A Circuit With Me

When I got home from Job #2 tonight, I didn’t feel much like eating but – you know – you gotta, so I microwaved something and ate it with a spoon. I think it was pepper steak leftover from last night. Sense my enthusiasm.

This morning, I was trying to think of someone I could trick into doing stuff for me. I called Mom. Mom screens.

Tata: Most people are still in bed at this hour but I’m at my desk and pigs are flying so if you’re there, pick up.
Mom: Good morning. Who’s this?
Tata: I am your eldest child. We go waaaaay back.
Mom: You’re right! What are you doing?
Tata: I’m at the library, cancelling journals and destroying the dreams of publishers everywhere. What are you doing?
Mom: I’m pouring myself a cup of coffee. Later, I will eat a banana. After that, I’ll shower.
Tata: What do you want to do all that for?
Mom: The spirit of international cooperation? Then I’ll spend my day doing choir business, then there’s choir practice. That’s my day.
Tata: I’d like you to abandon your stuff and do mine.
Mom: You would, would you? What is this “stuff” of which you speak?
Tata: Please stop whatever you’re doing and put down the banana. Then please go to my bank for savings bond forms. I need dozens. It takes weeks to fill them out and my brother and sisters show few signs of resisting their spouses – at least those without restraining orders.
Mom: When do you need them by?
Tata: What? You’re not going to the bank! I’m not really asking!
Mom: When do you need them by?
Tata: Christmas.
Mom: Domenica Penelope Josephine –
Tata: …Um, those are Daria’s middle names…
Mom: What’s your middle name again?
Tata: Frances.
Mom: Really?
Tata: …Yes…
Mom: After my grandmother.
Tata: Some names are better the first time around. You gave me used names.
Mom: It’s traditional.
Tata: It’s tired.
Mom: Well! Why do you need those forms now?
Tata: Because it’s springtime and the sooner I buy the bonds the sooner they begin accruing interest.
Mom: Are these for Christmas? You mentioned that before.
Tata: Yes, and for the kids’ birthdays next year.
Mom: For 2007? What happened to this years’ birthday bonds?
Tata: The parents of these children have them.
Mom: Why do you buy them now?
Tata: Tax refund. Otherwise I can’t afford December.
Mom: That’s so practical!
Tata: I thought you’d like my system. You know, I tell you this every spring. But I have to go now.
Mom: You do? Why?
Tata: I’m thinking I might trick Anya into locking up the store, walking across the street and picking up my bond forms. I mean, shoot. What’s she doing for Me, after all?
Mom: Did you buy her a birthday gift?
Tata: Gotta go. I have to trick Corinne into buying Anya a birthday gift.

I’m so considerate it scares me! However do I do it? I bet I could be even more considerate if I mastered hypnosis.

Some Place So High Above This Wall

This afternoon, the sun is shining. It’s cold and breezy. I took down my grandmother’s heavy drapes in my living room and put up gently striped tawny sheers. Soft, golden sunlight fills my living room, now a place of optimism and possibility. Winter is so over at my house.

Well, except in my kitchen. I’m having trouble putting up shelves for my plant pots. Apparently, one-third of the time, I’m too stupid to drill holes at a proper distance and since I intended to install six shelves, that’s too much stupid for my taste. I had to put this aside for a time when I feel smarter and I hope it’s soon because I also couldn’t unlatch my car’s hood this morning. Granted, I’ve seen the mechanic struggle with the same latch but it’s a latch. I’m supposed to struggle with the latch, and then open the hood and fix something but I did and didn’t, so apparently outside isn’t all that inspiring, either.

I’ve got bandaids. What do you think will happen when I medicate the cat?

A Little Birdhouse In Your Soul

Last week, a librarian sashayed past me on her way elsewhere.

Librarian: Is your dad going to be in a movie?

I froze, then I started walking backward toward her.

Tata: Why do you ask that?
Librarian: I’m on his mailing list.
Tata: His what?
Librarian: He’s very entertaining!
Tata: Once, he and I drove out to Morgantown, West Virginia for a writers conference. I tried stabbing him with a pink highlighter – I MEAN – I was…um…drawing directions for illiterate paramedics! He’s so bad! He’s so bad!

When she stopped wiping tears from her eyes, our Librarian returned to the heroic business of Finding Stuff. It’s harder than you think because government documents could be anywhere. Ask Fawn Hall!

Every three or four months, someone posts in Fark.com’s comments Chris Poppe’s fantastic photographs from Poor Impulse Control’s main site. Do you like those faces? I dreamed ’em up and Paulie Gonzalez and I found Chris in the bar one night.

