Never Too Soon or Too Late

The last ten months of natural disasters around the world compound the wartime sense and recession sense that there’s nothing to do but surrender and go cook something. I don’t blame you for your fatigue. Hurricanes, earthquakes, the tsunami. Survivors of all manners of horror seem to be everywhere and needy, and here come the holidays, damn it! Let’s ratchet down the anxiety a few pegs. It’s October, and there’s plenty of time to plan.

1. Your local food bank or soup kitchen will probably accept most donations of canned or sealed products but it’s a good idea to call them and ask what they need most.

When Miss Sasha was little, we worked on a project together: we took paper bags, stapled instructions on them and asked our family and friends to keep the paper bags in their kitchens. We asked that participants purchase one canned item per shopping trip, place it in the bag and call us to collect it when the bag was full. We took the bags to the soup kitchen or the food bank after about three months. You don’t have to coordinate a big project like that. You can contact your food bank, ask what they need or want and keep a bag in your own kitchen. You won’t even notice a can of whole tomatoes or a box of cereal in your grocery bill but it makes a big difference to a kid who otherwise wouldn’t have anything to eat or a family that finds its adults suddenly unemployed.

2. Last December, CN8 did a spot on the Hampshire Family Fund I happened to see. The idea impressed me very much. You and your gigantic family take $5 apiece maybe, pick a worthy cause and put that small hunk of money where it will do some good. It can be anywhere. You can all vote on where the money goes. A good reason to do this is the work you do as a group is greater than what you can do alone, and that’s a powerful feeling. The best reason to do this is your beloved children never look at you as a selfish bastard and put you in a hellish, roach-infested dungeon of a nursing home, because they’re not selfish bastards either.

Just to be clear, my darling, I’m not asking you to donate to the Hampshire Family Fund. Please endow your own good works fund. The [your fine name here] Fund.

3. A year ago, emails circulated asking people to send hospitalized soldiers phone cards. Sometimes needs change so I called Walter Reed Medical Center to fact check. The man who patiently answered my questions had a brand new list of things hospitalized veterans need:

phone cards
body wash
anti-perspirant for men/women
medium-sized sweat pants
medium-sized sweat tops
disposable cameras
medium and large breakaway pants
portable CD players
DVD movies
watches for the visually impaired

Mail to:

Walter Reed Medical Center
6900 Georgia Avenue
Heaton Pavillion
Third Floor, Room E05
Washington, D.C. 20307-5000

Attn: American Red Cross


I’m thinking lately about what I truly need and what is extra, and what effect does the extra stuff have on me. I feel it as weight I can’t get out from under unless I throw or give away that stuff. Not everyone feels that way, for sure. I bet you can walk through your living room and find five DVDs you’ve seen and have no further interest in. Please consider putting those in an envelope. I mean, unless they sucked. In that case, do everyone a favor and toss them in the trash.

4. I love you. You know that. Please stash an extra $10 in your savings account this week for a rainy day. I hate to think of you going hungry in your old age.

When you see someone on TV talking about “giving back” do you want to ralph? That statement translates to “Since I got my Hummer I can write a $5 check to the blood bank. They take checks, right?” It’s the difference between thinking of oneself as an accumulator of objects and material wealth, and imagining oneself as part of the fabric of problems and solutions.

So. Christmas is coming. No need to panic when you have an imagination like yours and all the heart a person needs to do some good in the world.

I’ve got coupons. Does that help?

All Things, And A Little Extra

A few years ago, the able dames at McCormick’s in New Brunswick used to team up in band-form or softball team-form. They were always showing up in bar team uniforms after something. One night, I was at one of their parties out on Route 130. They asked me to play basketball with them against some guys. I’m 5’2″ and have never made a basket, so I peeled off my shirt and played defense. Yes, I was wearing a bra. Since I can’t actually play basketball, I simply assaulted the other team’s players while my teammates scored baskets. We lost by 1 point. And because I’d spent one afternoon studying tai chi, I threw a grown man over a car. Twice! So the manager asked if I wanted to play softball. I bought a lefthanded fielder’s mitt and never played. For years, I’ve looked at that thing and thought ‘Why do I still have that?’

