Wake Up And Smell the Catfood

This rational man is telling you your worst fears are coming true. You must listen. There is only so much you can do to protect yourself. Do it now.

Not later. Not next week. Do it now. If you don’t live in New Jersey, there must be an equivalent green energy provider. Find it now. Sign up.

Cross-posted to Running Scared and Blanton’s & Ashton’s.

Freedom From Choice Is What You Want

I hadn’t heard from Daria for a couple, which is a highly unusual thought on any day not called Sunday, so I rang her up.

Tata: What am I, adopted?
Daria: I was just going to call you and shout, “What am I, adopted?”
Tata: What are you doing?
Daria: I have lost my mind! You know the benefit dinner/dance is this weekend, right?

Though we are as exactly alike as two completely different people can be, Daria has many talents I do not share, first and foremost of which is that she can organize and cater an event without any urge to poison her guests. Her older son is in first grade now, but he went to a school for pre-school and kindergarten where ordinary healthy children are intregrated into classrooms with deaf or disabled children. Daria loves this school and has organized its benefit dinners for several years, though her younger son is too little to start there.

Tata: No…what happened?
Daria: Friday, the principal was supposed to come pick up the money and he didn’t and he didn’t call. Monday, he said he was going to come pick up the money and he didn’t and he didn’t call again. Yesterday, he said he was going to come and he didn’t. Today I hadda tell with him: “Listen, Fred, four days in a row you said you were coming and didn’t and you didn’t call. Are you coming here or not?” He said something had come up. I said, “Listen, Fred, I don’t have a dog in this race. I’m doing it out of the goodness of my heart. Now get your ass out here and get the money!” And Mom asked if there was anything she could do to help so I told her to write place cards. Mom has that beautiful handwriting.
Tata: Mom has beautiful handwriting, yup…
Daria: She’s coming out here today to write them. And my girlfriend Andie is coming over to make centerpieces. We’re supposed to spraypaint them in the driveway. She’s got three-year-old twins. I think we’ll put them in the playroom.
Tata: That’s busy. I don’t know how you do it!
Daria: But listen, I haven’t told you what happened yet.
Tata: No?
Daria: You know how I have spots on every floor of the house for Fifi to play while I work in the room? Yesterday, I put her down next to the Fisher-Price Noah’s Ark. The phone rang, and I swear to you, I suddenly realized I did not know where I’d put her down. I ran from room to room, shouting her name. It was awful! I couldn’t find her! My heart was racing, I ran back upstairs and asked the boys if they’d seen the baby and they hadn’t so I threw the phone on the bed and went back to where I was when the phone rang.
Tata: And she was sitting there, asking herself if you’re responsible for her education, right?
Tata: Have you considered a leash? On you?
Daria: My skin crawls, thinking about it.
Tata: Man, I can’t wait until she can talk. “Mom! Mom! Over here. Ix-nay on the alpitating-pay.”

Now I’ve pictured an afternoon of Fifi in a high chair with Cheerios while Mom writes dozens of place cards as three three-year-olds, which may be the legal definition of a gang, turn the playroom upside-down, while Daria and Andie spraypaint centerpieces and themselves in a stiff breeze, and I thank Kali I’m twenty miles away doing my own stuff which can’t be all that productive. I’m writing and nibbling dry Grape Nuts and a sign of my brilliance: I keep dropping cereal down my bra at my desk, where I’m sure to co-workers I look like I’m engaged in a life and death struggle with my breasts and a crunchy snack.

Route 18 is under construction almost the entire length of its contact with New Brunswick, which was such a rotten idea the project was delayed 40 years. From my kitchen window on the other side of the river I can see the university boat club and the monolithic crane-like structure standing in the middle of the river. At all times of the day and night, I hear the bone-rattling crash of metal-on-metal but since 1997, I lived in three apartments between a trauma center helipad and a fire station, I can speak from personal experience: you can get used to noise you wouldn’t wish on deaf neighbors. What you can’t get used to is sudden and unexpected shifts in construction that result in unmoving traffic where an hour ago it was so quiet you could hear your own pulse.

I left my office to go to the orthodontist’s office, where I am popular and loved by all because my teeth are ticklish, I make everyone laugh and never complain about the braces, ever. My teeth are straightening out nicely, where pre-braces the pressure gave me constant headaches. Sharkey cannot resist comment.

Sharkey: How are your teeth?
Tata: It’s like the old joke:

Q: Does your face hurt you? No? Because it’s killing me!

Sharkey: Your face is killing me.
Tata: You love me. And you can’t stand it!
Sharkey: I’m totally immune to you, woman!
Tata: Sacrilege! The gods might hear you and send a plague.
Sharkey: You are a plague.
Tata: I am the Plague That Remembers Your Birthday. Here’s a gift-wrapped yo-yo.

There are two stretches of highway area natives avoid: Route 18 anywhere in New Brunswick and Route 1 between Sears and the Woodbridge Mall. Siobhan refers to it as “the permatraffic.” Even so, there’s no straight line between my job and orthodontia that does not involve Routes 1 and 18 unless one travels Route 27, which has stop lights every quarter mile through two towns. In other words, I get into my car and psychically picture which highways are going to frustrate me most. Then I go the other way. I was stupid. I picked Route 18. My fifteen minute drive turned into forty-five.