Tata: Dude, I want to make this website and I need some pictures.
Chris: Oh yeah?
Tata: Let us buy you six beers and explain the concept. [Cue the harps] I saw it in a dweeeeeam…

Eighteen beers later –

Chris: Gaaaaaaaaaaah.
Tata: We’ll take tha assss a yesshh.
Paulie: Bartendeler! Another round of Newark’s finessht!

Listen, I can barely take pictures if I steal them but some folks have a gift. These photographs still make my heart flutter and skip beats. I want people to see them, and every few months thanks to Fark, a few thousand more people do. Hey Farkers! Thanks! A person can find anything on the net, and you found me. Congratulations. I think.

I love blogging and loudly encourage artists of all kinds to take it up. Thus, I found myself leaving a message at Nancy Pelosi’s D.C. office just before noon. You may recall I broke up with the lovely Nancy – alas! – but I wasn’t dialing up an ex for some afternoon delight, no. I hate that song. Madame Nancy’s backing the wrong pony, where bloggers are concerned. I spoke up for free speech. Get the lowdown, then get on the phone. Be nice! Just because it didn’t work out doesn’t mean we can’t be civil.

I wonder how Dad’s audition went.

When the Wrong Word Goes In the Right Ear

I. The Bible in Recipes

Genesis: Arrange a salad of baby greens, chaos and tomatoes. Set aside and prepare a dressing of wine vinegar, dry mustard and struggle with a barren land. Kill whatever crosses your path or it will kill you. Marinate.

Exodus: On flatbread, assemble: yogurt, chives, sauteed ground lamb. Garnish with fresh, local herbs. Do not use beef.

Leviticus: Sweat onions, carrots, celery in a stock pot until soft; add sliced herbs, sliced meat, sliced vegetables. Whatever you do, don’t argue where the soup can hear you.

Numbers: Make cocktails before guests arrive. History proves: everyone loves a good host.

Deuteronomy: Baking is too complicated for most of us but cake is delicious.

II. Sometimes Love Is Not Enough

If you’d paid any attention you’d know I know: I never mattered to you, and there was nothing wrong with me.

How many years have I sung your name?

God Money Let’s Go Dancing On the Backs Of the Bruised

Via Body And Soul: Bush’s Fake Aid.

…the MCC [Millennium Challenge Corporation] was dominated by a pro-business orientation. In fact, buried in the MCC’s own charter is a statement committing the program to “achieve market-driven economic growth.” A review of the program’s compacts reveals that the MCC has favored projects closely linked to the private sector – especially those that benefit commercial deals and investors. Rather than funding projects that directly aid the poor – building schools and hospitals, providing electricity and clean water to rural villages – the MCC takes a trickledown approach.

It gets worse.

Poor nations are being told, in effect, that projects won’t be considered for funding unless they can generate a profit. “Every indication they get from the MCC is that this is about economic growth,” says Asma Lateef, senior policy analyst for the aid organization Bread for the World. “You have to yield economic rates of return in three to five years.” But for many impoverished nations, such profitability is simply impossible. “In such poor countries, you’re not going to be able to guarantee things like economic growth,” says Patrick Cronin, a former U.S. AID official who helped create the MCC. “You might lose money [on projects like health and education], but you’ll help people. But if you’re used to making investments, you may be biased toward that instead.”

I hate being the Voice of Reason, but just this once I’ll say this calmly, teeth gritted but I’m calm. Ready? Here goes.

If the poor could turn a profit they wouldn’t be starving to death. Further: if helping the poor were a profitable endeavor everyone would do it. For profit.

Read the whole article. And no shortcuts. I’ve got a chandelier to swing from and you can bet your boots when I get back there’ll be a quiz.

Things Are Gonna Get Brighter


Raskin: “Senator, when you took your oath of office, you placed your hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. You did not place your hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible.”

I’m too tired to explain why I love this and all white-hot truthtelling in the face of bullies and bigots. Maybe someone could explain to me why Lost is in repeats.

IV. I Will Show Another Me


I don’t know why some people are so keen on having families and talking about families and how much they love their families and that they protect their families. What the hell. In the last five years, adults forgot how much they hated being inmates in their parents’ penal colonies but can’t wait to become brutal jailors themselves. Geez. You can tell Auntie InExcelsisDeo sent out elaborate invitations to that bridal shower I can’t skip without risking my life, can’t you? Though I have a couple of months to start drinking, at least now I don’t have to show any imagination of knowledge of the bride-to-be now that shower gifts are strictly regulated by Bed, Bath & Beyond.