Turns out kids in little league can use your used mitts. New Brunswick is actually kind of desperate for sports equipment. You can send or drop off your extra things:

City of New Brunswick
Department of Recreation
411 Joyce Kilmer Avenue
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
732 745-5125

If you live in an area where sports for kids are well-funded you probably do not live too far from a town where the same is not true. Your house is full of stuff you no longer need or want, or your kids outgrew eons ago. Why not move the stuff in your way to a place where it is sorely needed?

No Rest for the Wicked

The baker’s rack has arrived. Let’s rephrase: I have it! The thing is mine! Mine, mine mine! I possess it! I do what anyone would: laugh like a mad scientist and slice open the box.

I lay out the pieces of the baker’s rack that once graced my daughter’s kitchen but was re-packaged by her husband; I am confident I can stare at the puzzle and see the pattern. Oh, don’t kid yourself. I know exactly what’s going on in that toothy steel-trap you call your mind.

You: Missy! Last week, you were outwitted by a potholder. When you do yoga, your cat is so underwhelmed he bites you – every day! Over the weekend, Jehovah’s Witnesses rang the doorbell and you answered it in a pair of pants and curlers.
Tata: You are indeed a douchebag! My cat loves me! He’s got a slight catnip problem. Do 12 steps move faster on four feet?

Logic dictates – stop laughing! – a baker’s rack should have a certain symmetry left-right but not top-bottom, so I open all the freezer bags and count hardware. Some small pieces are broken. I pick them up, turn them over in my hand and can’t believe my eyes. After Dad and Darla came to help me a few weeks ago, I found on the kitchen counter four pieces just like the ones in my hand, and I waited in vain for their purpose in life to be revealed when something missing those four pieces crashed to the floor from…somewhere…but nothing did. Now I see also three screws and a giant safety pin.

You know, if I were my son-in-law, I might toss in a few extra parts and laugh all the way to the Post Office. Fortunately, Mr. Sasha left out any instructions or I might be forced to read them. I pick a shelf, decide it’s the bottom and I rest this on a box of books. Siobhan has a theory.

Siobhan: I often add, like it’s fun or something. Numbers are always the same.
Tata; No…numbers are always different. They are standoffish, like Siamese cats. They stick like ungreased gears.
Siobhan: How many fingers am I holding up?
Tata: The fish! The fish!

The baker’s rack is a puzzle with a small enough number of elegant solutions, a larger number of inelegant solutions and at least one alarming way to fail completely. This is exciting for my brain. I assemble a thing that undoubtedly bears little resemblance to the baker’s rack that used to stand in Miss Sasha’s kitchen. It’s a bit crooked, despite the careful construction. It’s also standing in my kitchen and I can see most of my kitchen floor!

None of this is very important. No like the gift that keeps on giving: explosives. No. Not like that at all.

Four afternoons a week, I watch the last few minutes of General Hospital, listen to the first few minutes of Oprah,and fall unconscious in self-defense. One afternoon, I must’ve changed the channel in my sleep because when I woke up Martha Stewart was talking to Jessica Alba. Having seen and totally loved Sin City, I know the only way these two should meet is on a press junket to small claims court. Martha is a recent parolee. Jessica is a dirty, dirty girl. I sit up straight on the couch.

On Martha’s new show, there’s freaking Jessica Alba wearing an orchid cashmere sweater in Martha Stewart’s freaking TV studio kitchen. I know that innocent smile. I know that studied distance. Jessica’s telling Martha the story I read weeks ago about a genuinely interesting incident during the making of her most recent movie. She was doing a scene and out of the corner of her eye she saw a shark. With nothing else to do and nowhere to go and the camera rolling, she stuck out a hand, pushed the shark firmly and off it went. Jessica’s smiling and says something like, “Well, you can see.”

Film rolls. Superfit Jessica is fawning, underwater-esque, on some fella pinned under a something-or-other and then there’s a shark about the same size as our ingenue and a hand goes PUSH! and –

The audience applauds. We’re back with that orchid sweater and Martha’s talking about something made with spinach. This feels fake beyond belief and WASN’T THAT A SHARK? They cook something, more or less. For the life of me I can’t hear a single thing they’re talking about.

Somehow, these two incidents are related. I contend it’s the possibility of chopped spinach.

