Our Valued Destiny Comes To Nothing

At the Asian market on Route 27, I like to stock up on staples. This is accomplished by the peculiar process of walking slowly up and down the aisles playing a rousing game of Guess The Contents Of This Interesting Can! I’ve had some spectacular successes and failures. I define successes as those cans the contents of which I praise for their utter deliciousness. I define failure as anything I eat and try to chase down with Chlorox. So. What’s in this can, then?

I don’t know. But it’s tasty! It’s braised gluten, flavored to taste like favorite foods. The texture reminds me of boiled chicken. The curry’s okay but a little greasy and the sauce is curiously gritty. My assessment is much the same as this gentle reviewer’s.

I prefer the mock duck, and I am not alone in my enthusiasm for this product. A vegan internet grocery store called Food Fight! says:

Dude, you TOTALLY need a can of fake duck.

Dude! I’ve totally got three, but what I can’t find is nutrition facts for what’s in them. Yes, this the second or third time since we all got hardwired to the net that I’ve gone looking for gluten data. I mean, toast naan or pita, slather it with tamarind chutney and tear up some romaine, then slice pieces of fake duck on top and devour this delicious sandwich! But, and I have asked myself this question many times in a startling variety of exciting circumstances, what am I eating?

Does this contain protein? Is it an aid to digestion? Should I be pairing it with anything in particular to make it more nutritious, or should I avoid pairing it with things like eggplant that, while yummy, provide a glamorous diner with little in the way of substance? A gal needs to know! I can’t find anything, and too often, with vegetarians and vegetarian products, I have or hear this conversation:

Tata: Fantastic, what is it?
Vegan: It doesn’t have any animal products at all.
Tata: That’s great. They’re all out. What’s in?
Vegan: See right here, it’s made by a collective of formerly starving women and canned by deserving endangered species.
Tata: Awesome. I clap my cloven hooves for them. How do I add this to a sensible diet?
Vegan: Fry it, saute it, boil it, serve it raw.
Tata: I don’t mean to be testy but if I were trapped on a desert island with nothing but this product and an endless supply of zinfandel, what would kill me first?
Vegan: Well, obviously the sommelier. Geez! Zinfandel?

…so: vegetables, some other protein source like rice and beans, maybe some cheese. I’m not a vegetarian; I’d like to know if adding this to chicken stew, say, means I should eschew starches like dumplings. Is making a sandwich like breading my bread?

A Face That Shows What She Knows

Miss Sasha has been calling me two and three times a day for over a week.

Miss Sasha: Mommy! My in-laws have been here twenty-four hours and I already have stories to tell you.
Tata: Sweetheart, you’re not really good at this yet. The people you’re talking about are standing right next to you, aren’t they? Scream, “OH MY VAGINA!” and call me from your bathroom.
Miss Sasha: We just came back from New Orleans and all Mr. Sasha’s father can say is, “…fucking unbelievable…”
Tata: Does he have any actual thoughts or – this is a stretch – feelings?
Miss Sasha: Not yet. Or anytime soon. He paces around grumbling, “…fucking unbelievable…”

She called to ask about my grandmother’s holiday menus. She called to ask how my grandmother composed salads. She called half-way through Thanksgiving dinner to describe appetizers in minute detail. I could tell she was pleased and perplexed because she didn’t realize she was shouting at the tops of her delightful lungs. As the days of the visit passed, the calls became more bizarre.

Miss Sasha: What are you doing?
Tata: Uh – nothing!
Miss Sasha: You’re grounded, young lady. We’re going out to a bar. I’ll call you when we get thrown out. Love you!
Tata: Love you, sweetie! Say hi to the bouncers!

I like Mr. Sasha, and hope he continues to like my delicate daughter a whole bunch because the prospect of her divorcing him and moving back to New Jersey fills me with adorable terror. So in a way, it’s her or me.