On Friday, the family celebrates Anya’s and Corinne’s birthdays in an Irish pub in Somerville. We’re going to throw money at dancing children and sing songs we learned in the womb and suffer predictably when bagpipes play in small, enclosed places. Anya’s and Corinne’s birthdays are the holiday we celebrate with green beer and hearing loss. Here’s the thing: today’s Tuesday and I don’t know what to get them yet. Besides earplugs.

So I dragged into the apartment bag after bag of vegetables, gardening supplies and problem-solving doohickeys and after four trips there was nothing to do but march myself back out to the car and try carrying the box. When I was able to slide the box out of the back seat, lean it against my thighs and walk it into the house I almost dropped it in surprise. But now that I’d carried the giant, heavy thing I didn’t think I could there was – officially – nothing I couldn’t do. I cut open the box and lay the pieces out on my living room floor. The directions were mostly pictures and on several pages, poorly descriptive. I was overjoyed. A good puzzle!

Hours later, the hardest assembly step was the one that should have been effortless: four screws, two hinges. After staring at the picture that made no sense I put the hinges on backwards, then slapped my forehead and took them apart. Currently, the door sits on my bathroom floor where I can’t break the glass. Probably. I may not be done staring at it with joy and despair. Last night, I started pulling bath and shower stuff out of the hall closet and putting things away in the cabinet. I folded towels and put them into drawers. It dawned on me that although I need another cabinet, and will buy one down the road, I can take other steps to get my house in order.

They will certainly involve cat toys.

III. Watched By Empty Silhouettes


Today, we are roughly halfway through the public comments period for the National Forest Service’s reckless and ill-conceived massive land sale, which I see as a star in the constellation that is our current administration’s criminal activities. You can still write to the National Forest Service and tell them to find a thoughtful way to fund rural schools. Or you can hear what I do in the Blogosphere: …crickets…crickets…

Tough room.

After I stuffed the vegetables into my car’s trunk, I was out of my house already so I drove to Casa de Fabulous Ex-Husband(tm), where no one answered my knock at the door. I stuffed his Hanukkah presents between the inner and outer doors and drove off in the general direction of my place. Since vegetable shopping was such a rousing success, I pressed my luck and followed the farm roads to Home Depot for a sopping wet cart and indoor gardening supplies but I didn’t find everything I needed. I drove 100 yards to Target, where environmentalists should’ve lined up to slap me, and found another dripping cart. That’s three for three!

I shop to solve problems, and solve problems I did. I needed a casserole for the vegetables and fish I steam every morning, and I found a passable bit of Corningware. I needed wine glasses because I’d smashed the last one months ago and have been drinking out of jelly jars. Because I had some. I needed small shelves on which to sit my little kitchen garden pots because I haven’t learned to levitate. I needed a free-standing cabinet for the bathroom because I’m sick of looking at that pile of boxes in the living room which I can’t put away because the closet’s full so there’s no away to put things. Target had one. I’ve looked online all over the place and cabinets have been too big or expensive or beyond fugly. This one was simple, clean and less than $90. The cabinet would be sturdy once I built it, and I was sure of this because when I dropped it on my right hand I yelped and bled all over the place.

What? Nobody noticed. It’s Target. People walk through Target with these marvelous blank looks on their faces. It’s like a casting call for George Romero movies, minus the prop sausage. I picked up cat treats because why not?

In line at register 12, I was gleeful. My many problem-solving purchases formed a long line of optimistic ideas for my tiny home and carefully redesigned life. My cashier was a tall young man – right out of high school, I would’ve guessed. When he finished with the previous customer, I immediately began babbling.

Tata: Okay okay okay I get very nervous when I’m in the store because because I seldom spend money on myself, though you can see I spend piles on my cat. He’s very interesting, my cat, but in any case, I don’t do things like buy polka dotted soup bowls that later I’ll run from room to room with and try different colors next to because they excite me but see, there’s this one problem.
Target Guy: What’s that?
Tata: I can’t lift this thing here but I really really want it. I want it very much. I don’t know how I’m getting it into the car because I – like – injured myself getting it off the shelf but it makes me really happy. I want it.

He brightened up. In fact, he went from distracted to interested.

Target Guy: We’ll get someone to put it in the car for you.
Tata: You’re my new best friend!
Target Guy: Go pull your car around and I’ll put it in your car.

Yes. Only dogs and Flipper heard that.


