A few weeks ago, I lay supine on my couch watching All My Children when I saw something I would never have imagined in a million years. Such is our training by the passage of time and the formation of assumptions that when I saw this truly small, truly strange detail in a show I’ve watched on and off since I was a teenager that at first I didn’t believe my eyes. Then I jumped up and ran to my television. It was true, I really had seen it. Maybe no one else noticed, and it certainly can’t be important in anyone’s scheme of things. The impossible thing was this: in a scene in the Pine Valley Hospital, Susan Lucci as Miss Erika Kane was talking to a villainous doctor when she reached into her handbag, pulled out a rubber band and tied her hair into a pony tail.
I almost swallowed my tongue. Paulie and I are standing in a hotel room in Frederick, Maryland at 5:40 in the evening. Let’s go back in time to 9 a.m., when the Catsitter calls.
Catsitter: Are you packed?
Catsitter: I knew it!
Tata: I’ve got everything laid out systematically. My clothing is clean and rolled neatly. My cosmetics, goos and potions fill a grid system on the living room floor.
Catsitter: Why not jam everything into that tiny computer wheelie you drag around?
Tata: What, before I’ve played Concentration long enough to realize what I’ve already forgotten?
Catsitter: Rumor has it civilization has advanced and drugstores can be found in the wilds of Frederick County.
Tata: How would you know?
Catsitter: I’ve bailed out shoplifters. They have a newsletter. And I’m from there.
Tata: Oh God. Did you shoot your own leather jacket?
I can’t talk to the Catsitter. I’ve got important fretting, complaining and kvetching to do. Miss Sasha still has not called back with instructions. My apartment’s a wreck and I have errands to do. I pick up medicine for Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul. He has an oral infection that requires medicine twice daily on top of his usual kiddie steroids so I can’t leave him for 36 hours. The Catsitter will arrive on an evening train and brave the Wrath of the Feline. It was kind, thoughtful and amazingly stupid of him to volunteer for this dangerous mission. I buy him BandAids and a bottle of bacteriostatic honey to fight infection. You know. In case. Then I shop for fresh fruit and vegetables because when I get back I’m going to be full of cream sauces and puff pastry and strong measures must be taken to fight off that Weekend Wedding Weightgain. Oh, no. I’m not going back to my Fat-Fat Clothes. I’m staying in Merely-Fat Clothes, damn it. By now, Miss Sasha still hasn’t called but Paulie Gonzalez has. He’s been detained by work, where he is busy saving the world, I kid you not. This gives me time to harass Miss Sasha, who still does not answer the phone.
Google driving directions hinted that our route would take 3 hours, 47 minutes. I laughed and told Paulie we needed 5 hours if it weren’t raining up and down the Eastern Seaboard, and we were facing some lame deadline at 5:45 about which I had precious little information except that it would somehow provide me with an excellent opportunity to fail miserably where the whole family could see me. Paulie said he’d be over at 11:30, which became 12, then 12:30, when he pulled up in front of my apartment in a fabulous and disreputable 1965 GM pickup that was red, then Paulie sanded about half of it down to black primer and welded to fix rust. The windows were open. There were makeshift seatbelts. He had to lift the passenger side door to open it from the outside after tossing my suitcase into the bed. I was immediately overjoyed.
The mp3 player in the dash cranked out Paulie’s and my favorite songs and we howled the classics at the top of our lungs. We have a mutual love of good, grinding noise. Kill the Poor and Fly Me To the Moon, windows open to the breeze and squeezing shut against the rain; sweat ran down our backs and rain splattered everywhere. When the first drops fell, Paulie pulled over and dragged my suitcase into the cab and a good thing, since I’d forgotten it by then. We stopped for gas often because the previous owner installed the gas gauge upside down, and if the tank were full the truck wouldn’t start. We encountered accidents, rain blindness, stop-and-go traffic a good part of the distance from Turnpike Exit 9 until Exit 4. In Delaware, the signs stopped agreeing with Google’s directions so we stopped and found out we were accidentally on the right road, which was a 220-volt shocker.
My dear friend Georg weeks ago introduced the idea of making soft blankets for shelter animals. There’s nothing to do in a long car trip but whine. I had and have boxes of extra yarn and piles of knitting needles. I can’t tell you how many drivers in traffic looked at Paulie’s antique and rusting pickup doing 90, blasting the Supersuckers and the Dropkick Murphys, saw me knitting pink fuzzy yarn and decided to up their dosage.
Despite our best attempts to defeat the laws of physics, we ran into traffic just outside Frederick that just wouldn’t quit. My stomach churned. My stitches tightened. Paulie’s lips compressed with tension and effort. The fire suddenly went out.
Tata: It’s okay.
Tata: If we miss the ceremony because it’s in this hellhole at rush hour and traffic’s at a standstill – I just don’t care.
Paulie: Nothing we can do about it.
Tata: Right, so let’s not worry and when we get to the hotel, we see if anyone knows anything. It’ll be fine.
Under other circumstances, if I say stuff like this I should be xrayed for concussions immediately, and if the xrays come back clean they’re lying. We feel relieved and slap-happy when we check into our hotel and get to our room at 5:40. Paulie showers. I shower. We finally get Miss Sasha on the phone and learn about the 6:30 shuttle, for which we are miraculously early. We get beer while we’re waiting and we hardly know what to say to one another. Then something happens we would never have imagined in a million years of Erika Kane putting her hair in pigtails.
Paulie: To goddamn weddings!
Paulie: Look who’s on time for the shuttle.
Tata: Is that MY MOTHER? This isn’t a miracle. It’s one long ACT OF GOD!
Paulie: Yeah, well. Looks like God gets the Oscar tonight.