Your Sky All Hung With Jewels

As Corinne moves toward me, I turn off the vacuum and rack my brain for verbs to describe the unusual motion of her approach. Is she hobbling? Slithering? Sashaying? Climbing the side of the building like TV Batman? As she steps through the store’s back door, her weight rests on a foot and both hands on the doorknob. She shifts her hands to a railing that leads downstairs to the stockroom and pulls herself a step closer. Her hands shift to the jewelry counter and she takes another step. With each step, she also shifts which shoulder and which side of her face faces me. I’ve turned off the vacuum because I must know why my much-younger sister appears to be giving me a silent film version of The Eye. Then she says magic words.

Corinne: I’ve discovered frostbite hurts.

I swear to God she said this yesterday, when everywhere in New Jersey it was August. I’m all a-twitter.

Tata: Your theory intrigues me! How will you support it?
Corinne: I had a plantar’s wart removed and the doctor freezes it off. The he digs out what he’s frozen. I’ve been going for weeks. See?

She points to an ordinary BandAid on the bottom of her foot that does not at all make me think of polar bears and icebergs. This is disappointing.

Corinne: Usually, the doctor says, “This is going to pinch” and it does or I don’t feel it. Sometimes he says, “This is going to hurt” and it does. But today, he didn’t say anything. And I would’ve been fine except Tippecanoe was sitting there, asking, “Does it hurt a lot?”
Tata: Scientific curiosity. I like that boy!

He is sitting at the counter, playing video games and squealing, “Kill him! Kill him!” and “I stabbed him in the head, yay!” This is a moral dilemma for me. I appreciate a young man’s introduction to knifeplay but think it should be done the old-fashioned way: in person. The disconnect created by the floral-scented store full of gorgeous things where Japanese flute music sets a peaceful tone and the gloating seven-year-old was too much for my tiny brain and required Hoover therapy.

Corinne: This time…anyway, I couldn’t scream.
Tata: I don’t see why not. He’s busy stabbing things and they’re not screaming properly. When the doctor stabbed you, you should’ve hollared at the tops of your lungs. For Science!
Corinne: I would never have thought of that in a million years.

Speaking of things I think about all the time, this is exactly the kind of public art project I loved doing and miss now.

In this time of finger-pointy-name-callingy-unfunny-y-repressive Eeeeeeeeevil, I see that I haven’t been using my brain for Good to the full extent of its powers. I apologize. I thought blogging was the most I could do and maybe it has been – but it is my revolution, and why am I not dancing?


Having Trouble Understanding Jane

This morning, my co-workers can’t say enough about how I look.

Beth: You look like candy!
Nina: Your toes are perfect! And that ankle bracelet! Where did you get it?
Tata: I think my friend’s cousin made it for me.
Nina: You’re so colorful!

Yep, I’m wearing an outfit that would cause Siobhan grave concern: cropped pants in a tawny print, apple-green sandals and a vivid-pink cardigan that this morning motivated men I’ve known for decades to murmur, “Pink is my favorite flavor.” So, I join the parade of people enjoying the view. The top button’s unbuttoned and I’ve spent the hours admiring my cleavage, which is way more portable than internet smut.

In fact, I’m so near Me, I break into a sweat every time I think of it. My charisma is inspiring. I am mesmerizing! I may need bodyguards to protect my many admirers from themselves, much as accountants could protect people from this thievin’ polygamist:

They allege she went from from one spouse to the next before they realized she had cleaned out their bank accounts.

McConnell has already pleaded guilty to attempted forgery and intent to defraud for writing bad checks to her former husband, Richard McConnell. Those checks were drawn on an account belonging to Len Battaglia, who she married before McConnell.

I have never before felt such a need to slap nametags on people I’ll never meet. Let’s try this again, and speak slowly so I can read your lips!

“From our view, it’s pretty straightforward,” Macomb County assistant prosecuting attorney Michael Servitto told “She married Mr. McConnell and then married Mr. Rice without obtaining a divorce from Mr. McConnell beforehand.”

But defense lawyer Robert McClellan is expected to argue that, because his client was already married to Len Battaglia when she married McConnell, her marriage to McConnell was invalid.