Tata: Darling, whatever you do, don’t poison your terrible in-laws.
Miss Sasha: Why?
Tata: I must destroy my archenemy, the Mother of the Groom, myself. A gal can’t outsource that!
Miss Sasha: Last night, we were in a bar and on the TV was that Michael Richards thing and my father-in-law was good and drunk and he shouted, “Whaddya want, you’re Black!” and the whole bar went silent. That was when I noticed that bar was wall-to-wall white people.
Tata: Well, except for your husband, your mother-in-law and, technically, you.
Miss Sasha: I’m just sayin’.

It’s ON.

It’s Raining Chateaubriand

I. On Saturday afternoon, I walked home from the family store in twilight as golden as November twilight gets. The persistent honking of geese in formation caught my attention, and who knows why because after the age of six, we ignore such things. Honk! Honk! Honk! I looked up, and the flock was flying toward me from my left. I looked around for the sun and found it to my right. West was to my right, which meant the geese were flying north. A man I’ve never seen before was walking on the sidewalk across the street. “Look! The geese are flying the wrong way!”

Man: What? Are you crazy? Those geese are flying south.
Tata: That’s west, so that way is north.

He couldn’t really walk away from me fast enough.

II. The other day, I read a post on Sadly, No! that so filled me with Word Glee I promptly forgot where I’d seen it or what it was about even as I was skipping around my apartment, singing Gavin’s words. Last night, I found it again.

Alas, once you let yourself get behind in your Powerline reading, the stupidity starts piling up like a big, stupid closet full of stupefacting stupidness — such that when you finally open the door, it all crashes out on top of you like a roaring stupelanche.

A roaring stupelanche! The rest of the post makes Gavin my newest Heart’s Delight, and the footnote is keenly refrainy. When I get a minute, I will probably write him a breathless fan letter. I want to watch him use more words. Because I like those.

III. My co-worker Jennifer practices the fine art of good nutrition. This would not ordinarily require comment except half the office goes cross-eyed at 11:30 every morning when Jennifer digs her baby carrots out of the fridge for a snack. The crunching of every bite is mildly annoying. The loud, deliberate SNAP! of each bite is making the rest of us positively homicidal. Will my office see the world’s first vegetable-based mob violence? And does one use a salad fork or tongs?

Now It’s Turkish Delight On A Moonlit Night

Dear Morgan,

How are you? I hear that you’re well. Last night, I saw your girlfriend at Siobhan’s birthday dinner. I’ve known the lovely Kitty for years and positively adore her. I wish the two of you nothing but happiness, and mean that with my whole black heart.

This winter, I’ve taken up baking bread. When one is up to her elbows in whole wheat flour, a person gets to thinking, which as you may recall was always my strongest suit – unless the topic was you. On 28 September, it was 10 years ago that our huge art project and our daily involvement in each other’s lives ended. Ten years. We used to have such exciting conversations.

Tata: I wish I were in love with the grownup you’ll be in ten years.
Morgan: Fuck you! We don’t love each other now.

Yes, our stormy one-year relationship was a tsunami descending on a tiny matchstick fishing village. I don’t miss living with a man who slept with my friends and neighbors, and seldom miss being a raging, single-minded harpy with an ambition problem. I would have done anything to keep you, which led to hilarious antics, like fights in the middle of the night on busy streets. I’m sure we both remember fondly the day we moved house and on the way you decided not to move in, or how you left me three times. And who can forget the kneeslapper that was your moving in and refusing to sleep with me? Oh, how we laughed when I slept with my exes in self-defense!

A person can discover a great deal about herself in the process of learning to bake bread. Before a few weeks ago, I did not have the patience to try it. Baking – especially for the beginner – requires a certain attention, a presence with the tasks at hand I could not have imagined possessing when we were together. I was consumed with making good art, making a name for myself, and making you love me enough to stay. One of the most instructive lessons of breadmaking is that skipping steps in the process leads to unpleasant results. The artwork we made was fantastic and I certainly made a name for myself, but there was no holding your attention, so ultimately, when I think of you, I feel like the lover I worshipped walked straight up to me and shot me in the chest. I couldn’t write anymore. I lost my home, my work, my memory, my health, my Self. From a distance, I’m sure this looked like just another BANG! and out popped a flag that said BANG! and so it’s funny when the clown falls over. But all I felt and feel when I think of you is a pointless, profound sense of my own failure, and what could be more uproarious than that?

