 a.m., I dropped off Pete at his house and drove to work with the camera in the car. I should carry one all the time, really. Two blocks from the bridge over the Raritan, I fell in line two cars behind… behind… Flying Spaghetti Monster, that’s a truck full of portapotties. I pressed the ON button on the camera, aimed, zoomed, zoomed some more and took this crappy picture just as the light turned green. The truck turned right. I held my breath as it rounded the corner, then I drove straight over the bridge into town. That’s New Brunswick in the distance, in all its self-loathing glory; in fact, those are several of the same buildings pictured above from a different angle. No truck drivers were harmed in the making of this post. The same cannot be said of my head.

All the Stars Are On the Inside

This afternoon, I stumbled into the dentist’s office because I wished I were on drugs and had two fangs filed down. This came with a heaping helping of my favorite moment in life: being paralyzed with fright as the dentist swings a needle the size of a telephone pole from somewhere near the ceiling to the gum and rams home the plunger! Twice! Then, for ten minutes, I grip the handrests and try not to punch my dentist square in the face as he drills, then drills, then drills some more on teeth so sensitve I haven’t eaten ice cream in seven years.

It goes to show you how different things can be from what you imagine and fear. Yes, I felt like I was going to throw up as that needle approached my face but my dentist is so good with the needle I barely felt the first one, which made the agony of the second one an invigorating surprise. Then he left the room to let the anaesthesia take effect. Fortunately, Bohemian Rhapsody was playing on the radio as I lost all feeling in my face. Beezebub has a devil put aside for me! For me! For me!Say that three times fast as your lips go numb!

Later, I stumbled home, trying not to offend people with the stupid expression on my face. It was exciting, all right. I couldn’t tell, as I walked home, if I’d rinsed off all the alginate or if my nose dripped. Eight long, freezing blocks later, I was home and as far as I could tell on General Hospital, Lulu had been kidnapped by Jax’s brother but Jax was being played by a wrinkly non-triathalon running/biking/swimming hunkalicious Aussie so I lay flat on my couch to see if everyone got better looking at a 90 degree angle. Next thing I knew, Drusy was standing on me and Pete was asking what we should do for dinner.

Poor Lulu. I wish I cared.

To Wish These Days Would End

Yesterday and today.

Last night, Darla said PIC included little personal detail recently. I allowed as how I’m working really hard at the unnamed university job and at the family store. Further, when I get home, my brain is still tired from the December slog and it’s all I can do to seductively mumble at Pete “Gaaaaaaaaaah” before I either snore or toss all night. Thus, though I may be desperately attractive, in pixel form, I might be a trifle dull. Of course, I apologize – or I would, but no self-respecting bitch would, and I like Elton John.

Today, Pete and I drove out to Daria’s, where for no good reason, Pete, Daria and I dipped pretzels into crab, clam and honey-mustard dips while discussing our diets. It was time well spent, I’m sure. Pete toured the local Home Depot while Daria went through her closet for clothing I can marinate in umbrella drinks whle on vacation at the end of this month. Yes, pets, I’m leaving you for a week. No, your mother and I still love you, we just need this time apart. You’re still special!

Siobhan and I are going on a Barenaked Ladies cruise. No, I can’t stop singing If I Had A Million Dollars. The plan is to spend mornings on an exercise cycle, afternoons on a deck chair, evenings in a bar, and the whole time holding a chic glass containing alcohol and tropical fruit. At other points, I might visit islands and see the band, while holiding a chic glass containing alcohol and tropical fruit. If I end up in a life boat, there had better be a tiki bar. Will I drown?

Behind You I See the Millions

Pete can take a gorgeous picture of our craptastic city, can he not?

In restaurants, I order only what I can’t make myself. Lately, I want soup. Today, minstrel mentioned pho at the same moment I was searching the NJ restaurant listings for a good Hungarian restaurant. The only one I could find is the one in a formal basement in New Brunswick. I’ve been there. It’s okay, but I longed for the kasha and mushroom sauce and creamy paprikash of Aranka, a restaurant that moved from town down Route 27 to Franklin Park. One night, a friend and I drove down there and found the building painted pink and containing an ice cream parlor. We were crushed! Since then, I haven’t found a new Hungarian restaurant to love. My friends and I also lost the Russian restaurant that was like a trip through the looking glass with roasted meat. So I’ve been thinking it’s almost time to make a pilgrimage to Veselka in New York for the borscht. Pete’s justifiably fussy about food. I wonder if he’ll touch pink soup – which, if you haven’t tried it, is as close to unsightly public rapture as you want to be unless you’re Jenna Jamison. Eventually, we went to the Greek restaurant, where I had the arni fricase with artichokes. I’m reconsidering. I might be able to cook that.

I’ve never had pho and now I must try it.

Bonus picture of Topaz lying on the floor, adoring Pete.

She’s just so gorgeous. One of these days, I fully expect her to don her napkin and gnaw on our leg bones.

Topaz is not just a gushing teenage fangirl. No. She’s a wild jungle cat. I must never run out of cat food.