“Since the marriage to Richard McConnell wasn’t a legal marriage, she wasn’t guilty of polygamy when she later married Mr. Rice,” McClellan told the Macomb Daily in 2006. “It’s more correct to call her a serial monogamist.”

So polygamy prevented her from being a polygamist? More interesting than anything else about the case is defense lawyer McClellan’s logic. I am very excited to see this kind of silliness set legal precedent – and so is Joe Lieberman.

“We are happy to have cleared this hurdle, so we can focus on bringing people together in Connecticut for a new politics of unity and purpose,” said Dan Gerstein, [Senator Joe] Lieberman’s campaign spokesman.

Lieberman lost the August 8 primary to [Ned] Lamont, a Greenwich businessman who criticized Lieberman for supporting the Iraq war and for being too close to Republicans and President Bush.

See, the thing that everyone could agree on was there was a primary election, but after that, all bets were off. The people of Connecticut were divided on who should run for US Senator. Democrats talking about who should support whom sounded like a Viagra-soaked EST convention. In the days leading up to the primary everyone agreed was a more or less ordinary civics exercise of a factual nature, a number of people behaved badly in front of cameras and microphones, such that I – remember what’s important, here, and nothing is more important than My Happiness – was bored and annoyed with Mr. Gerstein. In a factual sense, Mr. Lieberman lost and Mr. Lamont won but Mr. Lieberman will unite Connecticut by dividing his party in the November election. I am breathless with a desire to – as a bumper sticker I saw yesterday advised – Visualize Grilled Cheese.

The day after the primary, Lieberman submitted petitions to create his own political party and appear on the ballot.

A poll released last week showed Lamont gaining support in November’s three-way Senate race,[sic]

But the Quinnipiac University poll showed that Lamont still has an uphill battle against Lieberman, the 2000 nominee for vice president.

Lieberman led Lamont among registered voters 49 percent to 38 percent. Republican Alan Schlesinger got support from 4 percent.

That’s an improvement for Lamont, who trailed Lieberman 51 percent to 27 percent in a three-way race in a July 20 Quinnipiac poll. That survey of registered voters showed Schlesinger with 9 percent.

CNN routinely tests my patience with numbers from all sorts of sources that routinely contradict one another. It’s almost as if CNN dares me to ignore them. In any case, the fact to be extracted from this pool of speculative – um – speculation is that the guy who won may still lose to the guy who lost.

Look me in the eye and tell me: who should be sweating?

Tapestries, Wishes of Man

The budget crisis in New Jersey is very serious, much more serious than people who say “Cut my taxes” acknowledge. I am waiting for a phone call from one of the university’s vendors and I’m going to talk him out of $4000. I’ve got the facts on my side. I’ve got the desire to get him to agree, and he will. What I don’t got is the patience to wait another hour for this phone call. I have an attention span too short to ride this Tilt-A-Whirl. An hour ago, I’d been waiting half an hour but I couldn’t wait any longer to go – shall we say – powder my nose. I stood in the middle of the office and issued an order: I’m going to the bathroom. If my phone rings, answer it and sing Feelings until I get back.

While I wait for the court date to establish whether or not I’m evicted, which no one seems to believe I will be, while I wait for summer to end, for the students to return, for the month thousands of newcomers drive wrong ways on New Brunswick’s one-way streets, for even skillful blogging to make sense in a world where people say about bombing civilians “That’s just the way it is,” I wonder what I’m really waiting for. Am I waiting for a companion soul? For the real estate bubble to burst? For a two-for-one frozen duck sale at Pathmark? – Because that will never happen, but I think that about many things people generally anticipate.

Life has returned to the way it was last spring, only with greater humidity and pointlessness. I need a new reason to live, if only to learn some patience.

Silence Is Easy, It Just Becomes Me

Blogger has thrown me out and trashed draft posts five times tonight. This afternoon, for hours, my work email was out. Blame it on sunspots, blame it on my special relationship with computers, blame it on the price of Skittles in Silicon Valley; the result is the same. I am not a trusting person. You and I can sit at this table and converse only so long as I can see both your hands. Don’t try anything. I’ve got ketchup packets and I know how to use them.