Dad – you remember Dad – found me a recipe in the NYTimes for no-knead bread. In an amusing turn of events, after I couldn’t write anymore my hands quit working. I know! That’s an absolute riot! Anyway, if you’ll pardon the pun, kneading is fundamental but I can’t do it yet, so this recipe is a good place for me to start. A batch of this dough is proofing in my kitchen as I write. In half an hour, I’ll turn on the oven. Half an hour after that, I’ll turn out the dough into my Le Creuset dutch oven and bake it. Last week’s dough contained a tablespoon of garlic powder and a teaspoon of dry mustard. I felt it was too specific and lacked a metaphoric range. Today’s contains parsley and some basil. I have a lot of hope for today’s effort. A few weeks ago, Siobhan asked if you would mind not coming to the birthday dinner, and you said you didn’t. That was damned decent of you. Much of that preparation happened without me.

Tata: If you want Morgan and Kitty at your party, I don’t have to go. It’s okay.
Siobhan: Oh, no. I’m wearing a silver dress and a faux fur shrug. You will be there.
Tata: Oh.

Frankly, I’m tired now, bored with these struggles, and I don’t need to participate in them anymore. Most of my time is spent alone, and I prefer it that way. For years, I was out every night, on stage anywhere with a liquor license and dating everyone who could quote Trout Fishing In America. I don’t have a stake in that life anymore, and in this life, I have no competitors, which brings me back to last night. The dinner was going well. Siobhan was surrounded by admirers, the food was tasty; everyone brought presents made of booze and trimmed with marabou, and Mila was sitting next to the unsuspecting man she’ll sleep with for a weekend and he’ll be crushed for the next three years, so all was right with the world. Then Spooky walked up the Old Bay’s spiral staircase and across the dining room. After that terrible business you two got into years ago where everyone including me was wrong and no one was right, I felt a murderous rage every time I saw her, but that’s cooled to contempt lately.

I looked at Siobhan.

Siobhan looked at me.

We looked at each other. A long moment passed.

Siobhan said, “Sorry. I forgot.” This dinner was not about me, and everyone was all dressed up, so I said nothing. Spooky stayed on the far side of the room and mostly out of my line of sight. I didn’t have to look at this parasite so most of the evening was fine. I took the first ride across the bridge home because I’d walked to the Old Bay from where I live on the other side of the river. This morning, I called Siobhan to find out if she’d deliberately created a situation where Spooky and I would be in the same room together and Siobhan said she had not, but she was proud of the way I seemed to be moving on. I informed her that she was, hilariously, mistaken. Looking at Spooky is looking at you, only with that added piquancy of lying, stealing and friendly, oblivious betrayal.

The oven is heating, and I’ve come to the part of the recipe where I must pay close attention to what I’m doing. This is good news because Siobhan won’t have another conversation with you like the one where she asked you to do this nice thing for me and stay away. See, even when you try to treat me decently it gets fucked up somewhere along the line. I’ve told Siobhan it’s over, and as funny as it’s been to occasionally surprise the audience with yet another clowny public gunfight, I’m peeling off my clown nose and hitting the showers. The traveling circus is all yours, Morgan.

Go in peace, my old friend, but please keep going.

Tell Me, Tell Me One More Time

Our lives are so different, yours and mine. Sometimes I wonder if we can find the middle ground I am certain exists between us. Then I see this.

