What He Goes There For Is To Unlock the Door

My decades-old stovetop is wide enough to place baking pans on either side of the burners. The lure is irresistable. I must place things I need to place somewhere in this space between the burners and the wall. I cannot help myself! So the block containing knives and a cannister filled with teas and instant cider packets sit next to two ceramic insulators an old friend found in a junkyard. In my apartment, one may discover several large, heavy rusty objects – especially if you break in and I hit you with them. But that’s not important right now! Sitting next to the stove, things get sticky, then furry, then you wish you could stick noses on them and call them “Mr. Potato Head.”

Recently, lots of ostensibly intelligent people have been shouting things that don’t make any sense to me, especially when they contradict one another. You may or may not remember this, but I used to be a Biblical Revisionary performance poet, and my theory was that you should never take anyone’s word – including mine – for what was in the Bible, and believer or not, you should read it yourself. On Friday, I read an article in which Senator Harry Reid called this week’s big-name bill “unconstitutional on its face” and a paragraph later, Senator John McCain said no, he thought it was constitutional. I thought, hell, I’ve been declared a genius on both sides of the Atlantic. I’m not using my prodigious IQ for anything special. Maybe I should clean the fuzz off my kitchen and read the Constitution while I’m making yogurt this week. I’ve got yogurt ingredients and cleaning fluid. And I can read.

Amendment I
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

I’m an Eat Dessert First kind of gal, so let’s start with the amendments, and hey, that one’s not so tough. I can spell each and every one of those words. This came in handy when I brought whole milk and light cream to a milk boil. Since I was standing there at the stove, I took apart the block of knives and removed teas and ciders from the cannister. I washed the knives, the block, the insulators and the cannister with CitraSolv, an orange oil cleaner. My kitchen smelled great. It is important to remember that I am allergic to only two things: oxygen and nitrogen. Cleaning is a joyous adventure. My sinuses opened up as they hadn’t since I was a blotchy, sneezing, crushingly attractive teen.

Amendment II
A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Those words pack a punch, much like the pots and pans I got two Christmases ago. When Paulie Gonzalez and I broke up, the pots and pans were his, so I did what any independent, self-sufficient middle-aged woman would under the circumstances: I called Daddy and said, “Please buy me pots!” The grid behind the stove Dad put up when I said, “Daddy, help me move!” It’s a miracle he takes my calls. On the topical other hand, today he sent me four pictures of himself with his Winchester, his whisk and a bandolero full of bullets. As you can see from the photograph above, the yogurt maker he gave me gets weekly usage. Let’s not underestimate Mom while we’re at it: that’s a lefthanded spoon-whatsis, made by an artisan Mom found in her travels through New England.

Amendment III
No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Speaking of whisks, my rubberized plastic whisk is the tool in my kitchen that makes me happiest, though it’s the one I may use less than thirty seconds weekly. I can combine my base yogurt sample with the boiled and cooled milk and cream without damaging my non-stick stock pot.

Amendment IV
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The fourth is one of my favorites. It’s got a great beat and you can really dance to it. Check out this Electric Slide.

Tata: You’ve got to be kidding. I’m not getting up in church and renouncing evil in front of witnesses! Can’t one of your friends be this kid’s godmother?
Daria: We don’t believe in it.
Tata: What? What does that mean? Can I tell a jackknifed tractor trailor I don’t believe in car crashes?

But as much as I mocked my sister, I swear this was my mouth doing the talking when I went to interview for a part-time job at a discount department store.

Interviewer: We require a drug test.
Tata: I don’t believe in it.
Interviewer: Okay.
Tata: Did I say something stupid? And you said “okay”?
Interviewer: Do you want to start Tuesday?
Tata: I believe in starting Tuesday.

I scrubbed the wall next to the stove, too, and the decorative tile you can’t see in the pictures. It takes quite a while after the milk boil for the milk-cream mixture to cool to between 115-120 degrees, so while I was there stirring intermittently I wiped down other surfaces in the kitchen. This is great for me because I can’t stand sticky.