No, We Can’t Dance Together

Mr. Breszny, eternal optimist, advises Aquarians:

It’s time for you to fall in love, Aquarius – though not necessarily with a person. You could swoon with infatuation for a place where your heart feels free, for example. You could dive into new music that liberates you from your past, or give yourself with abandon to a fascinating task that brings out the best in you. You might lose your heart to a mind-expanding mentor, a mysterious animal, or a thrilling fight for justice. It really doesn’t matter exactly how or what you fall in love with, Aquarius, as long as it incites you to break open the doors of perception.

Saturday morning, my phone rang.

Voice: It’s the Frito Bandito!
Tata: Noooooooooooooooooo!
Voice: [Spanish Spanish Spanish] Do you know who this is?
Tata: I was just ironing my sombrero and handwashing my six-shooter. Of course, Peaches!

Scout is so butch I decided last month she needs a diner waitress name. No one has ever addressed her as fruit before.

Scout: What are you really doing?
Tata: Laundry. You don’t think glitter applies itself, do you?
Scout: Copycat! There’s a festival in Asbury Park, with some concentration on energy issues. Wanna go?
Tata: I’d love to but you’d have to carry me. I’m pooped!
Scout: You are? Okay, I have other errands. Would you be interested in going with me to Patel’s Cash & Carry on Oak Tree Road?
Tata: What is it?
Scout: It’s an Indian grocery store. Bring twenties.
Tata: I can be ready in half an hour.
Scout: Our first stop will be coffee so we remain conscious as we consider our purchases.

Half an hour later, Scout rings the doorbell that always sounds like a game show wrong answer. We get in her new car and drive back roads to a part of Oak Tree Road I don’t recognize. We’re in sprawling Edison, the giant town next to little Highland Park. Traffic in Edison is so bad I avoid it if possible and seldom drive there myself. Scout is not intimidated by things like traffic. On the way to Oak Tree Road, we stopped at the Quik Chek near her apartment for coffee. Sometimes, when you walk into a room you feel the temperature drop, and as we walked to the back of the store, I felt it. We poured ourselves coffee and a woman came around the service island, addressing Scout in very familiar terms. Scout was cordial but the woman was loud, with a little girl running around her feet. The woman went on and on about being fired from Quik Chek because she was pregnant. Scout finally said, “Look, I don’t think we know each other.” The woman talked on and on. Ordinarily, this would be my cue to say, “Darling, Grandma’s waiting,” or “Sweetheart, we’ve got to get to the party store before they run out of X-Rated balloons,” but the vibe in the store was strange, so I tugged us toward the cash register and paid for coffee. As we were leaving, the woman was still talking. So when we parked at Patel’s Cash & Carry, we hoped the Freak Magnet was set on OFF.

We walked around the store, looking at everything. Some items were familiar but many were not and this was very exciting. I can do this for hours. Scout found incense she wanted. I found bargains on tahini, chutneys and a garlic-ginger paste. Bags of golden raisins and shelled pistachios tempted us both but neither of us decided to buy. Then we turned a corner and found a glorious thing: ready-to-heat Indian vegetarian meals on sale for $.99.

I filled the handbasket with different flavors: paneer makhani, palak paneer, aloo mutter, dal tadka and channa masala. It would have been delightful to have an aquaintance with this brand (SWAD) before this moment, but I didn’t. It was a risk of only a few dollars, if I didn’t like the food. In another aisle, we found coconut oil, which is really good for dry hair. I used to go to botanicas in New Brunswick for coconut oil but forgot about it years ago. As we were walking to the car, Scout said, “Have you ever been to the Phoenician bakery?” I hadn’t but had always wanted to, so we drove there. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a playmate interested in just reading labels in grocery stores, which is a brilliant bit of fun now that I’m ancient and have enough patience to appreciate the elegance of refrigerating 32 ounces of anchovies. We read everything. I loved it and bought a few small things to satisfy my curiosity. I have to know what cream cheese spread in glass cups is! I may need dozens of grape leaves in brine!