When one consults Mapquest or Google Maps, one gets driving directions and an estimated drive time. Often, Jersey directions come with a laughable estimate. Ten miles = twenty minutes. I don’t know about where you live. Where I live, if there’s a university ball game, stay out of your car. No good can come of getting mixed up in that nonsense, and on good days, if Mapquest says 20 minutes, you should at least double that. On bad days, triple it and keep adding. No errands for you! And all of this would be far more tolerable if there were mass transportation but there isn’t. You go, or don’t. Whaddya want?

I finally inched my way into the jughandle behind the empty Mac Trucks building, which will forever be called “Mac Trucks” by natives, as in:

Q: Where’d you go?
A: Pathmark by Mac Trucks. You know.

Yes, these are Jersey directions, distinguished by reports of progress and ethnic migration.

Ernie: The wife and I went to the flea market for tube socks and farmer cheese.
Bert: The Two Guys? Or out by Flemington?
Ernie: In Old Bridge, the Two Guys. The old quarry.
Bert: Swimming hole. By the dump.
Ernie: The Hungarians used to picnic out there. Good sausage.
Bert: What about the Italian guy with the ice cream truck?
Ernie: So while we were there we picked up the 1967 National Geographic to complete our collection.

I sat in that block-long jughandle, watching my appointment time pass, then ten more minutes, then I noticed things about the other drivers. The woman in the Honda behind me was planning a bloody coup. The woman driving the SUV in front was reading the newspaper. She was reading the freaking newspaper! I couldn’t do anything except punch the pre-sets left by Daria and Tyler when they gave me the car. When I finally got to the orthodontist’s office, a tech told me her twenty minute commute took two hours on Tuesday. Then I apologized for being late. Each person I apologized to said, “That’s nothing. Yesterday, Namdi’s commute took two hours!” So apparently, my tardiness was not so bad.

After ten minutes, I got back in my car.

With Me On A Magic Carpet Ride

Monday through Friday, I get up, velcro on wrist weights and exercise for half an hour with Gilad Janklowicz on FitTV. Then I peel off the weights, sit down in a bendy pose that would injure most Western adults, shuffle my tarot cards and ask two questions. Ordinarily you might think, “Am I beeeyoootiful?” and “Where’re Italian pumps on sale?” but not so fast. My two questions are, “What is my work today?” and “Who do I have to be to do it?” Then as answers, I hope for “win a million dollars” and “be a cute Belgian.”

Today, I drew the Five of Discs and Death, reversed. I’m working with the Motherpeace deck, which has round cards. Most decks have rectangular cards. All types of tarot decks work on the subconscious and what you already know, but different types have different degrees of positive and negative connotations. Some are outright wicked. I stick to the Motherpeace because it’s the only deck I have and the one I had before pretended not to know me when other people were around. So the Five of Discs means my job today is keeping my hands busy against worry, and to do it I have to be willing to let something large and serious go and go in peace. I think. Either that, or baking could be fatal. So I’m good.

Yesterday, I drew Two of Cups as my work and for being, two cards came up in my hand: Two of Swords/Temperance, both reversed. Fabulous. All three cards individually are about balance; two also are about union, two about patience. The three cards kind of overlap. I thought: great! No time like the present for upside-down-loving me.

As job #2, I go to a house, make up beds, do two loads of laundry and wash up some dishes The owners of the house are enduring a cancer incident, Essentially, they pay me for the laundry. I do the rest because they are good people, and completely helpless – for now. Someday, they’ll return to scandalizing the neighborhood and having parties where we all search for one another’s pants the next morning. In the meantime, I empty the dishwasher. Yesterday, between loads, I drove to the new Franklin Township Public Library, right next door to the old Franklin Township Public Library, where the food bank had a drop off barrel. Last time I went there the joint was closed. There was a sign about a grand opening. I decided then I didn’t want to get emotionally involved so I’d come back in a few weeks. So yesterday, I turned up and the new place was open.

As soon as I opened the trunk I knew I was in for it. Soup cans rolled everywhere. I gathered up one grocery bag and tied it securely. The second was harder. As the humans go, I’m small. I’d be large for a lemur, but for a human, I’m small and lack a fixed idea of which end is up. Dialogue from a time long past:

Ken: I see now. The reason legs are always photographed like this the long lines look longer upside-down.
Barbie: Of course. And you just like my legs up in the air.
Ken: Preferably around my neck, yes.

Even longer ago, back in the sepia-toned sixties, Mom used to look up from washing the dishes and find me walking across the top of the swingset or hanging by knees five feet off the ground. If you ask, she has no idea how many times she ran down the back steps, warbling, “Dooooomenicaaaaaaaaa, don’t moooove…!” In the library parking lot, I found my trunk was bigger than was sensible. I grabbed most of the stray cans and stuffed them into a grocery bag. Two cans of chicken noodle were just beyond the tips of my fingers. I leaned into the trunk, balancing on a point just below my hip bones and nudged one can to where I could grab it. I leaned a little further, balancing on my hips and one hand. Suddenly, I realized there’s a car in the library parking lot with little old lady legs flying around in sensible shoes. I grabbed the last soup can, tied up the second bag and marched into the library in front of an older man who looked more worried each time I burst out laughing.

Turns out the food bank doesn’t stop at the library anymore. Consequently, neither will I.

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?