Amendment V
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Yep, I can spell each of those words but I’m not sure I understand them as a piquant melange. I set up the yogurt in cups, put away dry dishes and washed up the stock pot. My stove’s clean. Sticky furry things are now unsticky and unfurry. I read a few paragraphs of the Constitution and I don’t even have a headache. Yes, those are my nails. I grew them myself, possibly as a side effect of the high calcium-low expectation lifestyle. And Poor Impulsives like yourself have taken up a new hobby. Don’t worry, though: you can already sing our theme song. Remember?

Update: YouTube removed Schoolhouse Rock’s preamble to the Constitution. Promise you’ll sing it in the shower, because that will terrify your teens and cause your spouse to giggle. Yes, it will.

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Friday Cat Blogging: Take Us Forever Edition

Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, has presided for months over my knitting efforts. One day, before I mailed off a bunch of them, I amused myself by laying the blankets for shelter cats out on the floor. As you can see, green-eyed Don Gato here went all You are getting very sleepy…you will fix me boiled shrimp…you will feed them to me a tasty bite in the culinary march toward global domination at a time… Then it was September and I smelled like lemon and a cover up.

This morning, I woke up and the clock said 7:14, which I didn’t believe. It was dark. I was cozy, and that clock couldn’t be right. Every work day, my alarm rings at 6:05, at which time the cat addresses me by name, “Brrrrrrr?” every morning. There immediately follows a tremendous feline celebration that includes purring and scratching and leaping and stepping all over me and I expect confetti in my eyes. By the time I stumble to the bathroom, preferably without accidently kicking the enthusiastic pussycat, I am usually the subject of memos and reminders.

Larry: You there! Let’s get a move on! Chop chop!
Tata: Um…must scrape teeth…minty fresh…
Larry: Hey! Hey! We’ve got a timetable here.
Tata: …here I come…

I stumble around three corners in my spacious rabbit warren, where from a distance, we both see our destination: the cat bowl. A choir sings!

Choir: Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

The cat, meanwhile, loses his cool and riverdances around my feet in an effort to scoot me along faster. I refill his water dish. Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, has feline leukemia so his water consumption is an important indicator of when things are right or wrong. I don’t exactly know how it works or what it means but the vet always asks. On the other hand, the cat and I like to have some secrets between us. You know how it is.

Then he faces the dish and eyes me over a shoulder. He is waiting patiently but as a great actor he knows patience is dull. It’s a tense moment. I shake the Rubbermaid cannister. I refill the ten or fifteen pellets of missing kitten chow. I shake the cannister again and put it away. Then I pat his haunches, which he takes as an invitation to breakfast. Then I stumble into the living room to exercise every morning. Today, my clock read 7:14 but we lie to one another. You know how it is. It was really 6:44. When I stumbled to the living room because the cable modem would never deceive me it said 6:44. Then I ran around my apartment laughing because I’d slept from midnight to 6:44 without waking up and it was impossible to hold a grudge against me. Still, we had a quick talk.

Tata: You mad charmer, did you shut off the alarm without telling me?
Tata: I can’t take credit for that!
Tata: You can’t? Oh, come now. You did, didn’t you?
Tata: No, really. I simply couldn’t!
Tata: We’re all talking about it! Tell us!
Tata: Okay! I did! We were sleeping and I was utterly inspired!

And then we came to work gleeful.

Isn’t It Romantic?

Wondrous:

Authorities in the capital Reykjavik will turn off street lights on Thursday evening and people are also being encouraged to sit in their houses in the dark, writer Andri Snaer Magnason said on Wednesday.

While the lights are out, an astronomer will describe the night sky over national radio.

“We have a very beautiful sky as soon as we turn off the lights,” Magnason, who came up with the idea, told Reuters.

Every so often, one hears an idea of heartbreaking beauty. Today, we hear this timeless, lovely notion.

Crossposted at Blanton’s & Ashton’s.