As we approached the cash register and the four people behind it, standing shoulder to shoulder, I felt that temperature drop again. Everyone was loud and moving, then still and staring. Scout wanted me to try the triangular spinach pies, so I asked for a bag. Scout asked for four but the man at the counter said no. Two. We could clearly see other bags behind the counter. I was standing behind Scout when I heard her say without hesitation, “Two, then.” As we were leaving, I saw the master sound man from the bar. I’d thought he lived out in Pennsylvania but seeing him at the Phoenician bakery in North Brunswick on a Saturday morning pretty much ruled that out.

At dinner time, I cooked some basmati rice – which you can buy in enormous quantities at Costco, and I have – and microwaved the paneer makhani. I applied one to the other. I’m not going to say this tastes like paneer makhani you get at your favorite restaurant, but it’s pretty good. The portion is of a healthy size. For about $2, I had a meal I really enjoyed and I managed to stay out of a restaurant, where I could have spent $20 and would have been tempted to eat much too much. I am always thrilled when I find inexpensive ways to enjoy a much more espensive lifestyle and remain within my humble means. So far, this is a really luxurious and flavorful way to enhance my happiness. So maybe it is love.

Maria Carry A Dog On Her Back

Barry of Enrevanche tagged me with a meme a few days ago, when I was crazy with the working-too-hard and am-I-three-weeks-from-homeless? hysterias. In fact, I have been so turned around for a couple of months it’s been hard for me to read my favorite sites. I’ve got to know what Mr. Gato’s doing!

A little background. I’ve mentioned this a few times but not lately. In 1997 – I think! – medication wiped my memory clean. Before this, I had books open on every surface wherever I lived. When I was 11, I answered a survey question that I was actively reading thirty-seven books. It was not an exaggeration. After the RotoRootering of my brain, I couldn’t concentrate long enough to read a page, let alone a book. Recently, I’ve been able to start books and finish them, but only since the spring. My relationship with the written word is changing.

1. Book that changed my life.

The Diary of Anais Nin – I can’t tolerate Nin since Incest, but I cannot deny that reading the Diary was a formative experience for the young Me.

2. Books I have read more than once.

Idries Shah’s Nasrudin books; To Kill A Mockingbird, The Tanglewood Tales, Jaws, The Work of a Common Woman, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Auntie Mame, The Outermost House, a pile of Kurt Vonnegut’s novels. Gloria Steinem’s Marilyn. Tanakh: the Holy Scriptures.

3. Book I would want on a desert island.

The Oxford English Dictionary.

4. Book that made me laugh.

Everything by Douglass Adams.

5. Book that made me cry.

Mark Twain’s Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc.

6. Book I wish I had written.

Mark Helprin’s A Winter’s Tale. He’s a douchebag but I love that book.

7. Book I wish had never been written.

Barry mentioned The Turner Diaries. There’s no limit to the list of books that’ve done that same kind of harm to the human psyche. In England once, eight people burned at the stake for owning and reading the Bible. I wish that’d never happened but it’s not the books that harm people, it’s misguided people who harm people. Thus, I hope Ann Coulter, Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh quit cluttering up bookstores with the means to misguide.

8. Book I am currently reading. & 9. Book I’ve been meaning to read.

I am not currently reading a book. My eyes are tired. There are tons of books I’d love to read and new ones published every day; there have always been piles of books to read.

10. Tag five other people.

I’ll try!

Thank you, Barry, for the chance to consider the state of my Self. I am honored you chose me! One detail: my favorite magazine since I found it in the 1970s has always been slapdash International Gymnast. A lot of my books are about gymnastics, dance, art and photography. I have given away every book I do not love; the rest are my friends. It would break my heart to lose them.

Moving Under Ice

I have not abandoned you, my pets, and couldn’t bear the thought you might doubt my love. If all goes well, later today I might have a story to tell that’ll knock your socks off. Please dab your shins with Crazy Glue and check back after dinner.

Of course, if all doesn’t go well, please consider showing up at my place with lawn darts and a court order.