Don’t Don’t Don’t Let’s Start

It’s Saturday. My superhot evening plan is to go grocery shopping. Not everyone gets cranked about trolling the frozen foods section but I do, and I wield coupons without mercy. Just before nine tonight I walked out of my apartment, put my car in gear and saw the nearly full moon. “Crap,’ I thought, ‘car accident. Please don’t let me be the idiot.’

Last night, I was so exhausted I could barely keep my eyes open by 9:30. Through sheer determination and serial viewing of screwy Law & Order: Criminal Intent episodes, I managed to sit at only a slight angle until about 11:30, when I gave up and quit resisting gravity. That meant I quit resisting wakefulness at 5 this morning, which was way too soon, so I took a sleeping pill and resisted consciousness until noon. I toss a pot pie into the oven and brew some coffee. Sometimes living alone doesn’t suck.

Today, I stared at the pieces of my IKEA computer desk for about an hour until I knew what to do and assembled it. An hour of staring. Ten minutes of assembly. I am a genius! Miss Sasha calls half an hour later.

Miss Sasha: He’s a fool!
Tata: Well, everybody does smart things and stupid things. Not everyone understands this.
Miss Sasha: What?
Tata: I just put together my IKEA computer desk without instructions. Know what I’m doing now?
Miss Sasha: No…
Tata: I’m kneeling on my stove. Guess why! Guess!
Miss Sasha: Ow! Fishing for change?
Tata: I dropped my one and only potholder behind my oven.
Miss Sasha: D’Oh!
Tata: I’ve got red spots all over my face, Guess why! Guess!
Miss Sasha: Mom…
Tata: I made really delicious polenta and spashed it all over my face. I’m speckled!
Miss Sasha: Mother! Your kitchen is too dangerous. Brick it up immediately.
Tata: Being smart doesn’t help you if you’re arrogant about it. Humility is smarter than stupidly shouting about how much smarter you are than everyone else. Because you’re not. He just doesn’t understand that, which isn’t brilliant.
Miss Sasha: Did you buy a microwave?
Tata: I wanted to wait and see what would fit the baker’s rack.
Miss Sasha: What?
Tata: Friday, when I got home from work there was a perky little post-it on my door from UPS. I have to sign for it in person.
Miss Sasha: That’s evil!
Tata: Yep! By the way, I cannot reach that potholder with kitchen utensils and the velcro on my Ace Bandages. Next, I’m gonna try the rusty industrial ice tongs. And it’s a good thing I like being upside-down.

Sometimes I wish I still smoked. I did some of my best thinking while I was avoiding thinking about lung cancer. Perhaps if I were smoking and not-thinking while I was dangling upside-down behind the stove with rusty industrial ice tongs I might not have panicked when the call waiting I didn’t know I had beeped.

Don’t. Ask.

Last week, I dropped my mouse into a glass of iced tea. Today, it works again. Hooray! I feel lucky! I stare at the phone, wondering what this plastic gadget’s new noise means. I push a button. Nothing happens. I push a button. Paulie Gonzalez glumly says he missed his flight and his dad is determined to buy a too-small house while Paulie’s in Rome. Since I can’t truthfully tell him his dad’s going to come to his senses before the next open house, I mention I’m kneeling on the stove and Leo Sayer’s Thunder In My Heart is stuck in my head. Disaster is all relative.

We talk for a while and the phone beeps again. I’m pretty sure I look like a cartoon x-ray of myself.

Miss Sasha: You put me on hold for like fifteen minutes!
Tata: I what? I thought we got disconnected!
Miss Sasha: You’re retarded!
Tata: There can be no other explanation, can there?

Paulie’s next flight leaves just after 10 p.m. I call him from the cleaning products aisle in the Pathmark on Route 1 to tell him I put the TV, my boom box and about a dozen framed pictures on the IKEA computer desk and boy, do I hope I put that together right. Also: that Just the Two of Us is playing over the loudspeaker and I further hope Bill Withers isn’t waking up in a ditch somewhere.

Paulie: You wouldn’t believe what you can get done in an airport.
Tata: You’re at Newark Liberty? You might have to leave the airport for that.
Paulie: What I got shined was my shoes. No scuffs!
Tata: You sound fine. I gotta go. There’s a creepy guy lurking near the depilatories and I’m almost out of Nair.

You can tell it’s Saturday night and the inmates have taken over the asylum. I’m reading cans of clam chowder when about half of the overhead lights go out. It seems like they should go back on again but they don’t. Maybe an hour later, I’m picking yogurts. I have coupons and inner conflict. There’s a break in the overhead music.

