Eight Hundred Million Heartbeats

I’m sitting at the store, where Anya and Corinne, their children and Anya’s husband just now bundled up and drove off to a party at their aunt’s house. Whew! The Pizzicato Five play on the store’s CD player. My coffee is so hot I keep burning my lip, putting the cup down, then taking a piping hot sip again. Lab mice catch on quicker. It’s finally calm enough in here for commerce and blogging.

Last night, I read tarot cards for Scout. We drank wine and talked about everything, which is still exciting in my vast old age. This morning, I awoke with a start, as if I’d been dreaming in IMAX and the show was over. Before 10 a.m., my phone rang twice. The first time, Scout was asking if she’d left her wallet at my house. Moments before, I’d climbed out of the shower and hadn’t managed to wrap a towel around my startling girth before padding across my living room to tear my couch apart. Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul was perturbed to be shooed from his cushiony perch but not as perturbed as I was when Scout explained she’d vacuumed her car yesterday, and when she left she found on the driver’s side floor the same flowers the trees around my apartment are dropping. Someone may have been in her car and stolen her wallet.

Half an hour later, Daria called.

Daria: This is funny today but yesterday it wasn’t funny at all.
Tata: Lay it on me, hot mama.
Daria: Yesterday, I got home with two sleeping children in the truck. I got out of the truck to go inside. I get into the garage and I can’t open the garage door. The garbage can is right up against the garage door so I go outside. When I got out of the truck I forgot to put it in park and it rolled into the garbage can and blocked the door.
Tata: You’re kidding! That’s…hilarious?
Daria: So I back the truck up and go to pick up the garbage can. I forgot to put it in park again and it rolled up on me so fast I barely had a chance to get out from between the truck and the garage door. The truck touched the back of my leg and I bolted. What is wrong with me?
Tata: I can see where that might not have been funny yesterday. But hey, you almost ran yourself over. That story can only improve with time.
Daria: “My little children, Gramma’s life was saved by a garbage can.”
Tata: I gotta go open the store. Call me later.

Ten minutes later, I park across the street from the store, where even from a distance something looks funny to me. The lights aren’t on. The closed sign is hanging in the front window. The mailman walks up the street and pulls the front door open. I grab my laptop out of the car and walk across the street ready for a fight with whomever I find inside the store, but it’s my brother-in-law, who was up half the night painting. So instead of whacking him with rusty garden tools I know are just inside the door, I hand him a V8.

Recently, I wrote Russ Feingold an email.

Dear Senator Feingold,
Regarding censure of President Bush: rock on.
That is all,
Princess Tata

…Only, you know, I signed my real name. This morning, the Internal Editor recast it as a Howard Cosell interview of the late sixties:

Cosell: Princess, are you sure that Senator Feingold has the rock in him and does in fact rock?
Tata: Well, Howard, I have to say that Senator Feingold is completely hot, and does in fact rock.
Cosell: Interesting choice of words, Princess, but as you know, many times the young senators rock all night long but cease rocking as time and ambition thwart the rocking out.
Tata: If I may say so, Howard, Senator Feingold shows great promise as a person who may not just rock but may rock on, perhaps even roll.
Cosell: Rock of Ages?
Tata: Still rolling!
Cosell: There you have it. Tough words from a smart broad.
Tata: Oh Howard! I’m blushing.
Cosell: Back to you, Jim…

After I don’t bash someone over the head and call the cops, I survey the store and discover the floor’s covered with the once-lovely petals of the white, flowering trees that line Highland Park’s main street. In fact, it looks like super-busy Glenda the Good Witch ran out of bubble soap and switched to organics, creating some kind of magical indoor composting program. I vacuum over, under, around and behind things listening to Randy Newman on the mental jukebox sing the theme from Monk. When I’m done, I’ve seen all kinds of lovely new merchandise that would enhance the shinyshininess of my tiny apartment, which is a relief when you think about what can happen in, around and under cars.


Friday Cat Blogging: Blinded By Science Edition

The domestic pussycat must be observed from a discreet position lest he start and head for the food dish. Note that the pussycat has located the highly prized afternoon sunbeam on the carpet. More than any other napping and/or stretching location, the sunlit carpet pleases the temperamental older male.