II. I’ve Come To Take You Home


It’s easy to forget we haven’t been blogging all our lives and that we’re working in a new medium. The limits for the medium have yet to be established and adventurers have created new forms of blogging right and left; one of my favorites is the artist blog. I read quite a few of them, and refer to my favorites all the time. It has been my great good fortune that their authors turn up in comments and I follow them back to – goddess help me – blogs so brilliant and fluid I should be ashamed to address their humans by their first names. Vanx’s Verb-Ops is a sterling example of what is possible through blogging that would not have been in any other form before except performance art. There’s an old joke.

Q: How many performance artists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: I don’t know, I left.

I felt the same way about college. It was possibly short-sighted of me to think interdisciplinary degrees weren’t just my cool idea but that other people would agree and let me learn what I needed to learn to make the kind of art I was already making successfully, and if I didn’t love the program in my head I could go to grad school later. Ah, so it goes. In a classroom, I’m a wrecking ball, so it’s probably just as well I dropped out. Twice. Anyway, what Vanx is doing with his blog is what grad school should be like. I want him to go teach little children they’re already artists, and I know he can do it because – if you can believe it – I already have.

There’s a program in New Jersey called Artists In Education. You apply. You are interviewed. You are seen not to be a public menace. I did all this, though I was in a very angry frame of mind at the time. Why they accepted me, I have no idea. I showed up for the interview with a 2 liter bottle of Diet Coke and with my underwear as outerwear; you would’ve thought they’d close the schools as I approached. No, the Arts Council sent me to I think four or five schools for four days apiece. I have a great deal to say about the evil that is the bad teacher and the marvel that is the good teacher, but that’s not the point.

In one classroom in a grammar school I don’t remember there was a little boy who did not speak. I was there with another artist to coach the third graders through writing poems. Most children don’t really need all that much pushing and will readily join you in writing of any kind. I spent a little while with this little boy, Alex. His teacher warned me off, saying he wasn’t going to write or talk, so I went back to him with crayons and encouraged him to draw a picture of something he liked. Then I moved on to some of the other kids. When I came back to Alex, I found this:

Alex’s 3-1 November 1993

If a person was two go out on a boat and Ride on the shinng sea and ruf waves to go fishing for fish crabs and lobster. If I was to Ride a boat I would have to Ride the dark sea.

summer spring fall winter

I can’t stress this enough: his teacher was shocked. A photocopy of this beautiful thing hangs in my cubicle in the library. I wonder where Alex is now but I am not sure I really want to know, since a person responsible for his care had so little faith in him.

We are emissaries from a possible future. We only seem to be here now.


I. My Heart’s Goin’ Boom Boom Boom

He drags tissue paper to the black sheepskin on the zebra print couch. When I hear mild crunching, I can’t see the source but neither do I expect to. He’s also dragged tissue behind the futon so when My Little Predator is on the crunchy prowl in the wee hours I’m not dialing 911 and searching my apartment with a big, big knife. So this evening, I noticed the rustle emanating from this new location and grabbed the disposable camera instead of the cleaver.

I’m making a concerted effort to take pictures of Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul. Time is passing not just for me but for others as well, which I often foolishly forget. Every day, I suppose Mom and Grandpa bicker, three of my sisters and my brother look into the eyes of their small children and see the past and future without seeing that instant; every day, Siobhan and I compare notes in person, over the phone or via email. Little things happen each day. We are intent on them or not. It is possible to regard each day as a chance to change the world. Suppose I plant basil in my kitchen and to my great joy my home is perfumed with the sweet earthiness of growing plants and the verdant sensuality of living basil. It is a small thing but the world is now different by the power of one person, basil and joy. So I went shopping.

I hate shopping.

The key to my hating less the shopping nightmare is to go when the other humans are distracted by something else, like sleep, work and hangovers. Since I don’t sleep, work is many things but not on Sundays and I didn’t happen to go hog-wild Saturday night, on Sunday morning, I hemmed. I hawed. If I had a watch, I’d have tapped it impatiently. Then showered and got into my car in pouring rain, which was still pouring when I got out and picked a soaking-wet carriage which remained soaking wet the whole time I was dropping vegetables into it, so it was like being in the shower with real raspberries and honeydews and bags I can’t open. This place is usually a Lite-FM mosh pit and navigating the aisles with a small cart requires great tenacity. I think my strategy of showing up when other people clearly know better is a good one when I only have to apologize for bumping someone or something about a dozen times, and I get to the register and find no line! I mean no line at all. Cashier hoping to talk to me and everything. I looked around for Alan Funt.

When it wasn’t an ambush, I handed the cashier money, buttoned my raincoat and swam to my car with my flotilla of fresh vegetables.