Voice: Happy birthday, Kathy.

I cackle. A boy stocking shelves nearby hears me cackle and cackles himself. There’s another break in the music.

Voice: Thank you.

Awesome. I live for stuff like this, and watching the register tape print as the coupons tick off the dollars. As I stuff the groceries in the car, I see the moon looks a little less full. I must be imagining that, I suppose. I’m driving down Route 27, keeping a good distance from the other cars; I’m watching in the distance for pedestrians. I’m slowing for the traffic light on Raritan Avenue at Fifth when it happens. The car behind me bumps me solidly. I look around. There aren’t even any other cars nearby and I didn’t see her there before. Where did she come from?

We pull over. I move my head. It feels fine. Am I hurt? I am not. I mouth in the mirror to the other driver, “Are you okay?” I get out and look at the back end of My Mechanical Nemesis. There isn’t even a scratch in the paint. I walk toward the driver, who rolls down her window. I laugh. She is so young she doesn’t ask me if I’m injured. She’s just embarrassed and blunt.

Dummy: Nothing happened here, right?
Tata: Everyone does this once. Just don’t ever do it again.

I get back in my car and realize Miss Sasha had a car accident on this very spot four years ago on graduation day. The other driver and her look-alike passenger both resemble Miss Sasha. It’s a little eerie. White Wedding plays on the radio and when I get home to my uncomfortably tight parking lot I find a parking space across from my apartment.

It’s like winning the lottery.

Friday Pet Blogging

Johnny, surly bastard, married a hot veterinarian and fell in love with animals. Their house is a petting zoo. A few months ago, someone brought a badly injured Chihuahua to the clinic. His leg was amputated and the hot veterinarian brought home the rehabilitating Captain Jack.

“The Captain has a new game where he grabs Giancarlo [editor’s note: the giant polydactyl cat] by the scruff of the neck and drags him up and down the hall. Incredibly, Giancarlo permits this and even seems to enjoy it. Sometimes Jack misses with his teeth and ends up grabbing Giancarlo by the face, in which case he gets a clout on the snout. He then uses his other new game. He’s learned that he can’t box Giancarlo, because when he lifts up both front legs, he of course falls down. So he lies on his side, the side with the leg, and goes at it with both front legs that way. The sight of his stump wiggling in the air is either totally hysterical or slightly sickening. Or both.”

This lends new meaning to “pick on someone your own size.”

“This is Maxfield, the patriarch of the cats. A lot of the others, the youngers, have never been outside, but he used to be an outdoor/indoor cat back in Methuen, and, though he got hit by a car the last time we let him out, he often tries to escape. Sometimes he does. Every time we expect to see a coyote go by burping up orange fur, but he always makes it home in one piece, although his fur is always matted, at which point we call him ‘Mats-field.'”

I try to keep up with my friends’ pets, which are invariably interesting characters. I talk to them often via answering machines. Sharkey has a snake named Scout. He used to have another one named Boo, but Boo bit the dust. Siobhan has the smallest cat in the world. There is no smaller adult cat. My mother has a giant cat Paulie Gonzalez found as a kitten wandering around in a blizzard. The three of us gave the shivering furball two baths before all the motor oil came off. They stood outside the bathtub. Paulie pressed his back against Mom’s less than sturdy bathroom door to prevent a jailbreak. I rolled up my sweats and climbed into the tub with the very upset kitty, who mewed piteously while I soaped him up and rinsed him off.

Mom: He’s got webbed feet for swimming and catching fish.
Tata: Mom, you’re thinking of bears.

Turns out Mom was right, and these giants do catch fish in the wild. Miss Sasha has three cats. My niece Lois has two cats, sister Anya has two cats, and Darla has about five. We used to have dogs, lots of dogs. Now we have purses full of Pet Me, Mommy! Trout has guinea pigs. Jazz and Georg’s house is an animal sanctuary. Dom has wacky roommates he finds sleeping on the stairs.

Consider adopting a pet from your local shelter. If you do not have furry friends, I hope someone’s licking your face.