The observer must be on her toes. The pussycat has spotted her and is considering his options. Will he run for the crunchy solace of the dry food bowl? Will he come closer and insist on a good belly scratch? Most terrifying of all, will he insist the observer sit cross-legged so the puss can snooze in her lap? One shudders to think!

Fortunately for the observer, the alpha male has other plans.

Move On Up

I have a cup of coffee, and thank your favorite deity it’s spoon-melting strong. At work, I find a message on my voicemail. Because it’s probably work-related I wait two days to listen to it. Upon hearing the caller’s voice, I immediately commence heckling.

Ivan: I’m driving around –
Tata: …drinking Stolichnaya from a sippy cup…
Ivan: – and, yes, I’m driving and talking on the phone –
Tata: …can’t truncate no attention span…
Ivan: I saw a bumper sticker that reminded me of you –
Tata: “Life’s a bitch. Then you marry one.” Ah, redneck humor!
Ivan: It said, “I play the accordian. And I vote.”
Tata: [Rendered speechless.]
Ivan: Love ya, baby! ‘Bye bye!

Sometimes It Rages Even When It’s Calm

First thing this morning, I’m walking past my TV and I see something I don’t understand and I am surprised because video on the news is not usually weirder than the movies playing in my head. Then I go to work and forget about it. Mid-morning, I get up from my desk, go to the ladies’ room, do lady things and return in less than two minutes. That should have been my first clue. When I return, there’s a small gift wrapped in tissue paper a blue usually found in tropical fish. I said what I said last time.


Perhaps you think I’m exaggerating when I say I point at my co-workers and bark. Perhaps you think no one over the age of twelve peels off their socks in a group, slip-covers their fists and talks in falsetto. Perhaps in any other office, I’d be inches from unemploment, but believe it or not, my office is just as interesting as I am “special.” Let’s leave that in quotes. I grab the sealed package and run to the middle of the room.

Lupe: I thought you needed those.
Tata: You went to IKEA? Did you feel like you were gone for a week and inexplicably smell of lingonberries later?
Lupe: Yeah…and I went in for a couch.
Tata: Look! There’s a court jester and a dragon and a king and a really bald queen so maybe it’s a king and a king, and there’s a prince and a pretty, pretty pink princess and an unarmed knight and a magician and a – what the hell?
Helen: It’s an owl. You’re an idiot!
Tata: I am an idiot! It is obviously an owl! And this guy wants the throne for himself! A usurper puppet!

It’s a good thing I have ten fingers and four friends. For the next few hours, a puppet or two conduct work-related conversations with my co-workers. Then I remember the thing I saw on the news and didn’t understand. Googling doesn’t seem to help. My friend at NPR comes up with this. I try explaining to DBK.

Tata: I’m telling you, firemen were running from a burning building, waving very hairy goats that looked mostly perturbed. It’s the kind of thing that usually happens INSIDE my head, not in West New York, NJ.
DBK: Oh! Oh! Firemen were running from a burning building in West New York, NJ, waving hairy goats. Now I get it. Seriously, not only did I not see this amazing video footage, but it was only sounding a little crazy before and now it sounds truly insane. Not that I don’t believe you. I believe that you saw video of firemen running from a burning building in West New York, NJ waving hairy goats. I now wish that I had seen it too so that we could compare notes instead of having this increasingly inane email exchange. Why were the goats hairy? When is Weehauken?
Tata: Some goats have that short hair. These were angora goats. Hippie goats. Hair flying in every direction. And yet you could clearly see indignant looks on the faces of those goats!
DBK: This missive gives rise to so many questions. Why were goats in the building? Were they on the lease? Did they start the fire? The image of goats smoking in bed comes to mind.

While I was still pondering goat-wielding firemen, I got an email that reminded me that I’m not the only one watching the charming moving pictures.

Just a quick email to let you know about our exciting new contest!