No Time For the Killing Floor

Johnny’s on a mission. Perhaps you can help.

Hey, I’m hitting a wall here, and maybe you and your coterie of cultists of the fabulous might have some ideas. Remember in Diva where what’s his name, Gorodish, I think, lives in the huge loft with his teenage Viet Minh girlfriend roller skating around the wooden floors? He has one of those big 70s wave machines, where the tank gently sways from side to side and bluey green gelatinous goop inside makes an endlessly rocking slow motion wave. I want one of those for my desk. It doesn’t have to be the size of a car like the one in the movie. A little one would be good. But everywhere I search, I come up blank. You must understand that I need without fail to have this thing. Then my life will be complete and I’ll never ask for anything ever again. I know I said that about the greyhound cufflinks. But this time I really mean it.

Yeah yeah, I looked up wave machines, lava lamps and combed the Sharper Image for something approximating this object – no dice. Fan and review sites for the movie offered no pictures. Even YouTube somehow didn’t have video of the buttered-baguette scene with the wave machine in the background that is so crazy-hot I’m sweating just thinking about it, but I just walked to work again. Man, am I fit!

Siobhan found this one.
I’m not sure it has the hypnotic kitsch or retro cool factors for which our Armani-clad zoot suiter searches, but it’s certainly miles closer than I got. Another source offers this mysterious item.

Funny, all I can think of is fragrant, golden toast…and car hops. I can’t explain that. But now I’ve pictured myself standing in the middle of a TV disco dream sequence in which French-speaking nymphets on skates emerge from dry ice clouds to offer me snacks and home appliances. And I’m singing Dancing Queen.

Speeding Into A New Sunrise

This morning, I walked to work simply because I wanted to walk to work. It took about half an hour to travel more than a mile in the cool morning air and harsh, angular light. To my surprise, I did not feel threatened by traffic, not even at the dangerous intersections near the Albany Street Bridge. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to add exercise into my afternoons as the days shorten, the temperature cools and my natural desire is to hibernate in my cozy lair. If I can be sure the weather won’t turn during the day, I might be walk to and from the library a couple times a week. This morning, the cosmos rewarded me for trying out what had only been a farfetched idea before today: as I turned the corner onto Raritan Avenue, I heard a commotion about thirty yards off, up the hill. A tall man passed me, arching his eyebrows in a quizzical way. Behind him, a young woman sat at the bus stop, singing The Star Spangled Banner at the tops of her lungs.

Since I had no reason to expect a concert al fresco, I really enjoyed that as I turned and walked toward the river.

Just Watching You Without Me

A thousand years ago, Siobhan and I met up with Jill of Brilliant@Breakfast, from whom I learn something every day and you should too. I’m a big fan. Jill was acquainted with Siobhan but didn’t know me. So we walked around bra shopping and had a marvelous time and I was chatting quite naturally until I suddenly knew why Jill was watching my hands and speaking slowly. For all she knew, I was some nutcase stalker in chic suede boots and not an accomplished person in my own right. I stood where I was and laughed so hard I unnerved nearby corsetiers.

It had never occurred to me to list credentials. Moreover, doing so wouldn’t render my life experience transparently obvious to the listener. To her credit, Jill realized that I am a funny enough person and that I get her jokes is credential enough – though that is not the case for everyone. Days ago, I was talking over recipes with another blogger and mentioned I’d been on a college radio comedy show. He said something like, “I did that once. We thought we were very funny.” I didn’t bother mentioning we were on over 100 radio stations in three countries. He just assumed I’d never done anything, which took my breath away.

You know, as mysterious assumptions go that’s one dumb, hurtful assumption – as one ought to assume.