And It Rained And It Rained And It Rained And It Rained All Night

Fang’s ashes have not returned from the crematorium after a week. The vet’s office says sometimes it takes awhile. That’s okay, though. What with the weather we can’t exactly take a box of dusty pussycat out to my sister’s backyard, dig a hole and ignore the mudslides. The delay, I think, works in our favor, Ned’s and mine. We’re certainly going to cry our eyes out at kitty graveside one of these afternoons. Might as well be a sunny day!

I may need a new black dress and Sunday-go-ta-meetin’ shitkickers.

Last night, Siobhan and I set out in the torrential rain to size up yet another appliance store. This hunting and gathering process has convinced me every extended family needs at least one retired member to whom all power of comparison shopping is delegated. This ambassador to agrees to:

1. Scope the circulars as they are published;
2. Familiarize him- or herself with consumer outlets within a fifty-mile radius;
3. Listen carefully to the shopping needs of the family.
4. Conduct personalized research, including making excursions to small businesses and opening negotiations on behalf of the family and individual members;
5. Bargaining salespersons into submission.

It is a delicate and time-consuming business to negotiate with a retailer for my washing machine, Daria’s deep freezer, Todd’s My Little Convection Oven, Anya’s stand mixer, Corinne’s husband swatter, Dara’s ground-penetrating radar, Auntie In Excelsis Deo’s sheet metal quilter, Grandpa’s GPS and Miss Sasha’s in-ground mother-in-law minder. Mom seems very busy despite her curious lack of gainful employment and works on her own very peculiar conception of time, which does not really synchronize with any other human’s. I want Tom to retire and become the family’s ambassador to appliance-selling America. With extreme prejudice. Since he’s selfishly continuing to teach high school and not thinking at all about what’s truly important – my needs – Siobhan and I donned our wetsuits, jumped in her Ford Excoriator and shoved off.

Our first stop was closed for Yom Kippur. We decided there was little risk of Yom Kippur sales at the potentially Teutonic Kohl’s so we sailed in and out of the jughandles of Route 18 and docked near an exit. We were searching for an inexpensive microwave but discovered Kohl’s extensive collection of ridiculous kitchen appliances did not include what I needed. I mean, who really needs a S’Mores Maker? Can you say you need that? How about a quesadilla machine? Did you know your frying pan works just as well and you already have that?

As I whined to Siobhan, Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, has taken to clawing the couch. It’s not a lovely couch and it was already secondhand when Daria gave it to me. Still. It’s a couch we sit on, and I object. Siobhan suggested we sail over to PetSmart, which we did. Thirty feet down the center aisle, I found a puppy. These words do not do justice to the heart-stopping happiness that is meeting puppies because puppies are the kings of enthusiasm and when you meet them they lick your face and jump and jump and jump and clicketty clicketty clicketty and bonk you on the chin and wag wag wag wag and you go “Ttttthhhhhhhwpppttt!” and you are very very very happy. Siobhan does not love dogs and disappeared around a corner while I squeezed my new four-legged best friend on a leash held by someone I’ll never see again. Five minutes later, I made a new best friend on a leash held by a little girl who wanted her puppy to wear costumes. Then I met another enthusiastic puppy friend. By now, I’m lugging a 14-lb. tub of cat litter and a cardboard scratching whatsis for the other team and we’re at the register surrounded by doggy happiness. A woman walks in with a miniature Yeti dangling passively over one arm.

Tata: Siobhan! What’s that?
Siobhan: It’s a dog.
Tata: Are you sure? Which end is up?
Siobhan: The one that’s not wagging.

So apparently we’d wandered in on puppy training night. Now, if you have to leave a store in an epic downpour, you might be better off if your merchandise is not specifically designed to be absorbent. It’s just a thought! Siobhan looks at the stuff I’m carrying, sighs and says, “I’ll go get the truck.”

A funny thing happens when I am happy and alone for a few minutes: I forget I am a middle-aged woman with credit cards and a day job. I forget I’m arthritic and prone to depression. I forget people can see me. When Siobhan pulls the truck around, I am half-way inside the waterproof doghouse sitting on the sidewalk. It is SO INTERESTING! It’s clean and I think with a towel or something soft this could be nice for an outdoor dog –

Siobhan honks. I…oh, look at me. I get up, grab the tub of cat litter and wade out to the truck. You will not be surprised, I think, to hear that Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, shows no interest whatever in clawing the cardboard.