Do you yodel? Maybe it’s just in the shower or when you’re talking to your cat, but if you have the rare talent, we need you. We are looking for a yodel to possibly use in a future McPhee product. The best yodel will win 100 slightly stiff Rubber Chickens, a $200 online Gift Certificate and the chance to be used in a future product! Click below for details and remember, NO COUNTRY YODELING!

I immediately emailed Johnny, who howls every night with his many mutts. The artistic relation between howling and yodeling eludes a civilian like myself, and while we were in high school, Johnny brandished a notorious rubber chicken named Claude. Who knows, he might feel nostalgic. Or maybe not.

I’ll watch anything with Val Kilmer in it, and The Salton Sea looked like my kind of cinema. It even said modern noir on the box. A double personality/speed freak/jazz trumpeter/narcotics informant/recently bereaved husband tries to figure out who/which he is and what happened, with the help of large-caliber firearms. I just couldn’t get past the first twenty minutes. Val Kilmer is no Laurence Olivier, but as a fellow Santa Fean and as a human being, I feel for a guy who has to read lines like they gave him in that movie. Oh my God.

One of my postings for gigs got a bite. I may be playing a festival gig in Albuquerque with an Australian blues/rock guy. Most important, I have the shoes. It’ll be good to be out there again. I’m just glad I don’t play jazz trumpet. I’m not sure if I’d have to yodel.

Is it crazy that I still love Val?

We`ll Be Forced To Use Our Wings

A series of events caught my surprised attention because I didn’t expect to, you know, remember a series of events. There were other minor things here and there. Here is a list compiled by a person both small, and covered with fur.

The amusingly misnamed Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005.

Katrina survivors are left high and dry.

The Senate upped our debt ceiling.

Rising gas prices.

The capper:

Oprah put the Oprah People on “America’s Debt Diet.”

The first four items suggest Andrew Carnegie’s spirit has repented in the afterlife of his repentance on earth. Woo hoo! Congress has turned our democracy into a strictly feudal society and we can report to our new corporate owners for ID chips and stylish burlap sacks. I don’t know much about economics but none of this can be good for ordinary, tax-paying American people.

The fifth suggests that Oprah has observed the same events and added a healthy dose of consternation over families and individuals bankrupting themselves to give the appearance of prosperity. When Oprah announced that Americans were drowning in debt and she was laying down rules and a challenge, I took notice. It meant there was blood in the water. The credit card companies’ secret was out, and what’s left of the middle class had one more chance to save itself.

In my office, there is a woman who’s worked for the university for 43 years, and by rights she should be able to retire. She can’t. Some years ago, Helen took in her granddaughter and paid for the upbringing of the girl while Helen’s daughter re-married and had more children. Helen took out loans for her granddaughter’s college education and was left with them when the girl dropped out. In fact, Helen buys groceries for the families of all three of her grown children and is paying for a substantial portion of her granddaughter’s wedding. The more I hear about $400 veils and tiaras, the angrier I get about the happy couple that goes on vacations and saves not a penny. Helen is in poor health in her seventies. If something happens to Helen, her whole family will go down the crapper. This kind of dependency takes decades to foster, and though Helen’s exploitation angers me, it’s the life she’s chosen. And it’s not my life to fix.

But there are wrongs I can right, if I pay attention. About six weeks ago, I was going to write a post about how switching to the New Jersey Clean Energy program seemed to cost next to nothing when careful examination of my energy bill cast some doubt about who was supplying what to whom. I called PSE&G. They said I wasn’t signed up. So I did. New Jersey Clean Energy is very friendly. Today I received an invitation to an Earth Day picnic in Egg Harbor on the 23rd. I…haven’t got a thing to wear. Driving four hours by my lonesome to and from an energy conservation party seems a trifle outre.

So, for empirical evidence of what NJCE does to a gas and electric bill, Poor Impulsives will have to wait until I actually get one. The management apologizes for any inconvenience.

This afternoon, I received a bill from Kohl’s, where I have a credit card for the sole purpose of improving my credit rating. The APR was 21%, so I called them up to see if they could do better. Last month, I forgot what day it was and magically incurred a late fee on an already paid bill but that’s my fault and not the issue.