Until tonight, then –

Yesterday, at the orthodontist’s office, the assistant was thrilled to see me. The young orthodontist was thrilled to see me. The office ladies were thrilled to see me. I make amusing remarks and do things other people do not. These people are so happy to see a person who isn’t complaining. The irony of this is their other patients are probably perfectly nice and terribly interesting the other 99.9999% of their lives, while I am a menacing bitch in kitten heels. This is how much I want straight teeth! So back up about ten minutes, to when I arrive at the door to the building. It is locked. I stare. I tug on the door again. The door is locked. Because I have a very vivid imagination, I try it again. That door is still locked. I look around. A man and a sullen girl come up behind me. He grabs the handle and nothing happens. No one is more surprised than I am. That door is actuallly locked! He doesn’t get excited. He takes out his cell and dials the office number.

Man: I’m here with your patient Martha and the outside door is locked.
Phone: Squawkity screech screech squawk squawk!

He hangs up. A moment or two later, a tiny woman in pretty pink scrubs rushes to the door and opens it. She was just there, testing keys, she tells us. The man, Martha and I walk inside. Martha and I take the stairs. There is no avoiding this. She walks slowly, only two steps ahead. I can’t get around her and we’re alone in the stairwell. She can practically hear me wishing I had the kind of magical powers that included wiggling my nose and sending her to GetAGripistan. We arrive at the desk, where my turning up causes celebration inches short of confetti flying through the air and a marching band, but I mean inches. I should bring the office ladies a pinata.

Martha and I are escorted to through the dental emporium’s narrow hallways to the orthodontic suite which overlooks the intersection of Route 1 and Plainfield Avenue at an angle that is not parallel to either one, so I get giggly and seasick. This office – tidy, sunny and filled with people who tell me every four to six weeks how happy they are to see me – does not meet my OCD needs, and I want this building moved. I want that!

Inez gestures to Martha: you sit there. Inez gestures to me: sit! There are two chairs.

Tata: Eeny or meeny?
Inez: Here!
Tata: Eeny!
Inez: I’m so happy to see you!
Tata: Still?

I sit. The doctor sits down next to me, snaps on gloves. He is poking a gloved finger around my teeth. At a point I do not notice, he stops poking my teeth and peels off his gloves.

Dr.: Ever renovated your house? Bite down. Living in renovations really blows.
Tata: There was that time my sister Daria threw a party and the plumbing stopped working…
Dr.: It’s terrible! Now the back teeth.
Tata: I have a new and exciting problem. When I use the rubber bands at night, my front teeth meet – SQUEEK! – and wake me up.
Dr.: Ow.
Tata: Why are you renovating? Did you buy a house?
Dr.: It’s my Mom’s. We’re tearing up everything. Carpets, everything. We’re going to put it on the market.
Tata: I’m sure you’re a good son and all but that’s silly. The buyers are going to renovate from top to bottom anyway. It’s like a racket for contractors.
Dr.: Some people won’t even look at it unless it’s all new stuff. Martha, bite down…
Inez: We’re going to use the chain rubber bands.
Tata: Ooh! Purple this time! I like the purple ones!
Inez: Usually, people who get clear braces get clear rubber bands.
Tata: They are not working hard enough at being silly. Okay, so the other day, my friend picked me up at Metro Park and I’d been on buses and trains all day, so I asked if I could take him to lunch.
Inez: You’re such a nice person!
Tata: Um…thanks! So we went to the new Thai place. Right over here. Have you seen the signs for it?
Inez: By ShopRite?
Tata: Exactly.
Inez: I love when people try new things. I don’t do it myself, but I love when other people do. My boyfriend tries new things.
Tata: Ah…the world is full of interesting things to taste. But I was exhausted and only ate a little. The lady came out of the kitchen and said, “What’s wrong with my food?”
Inez: NO! The purple looks good next to your green sweater.
Tata: Thank you! I was horrified that I’d accidentally insulted her by asking to have the leftovers wrapped so I could have pad Thai for breakfast.
Dr.: From now on, we’re going to need to see you every three weeks.
Tata: You are? Then I need to know more about those renovations!

We have been laughing hysterically for ten minutes. Martha has not said a single word.