Larry: Thank you, no.
Tata: But! But! But! I’ll pour fresh catnip on top!
Larry: Aghhh. You’re my besssshhhhhht frien…
Tata: Yes, my dearest. I know.

Daft Punk Is Playing At My House, My House

Sharkey emails. He’s bought me a ticket to a Supersuckers show on a Saturday night in December. This is his way of saying, “We’re all going. You’re going. And by the way, you’re GOING!” I threaten to pay him back. He says I’m like a cat shivering in the rain and that makes him feel generous. I don’t know whether to thank him or have myself blow-dried.

Last night, I suggested to a dear friend that he consider rehab. Surprisingly, he didn’t tell me to go fuck myself. This morning, I woke up happy despite the rain. I love the rain and wish it didn’t damage people so. On the news, North Jersey looks like the Gulf Coast minus the floating bodies. Miss Sasha and I called each other back and forth all afternoon on Saturday. The baker’s rack went back to Pensacola but we finally know most of its mysterious epic. Skip this if you hate convoluted stories in which people triumph through dogged determination, judicious use of bad language and not knowing when to quit:

Long ago, which is to say two Wednesdays into the past, Mr. Sasha wrapped the baker’s rack, addressed it and took it to a UPS store. Mr. Sasha, bless his heart, grafted together two of my addresses and improvised a third. Over a week later, a postcard from UPS arrives. All the significant numbers and information are somehow obscured by the postmark but I see clearly that UPS intends to send it back if they don’t hear from me early and often by Monday morning. I don’t even notice how completely off the address is. After all: the postcard arrived, did it not? At 8:32 a.m. last Monday, I discussed the package with a lovely woman who answered the phone and was just as mystified as I was. Illegible postcard. Odd, large package. Locked building. I recall telling her my address as part of the verifying process. She assured me the package would be delivered on Wednesday. Just after 11 a.m. the package was sent back to Pensacola, so it comes as no surprise that on Wednesday, the package did not arrive and on Thursday, it continued its naughty not-arriving.

Last Friday, Miss Sasha received notice of some sort that the package had returned. Then she and I spent Saturday afternoon trying to figure out how that postcard miraculously came to me when it was addressed to an imaginary street in a different town. Plus, the box was damaged in shipping. When Miss Sasha proposed that UPS send it back to me per the agreement I’d made with the phone representative the manager of the store sneered at her. Against all odds, she did not call him “you pigfucker”. She called customer service, where another representative assured Miss Sasha the store manager would be happy to send me that package.

So. The repaired package is on its way to me. I will believe it when I see it. I can’t give my heart to furniture when I’ve been burned before. The new thing that happened was that at no time did I have to call someone and – as Grandma taught all us girls – tell someone what they were going to do for me. I didn’t have to because:

Tata: Okay, Mommy will handle this on Monday.
Miss Sasha: No, I will handle this now.
Tata: Wait, what just happened?

And why do I refer to myself in the wacky third person while talking to my adult daughter?

The good news is I went to Sears on Sunday, determined to boost the Gross National Product by one electric screwdriver, possibly a microwave and a small TV for the bedroom. Reading this, two of my exceedingly thrifty sisters are now deeply horrified that I skipped scouring the classifieds for used appliances and went straight for the gigundo retailer but they understand I’m just as short on patience for appliance failure as I am on money. Nobody fixes TVs anymore and repairing a microwave is asking for trouble. So: Sears. I stared. I stared. I wondered if I were dreaming the price tags. I wondered why I was still standing there, dumbfounded by consumer electronics. Then I bought the screwdriver.

Monday night, I installed the roman shade in my kitchen that will prevent me from being arrested if I decide to brew coffee topless. Suddenly, everything was a different kind of okay. I have the correct tool for the job. I can solve some of my problems without waiting for someone to help me. I want that baker’s rack, and its precise measurements for the microwave I will buy. And I want all this today.

It’s the Poverty, Stupid

A week or so ago, I made the terrible mistake of listening to NJ101.5 during afternoon drive time. Usually, I have about one minute, maybe two before I pull over and slap the SEEK button. Perhaps you’re acquainted with the ham-fisted groupthink that passes for political logic on this talk radio show; if not, suffice it to say you’re not going to listen in and get any smarter. My head nearly exploded when a caller said something like, “After the hurricane, Habitat for Humanity went and built all those people houses just because they were poor. I don’t see anybody building me a house.” So maybe I made it about thirty seconds. Hallelujah.