Tata: I have no need of a credit card with a rate of 21%.
Customer Service Rep: Everyone’s got the same rate on the East Coast. That’s what they’re getting.
Tata: That’s like saying you’re only a little bit on fire, so why complain?
CSR: That’s the standard but it doesn’t matter because that’s an annual rate and you pay off your card every time you use it.
Tata: It’s the principle of the thing. Can you reduce the rate or no?
CSR: We can’t but it doesn’t matter to you.
Tata: It does matter how a person lets herself br used. I’ll pay that late fee, and in a couple of days I’ll call back and close the account.
CSR: Why would you do that?
Tata: Because we can do business on my terms or Kohl’s makes no money from me whatever.
CSR: That’s…different.
Tata: I sincerely hope this call has been recorded for quality assurance. You’ve been very helpful, thank you.

I sincerely hope you will do the same – not just because it feels good to get out of debt and feels great to not need your creditors. You don’t need them! Pay ’em off and kiss ’em goodbye. At this point, the thing Oprah doesn’t say but Congress clearly has is this: the only way to survive the current economic shakedown is to completely gut your current life, pare down your expenses and pay off your creditors. I’m doing it too. Not because Oprah said so but because when Oprah’s talking about money, maybe it wouldn’t hurt me to listen.

Chocolate And Cheese

The blogger known as DBK of Blanton’s and Ashton’s has informed the editorial board that he and Mrs. DBK will adjourn next month to France. Sensing an opportunity for my own personal gain, I demanded a postcard, to go with the one he brought me from Barcelona. I was about to issue less reasonable demands when he asked me if I’d be the junior varsity admin in his absence.

I KNOW! My first thought was, ‘For the safe return of the prestigious blog you will give me…one MILLION dollars!’ It wasn’t my first taste of corruption but it sure was caramel-coated. Negotiations ensued. My partner in this blog-crime will be Tami, the One True. We consulted.

Tata: Jealousy will cause us to spackle your blog with internet cheese. But you knew that.
DBK: Jealousy is such an ugly emotion, except on you, it looks good. No seriously, not a lot of people can pull of that look, but you have something special. As for cheese, cheese is such an ugly emotion, but so tasty. Almost as good as salty, salty ham. Ummmmmm. Salty ham. In a few weeks I will forego the pleasure of cheese in favor of fromage. Et un baguette. Et vin. Mucho vin.
T,tOT: Cheese blogging it is.
Tata: Sure. Use logic. I should’ve seen THAT coming.
T,tOT: BAM! You never see logic coming! It’s like lightning, but without the teeth!
Tata: You’re inviting guest posters? OOOOOH! GIVE THEM WRESTLING NAMES! The Masked Poster! The Killer Blockquote! Sgt. Slaughterhousefive!
DBK: I like that. Or I could give them wrestling names with a twist of lemon: Randy Savage Skewering! Chief Jay Strongbowlemia! Haystacks Calhooyoucallingfat?!
Tata: Hey, co-defendants! May I use this on the blog?
DBK: Blog is such an ugly emotion. But yes, yes you can. I am flattered. I love being flattered. And I love ham. Salty, salty ham.
T,tOT: And unto you, I say, in my flawless French, “Faites le bruit du cochon”.
Tata: “Brown the bacon”?
T,tOT: “Make the pig noise.”
DBK: Oink!
Tata: Whenever possible, yes.

To quote Top Secret: “LATRINE!”

I’m All Out of Faith

What do you think?

Update: Kevin, Trout’s younger brother and my Parsons of Paris-educated high school dance partner, offers:


Kind of feel like I did about Estes’ work. It has a certain “Isn’t that amazing?” factor, but is it art? People do pay a lot of money for it.

What I really worry about is the point at which “seeing is believing” won’t work, and we wind up with faked images and videos of all types of situations that could have been concocted on someone’s computer. Then everything will become “take it on faith”, and who knows where we will wind up. Kind of where we are now with arguments on the “authenticity” of the gospels according to Judas, as if we ever had any guarantee of the “authenticity” of the other gospels, the Koran, the old testament, the Kama Sutra. Well, at least that one is empirically verifiable…

I love him to pieces.