Quilted And Timeless, Seldom Denied

Last night, just before I closed the family store, I heard two people talking by the half-price ornament display. I heard a man’s voice deep and gruff and a woman’s light and inquisitive, and where they were browsing I couldn’t see them. I was reading Digby because 40% of my nephews were running around next door and I was too tired to contemplate exploding space dinosaurs. So the people were browsing. I was reading. I heard the man’s voice behind the Thymes display not ten feet from me, so I looked up to greet him. He was about 5’6″ and kind of squarish. His shoulder-length hair was bottle blond. He was wearing a yellow and black Catholic school girl outfit and a Hello, Kitty! backpack. My one and only thought, upon seeing him, was, “I hate plaid.”

This morning, I awoke in darkness as usual. A light rain fell outside. Instantly, I regretted having to leave the coziness of my bed for the crappiness of getting ready for work. Siobhan, no mincer of words, reminded me yesterday that the 180 Days project was already in shambles.

Siobhan: Three weeks and you’re fucking it up. A new record!
Tata: It’s New Brunswick. Don’t get that on your shoes!

Well, you wouldn’t want that, would you?
And speaking of what you don’t want, did you know you can get paranormal restraining orders? You sure can! Who’s bugging you? Bigfoot?

No longer fear the woods! Take a hike without harassment.

Why, I would like to take a hike! And so can Santa, that bastard!

Spend your holiday free from elfin magic! Every year like clockwork he waits until you’re asleep, breaks into your house, and leaves things lying around.

No whammies…no whammies…For the his and hers matching recliners –

God
Never fear The Lord’s wrath again!
In the fire of his jealousy the whole world will be consumed, for he will make a sudden end of all who live in the earth. …except you.

We have a winner! I mention this because I’m being haunted by the ghost of Richard Viguerie, which foregoes usual paranormal parlor tricks like dripping blood, flies and showing up uninvited to formal dinner parties for sending creepy and hilarious email.

While many conservatives, libertarians, and fair-minded people of all political persuasions are still disappointed at the Fox News Channel’s (FNC) exclusion of Ron Paul from the January 6 debate in New Hampshire, we are relieved that their January 10 debate in South Carolina will include all of the candidates.

In New Hampshire, Ron Paul finished just 2,111 votes behind Rudy Giuliani. It is possible that if Congressman Paul had been included in the debate, he might have gotten at least 2,200 more votes. So, FNC may have affected the outcome of the New Hampshire primary. That’s something a news organization should never do.

Seldom have I come closer to wetting myself. In life, Richard Viguerie corrupted the public discourse but now that he’s haunting me, a treehugging pinko, he’s hilarious. Fox isn’t a news organization. It’s an organ of propaganda for Viguerie’s baby the Conservative Revolution. Flying Spaghetti Monster, even the living know that!

I’ll take today’s picture this afternoon, when things may dry out a little. New Brunswick makes its own gravy. I guess all that is obvious.

Back Up To Heaven All Alone

Tuesday

I woke up an hour and a half bfore the alarm. My skin felt prickly. It was as if someone stood by my closet door, but no one did. Eventually, I got up, read my email and used the portable exercise cycle contraption Pete gave me during the December Gift-Giving Extravaganza. Then, at a time when I should have been jumping into the shower and running away! away! away! to work, I started breakfast. Just before 7:30, I called the office and left a message.

Tata: Good morning, Helen! I bet you’ve noticed I’m not there! I’ll be along soon. I was doing fine until I started cooking breakfast, then I was cooking breakfast, then I was still cooking breakfast and, inexplicably, after that I was continuing to cook breakfast. There’s enough for six linebackers in my kitchen! I’ll be there in a little bit, and boy, will I be full!

Half an hour later, Helen was listening to her messages when I arrived. Breathless, she pointed at me and laughed until I walked away, away, away. My PC made noises like angry bees all day, which excited the unnamed university library’s IT department.

One of my co-workers and I are on the same sleep schedule. I know when I’m up, she’s up. When I’m sleeping, odds are good she’s sawing a log. She mentioned she hadn’t slept much either.

Tata: I was up before 5.
Lenore: Me, too.
Tata: You would think that would make me early for work but no! I was not! I got up and made breakfast for six people who weren’t there. There’s still toast in my toaster! So I was late.
Lenore: Don’t you know I sat on the edge of my bed this morning and said, “Gerald, I’m going to turn over a new leaf and start eating breakfast,” but I didn’t! Next time you’re cooking you call me.

We often dress alike without prompting.

Wednesday

It’s finally light out before I start the car in the morning. Yesterday, as I walked to the parking lot, I was stunned by the pinks and golds of the sunlight just barely above the rooftops as overhead, woolly gray clouds gathered. The first drops of rain landed on my windshield as I put the car into drive and made my embarrassingly brief commute straight at a rainbow that appeared to be anchored just south of New Brunswick. During the walk from the lot to the library, I was dumbstruck by the size and clarity of the rainbow over the city. As I stood there staring the clouds burst open and I was soaked, but I laughed all the way to the front door. My PC sounded like it was straining to take off.