It’s thinking like this that makes me wish I were capable of moving out into the woods alone and never had to talk to another selfish fucker or even risk coming in contact with another selfish fucker. At all. The eye that sees only competitors and not fellow travelers is bound to be envious, materialistic and unhappy. It’s even worse than that. White people – not all white people – who see prosperous Black people think things like ‘Why should they have what I don’t have?’ Oh, yes they do. The basic assumption there is that white people should have and Black people should wait until all whites are prosperous before expecting their own prosperity. Think I’m wrong? Let’s refer back to our head-splitting caller. Her basic assumptions are many: the crisis is over, housing has been accomplished, nobody is homeless, Habitat for Humanity waved a magic joist and all the poor Black people of the Gulf Region were sittin’ pretty in luxurious pre-fab digs and nobody expects to pick up a check. And our caller doesn’t own a house, so why should those Black folks?

That is what she was saying: “I deserve more because I’m white.” Listen, princess, nobody gives a shit what you expect or think you deserve in life. Tell it to your next Ladies’ Auxilliary Klan Meeting, where I’m sure this will go over like Tiffany’s rice crispy cakes and Annie’s diaper-covering 2T white sheet set.

At least, a person might think this would be a more isolated cattle car on someone’s train of thought but it’s not. Plenty of people have opted out of donating to the Red Cross or Mercy Corps because they can’t be sure “the right people” will be helped. I wish those fuckers would dream big, donate to the Humane Society and save some abandoned hounds but in this tiny-brain thinking, every living being is competition for money and stuff, and why should the tiny-brain give anything to anybody?

This argument is almost always followed by the words that make me want to lose my mind: “Nobody ever gave me anything.” Smarter people than me could put forth carefully reasoned arguments about why this isn’t true and detail the ways in which society contributes to your well-being. If you went to public school and can read and write you should shut your mouth before you say something even more stupid. But let’s cut to the chase. I recently perused a list of remarks left with the staff of politicians and one struck me as perfect, stupid and a propos: “I don’t want a welfare state. My Medicare is just fine!” Sadly, that misguided, selfish bastard is probably a registered voter. And he or she should fuck off.

You Said It, Mister!

Being a parent is a daily crushing blow to one’s self-confidence, but having parents is a daily battle not to commit parricide. My blog partner GD Frogsdong on his weekend with Momma and Poppa Frog:

Last night I wrote a step-by-step instruction for my mother on how to work the TV remote. I even drew up a picture and labeled the buttons “1”, “2”, “3”, etc., with arrows and stuff so she would be able to watch Regis and What’s-her-name-don’t-tell-me-her-name-I-don’t-really-care.

I got a call at work at 8:55 this morning.

“Frog? I’m sorry to bother you but I followed your instructions and the TV doesn’t work right.”

“What did you do?”

“I did exactly what you said.”

“What is on the screen?”

“It’s blank.”

“Is it blue?”


“Press ’03’, then press the button labeled ‘Sat’. Make sure it lights up. It’s the number 3 button on the diagram. Then press ‘245’.”

“Okay…….it’s still blank.”

“Press ’03’. You have a picture back, right?”


“Press the botton labeled ‘Sat’. Did it light up?”


Okay, not to make this any more tedious than it is, she couldn’t quite get the concept of pressing the Satellite button until it lit up. Had to go through this entire routine three times before it lit up and she could watch Regis and Babette. Other than that, things are insane at my house. Crazy people are staying there. Is your mother a martyr? Mine is. “Mom, I’m cooking dinner.” “You don’t have to cook for me. I can have a cookie and that’s all I need.” “Mom, please eat something real.” “No, I don’t want you to have to wash a dish.” “Mom, it’s okay. We have plenty of dishes.” “That’s all right. I’ll just sit here and look at you.”

My father is the exact opposite. “You got any chocolate chip cookies?” “No.” “Well, it’s not raining too hard. And the store is close. You could walk to the store and be back with the cookies in fifteen minutes.”

Suddenly, I’m reminded that I chided Miss Sasha for moving to Florida during hurricane season but it sounded a whole lot like, “It’s so rude of you to set up house a thousand miles from where my son-in-law should be lugging my furniture from a truck to my living room.”