Over the weekend, a commenter on a blog I read obsessively responded to a question I asked by inferring that I was either dumb or playing dumb. I have no need to trouble him further; it matters not a whit that he was probably falling-over drunk. In vino veritas, baby, it’s no mystery what he thinks of me, much as this joke circulating among my brother’s Star Trek-loving friends demystifies a certain chickenhawk mentality:

The Iranian Ambassador whispered to President Bush, “My son watches this show ‘Star Trek’ and in it there is Chekhov who is Russian, Scotty who is Scottish, Uhura who is Black and Sulu who is Chinese, but no Arabs. My son is very upset and doesn’t understand why there aren’t any Iranians, Syrians or Iraqis on StarTrek.” President Bush laughed, leaned toward the Iranian Ambassador, and whispered back, “It’s because it takes place in the future.”

If you listen, you hear the hilarious assertion that in the genocidal future, we Russian Scottish Black Chinese people blow Arabs off the face of the planet. Star Trek would never have inferred this, as its creator was a wise and peaceful man, far ahead of his time; plus, Iranians are not Arab but Persian. Technically, they’re Aryans, which means you should try not to snicker when armed bigots talk about blowing up armed brown people. And if you listen to experts estimate what attacking Iran would do to our military in our future, you’ll repeat after me: I’m sorry, Captain, but we haven’t got the power.

It’s just not that mysterious. Some things just aren’t. I don’t need a list of initials after my name and a Rosetta Stone to back up my opinion that inciting racial and ethnic riots won’t make anyone safer or happier – not that many people are listening. Since May, just about every day, I’ve had conversations with family members, friends, lovers and co-workers where I might as well have poured out my heart to my cat for all the human contact I made.

Some conversations were just peculiar.
Tata: It’s really important that we do a-b-c to solve our problems.
Not Listening: Right. We’ll do d-e-f.
Tata: Doing d-e-f will prevent us from solving our problems.
Not Listening: Right! So that’s what we’ll do.
Tata: From now on, I talk to you in only hand signals.

Some were worse than talking to myself, including words my closest friends hope against hope not to hear.
Tata: I’m a little depressed.
He Who Should Fucking Know Better: You’re never depressed!
Tata: Does your insurance cover hearing aids?

…Or my personal favorite.
Tata: Hi, my name is Tata.
Idiot: Tata? What’s that short for?
Tata: Domenica. Please call me “Tata.”
Idiot: Okay, Domenica.
Tata: …And you won’t even notice me calling you “Douchebag.”

I’m just not going to print my resume to persuade anyone I’m worth my weight in fortune cookies. Miss Manners would not approve! What gives me the authority to say what I say, the way I say it? The truth is you don’t really care – not while you’re laughing.

A Prayer From Your Secret God

After the moment of my birth during a blizzard, I was treated as if my arrival was heralded by the trumpets of angels and flashing lights the length of the New Jersey Turnpike. I was special. I was unique in all history. The way my every word was cause for celebration you’d think I was the reincarnation of Thomas Jefferson, several saints and half the martyred French Resistance. I can’t explain that. Anyway, it’s utterly crucial to remember that when I was born both my parents were younger than my daughter Miss Sasha is now, and I was their futuristic prototype; under no circumstances should this conjure up images of blondes in swimsuits exclaiming, “Genuine naugahyde seats!” And I’m not exaggerating my presumed importance in the universe. From Dad’s book from before you were born, with all copyrights in place and stealing is bad for your karma:

Today

Today
I’m contemplating jealousy
and what it really means
mostly to me.

I asked my daughter
what jealousy means.
Offhandedly she informed me
that people are jealous
when they don’t get enough.

She then asked for an apple
and went outside to play
having exhausted the topic.

Even at three, I was a foul-mouthed temptress with no use for jealousy. What the hell, the parents had me when a dictionary and a Magic 8 Ball would’ve been easier to potty train. I don’t recollect hearing babytalk except when spoken to other children. Then, though I’ve always tested well, my sixth grade teacher destroyed my reasonably snotty worldview with one simple sentence.

Pre-Teen Tata: What are you talking about? My parents don’t talk to me any differently than they do to anyone else. You don’t talk to us differently than to other people…
Mrs. Smart Lady: I don’t talk to you or your classmates the same way I talk to adults.

I’ve been in a snit about this for 32 years.