Today

I often say that when I leave the house I forget one thing I need, always at least one thing. This morning, I had to go back for my bookbag and the leftover toast. I’m having soup for lunch and this toast will taste wonderful, soaked in broth. I’ve been assured that when the dying part kicks the bucket my hard drive will not melt. That might be true of other people’s PCs but not mine. We don’t know what will happen.

By Age And Careless Children

A few nights ago, Pete and I watched Christina Cooks on a PBS station, probably on WLIW Create, and I was trying to explain to him why this cooking show perplexed me. I’m smart!

Tata: I don’t…why’s she…what did she just…what’s in that pan?…that’s the first time I’ve heard her say vegetarian…Pete, did you see her toss pecans into that pecan bundt cake?
Pete: Nope, but I’ve seen guys direct traffic with less gestures.
Tata: I get emotional!

Pete did all his homework at the Culinary Institute, sometimes without a hangover. He has forgotten more than I will ever know about food. Yesterday, he called from his house.

Tata: What time will you be here?
Pete: In about 25 minutes. Why?
Tata: Dinner’s almost ready.
Pete: It is?

The note of panic in his voice is barely concealed when I get up and walk toward the kitchen. “Where ya going?” he asks, as if he expects I spent forty years foraging in produce sections and Chinese buffets. I can’t cook, right? That doesn’t mean I don’t, which brings us to this.

Foodie restaurants love this ritzy Italian corn porridge they like to call “polenta.”

What?

I can take you to places in San Francisco where a plate of simple polenta, beautifully presented for lunch and topped with a spoonful of marscapone cheese, will set you back $12, not counting the side salad and a glass of Napa gewurtz to wash it down with.

Of course, being half-hillbilly, I find this ridiculous. (Delicious, and I’ll pay it, but ridiculous nonetheless.) Back in the day, in the two-room cabin I called home until I was 10, my mama made the exact same stuff, packed it with Velveeta, and called it cheese grits. Since we lived so far out that she only went into town shopping once a month, grits – served alongside some canned peas and a few pan-fried rainbow trout we caught in the creek – were standard empty-pantry fare in that last week before Mom went back into town.

This time of year, when it’s cold and howling out, grits (polenta, if you insist) are a great winter comfort food.

I do insist. Wikipedia:

Polenta is a dish made from boiled cornmeal. Although the word is borrowed into English from Italian, the dish (under various names) is popular in Italian, Savoyard, Swiss, Austrian, Croatian, Cuban, Hungarian, Slovenian, Serbian, Romanian, Bulgarian, Georgian, Corsican, Argentine, Uruguayan, Brazilian, Peruvian, Venezuelan, and Mexican cuisines, and it is a traditional staple food throughout much of northern Italy.

Maize or corn was a new world crop the Mesoamericans cultivated a long, long time before the Spanish arrived, so if the question is “Whose cuisine is more authentic, the guinea’s or the hillbilly’s?” we’re not even in the correct ethnic ballpark. That said, poor people all over the planet have subsisted on cornmeal mushes in the last 500 years. So. I get emotional! The last little tiff I had with Dad before his diagnosis a year ago was about why he was writing recipes putting heavy cream and asiago into polenta when good cornmeal, stock and fragrant herbs were all a home chef and her waistline needed. I agree with Sara that the upscaling of polenta is stupid. It’s a delight we can all afford and make for ourselves. On the other hand, Quaker makes Instant Grits, and if you need it right now, that crap’s microwaveable.

When Daria, Todd and I were kids, Grandma and Grandpa LongItalianLastName only took out the stock pot on special occasions. The thing about peasant food nobody mentions is that it takes all damn day to make and a lot of freaking effort, so: in modern life, for a family of modest means, the old ways can represent a substantial investment in keeping them special and viscerally important to the next generation. This is the farthest thing from ritzy. Grandma boiled salted water and added the yellow cornmeal. Grandpa, plainly in charge, wielded the polenta stick. Yes, we had a polenta stick, specifically for stirring polenta. It’s in my kitchen right now. Making polenta from scratch for a big group is no exercise for the faint of heart or weak of bicep. After Grandpa died, Grandma switched to quicker cooking polenta, which involved less machismo but the same amount of wood because the exercise was still the same: someone held the pot and someone stirred until his or her arms fell off, the goo was poured out onto the polenta board – also in my kitchen – to cool a bit. Then we ate, because by this time, we were all muscle-bound and starving. Now, I make this at home all the time because, you know, I possess the freakish upper body strength.

The thing about polenta made this way was the development of fantastic yellow corn flavor, which is a different corn flavor from grits. The difference starts in how the cornmeal is processed at the mill and continues in the kitchen. I don’t have a special palate or anything, but I’ve spent enough time in an Italian kitchen, in the South and in an Italian kitchen in the South to be able to tell the difference. This is also why I love the Oaxaquenian tamales. Same stuff. Different. Ooh la la.

On Christina’s Cool Products page, I was surprised to find DiBruno Bros., my favorite cheesemonger in Philadelphia, and Frey Wines. Sometimes, I understand the principles of the recipe Christina’s using, sometimes I don’t. She doesn’t seem to use dairy or alcohol at all, so maybe I don’t understand what she’s doing. Much. Often. I get emotional!

That happens a lot, actually.