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) – Enraged Shiites burned people to death, torched mosques and denounced Sunni leaders and the United States a day after a bloody assault on Sadr City, the Iraq capital’s Shiite bastion. That coordinated strike, which killed more than 200 and wounded more 250 Thursday, is considered the worst of the Iraq war, and Sunni militants are widely assumed to have carried it out. Witnesses said Shiite gunmen on Friday attacked two mosques with rocket-propelled grenades and burned two other Sunni mosques in the largely Shiite area of Hurriya in northwestern Baghdad. (Watch as all-out civil war threatens to overtake Iraq ) They reported people attacking Sunni houses with hand grenades and rocket-propelled grenades. Shiite militiamen are also said to have doused Sunnis with kerosene and burned them, and shot at other people. One witness reported at least five people were killed. An official with the Association of Muslim Scholars, a Sunni group, said many more were killed and wounded but could not confirm numbers.

This is a gently sanitized version of the story I read a few hours ago. In that version, CNN reported that six men were corralled. Kerosene was poured on them and they were set on fire. No matter what happens to me in this lifetime, no matter what I witness or hardship I endure, I hope nothing can rob me of my humanity and permit what’s left of me to do something this savage.

This is what we unleashed because our government was too stupid to realize that unlike in the US, where we can’t remember back two or three months, in the Middle East, grudges go back centuries. You cannot change that with rhetoric. It is simply the character of things in real life, and we must accept this.

Somewhere, in the expanse between us, where I have been saying for five years that we’re being stupid with millions of lives and where you’ve been saying we have to fight terrorism where we find it, lies the historical notion that nations choose their own governments. I don’t get to pick what happens in any country in the world, but current events remind us that you don’t, either.

Is it so hard to recognize that you are as powerless to influence world events as anyone else? Or as powerful?

I See the Doorways Of A Thousand Churches

Yesterday, we finished reading the Constitution and today I have off from both my jobs. When I used to work in food service, I worked every holiday. Once, I worked a full shift in a nursing home kitchen on Easter Sunday, went home to find my family, such as it was then, gathered around the table, then I washed the dishes. Food service, I found, was not for me, what with the stupid hours, endless personal demands, and the requisite superhuman stamina. I could use a nap, just thinking about it. Instead, I got up this morning with a short list of tasks I wanted to accomplish. This is not what you expected to read, huh?

I have made a career of delivering unexpected speeches.

Tata: Hey! Remember when I essentially ran away from home a year ago?
Mom: Vividly.
Tata: Wanna meet your granddaughter?

And –

Tata: My ex-husband is getting re-married and I’m so happy!
Mathilde: Did you hit your head? Let me take your temperature!
Tata: I’ll be a “first wife”! It’s not every day I get new adjectives!
Mathilde: You’re supposed to be jealous. Why aren’t you jealous?
Tata: Is that really a rule? What if I like them and want them to be happy?

And –

About 30 Different People: Got plans for Thanksgiving?
Tata: Oooh, I do! I’m going to order take-out Chinese duck, lock my door and refuse to answer the phone! I can’t can’t can’t wait!
About 30 Different People: GASP! What happened? Did your family finally hear something you said and throw you out?
Tata: Not at all! Last year, my sister Daria lured me out of my house by giving me a new car. This year, she offered me the spare set of keys. I said thank you and asked her to mail me some mashed potatoes.
About 30 Different People: Are you…are you sure?
Tata: Sure? I’m ecstatic!

After a delightful breakfast that in another life constituted about one-third of a pupu platter and fresh coffee, I did two loads of laundry. This probably sounds like a tremendous April-fresh drag to anyone who does the household washing for a household larger than mine, but it wasn’t. I took down the sheers in my living room and threw them in the washer. I put up my late grandmother’s glamorous drapes. Nobody knows how long ago Edith bought the drapes but a sure sign that they’ve aged well is that the dry cleaner both didn’t want to clean them and was thrilled with his results. Let’s say they’re about forty years old, and a gentle metallic green found exclusively in the living rooms of Italians. The drapes block drafts and light. My living room is now a warm cave. The sheers are hanging in my bedroom. My bedroom floor was vacuumed with extreme prejudice.

I could make a list of things for which I am thankful but if you read PIC on any kind of regular basis you already know or can guess. Let me not detain you. Over the past week, several of my little projects came to fruition and passed into history along with summer, prompting the need for drapes, and making room for new projects and possibly hibernation. A good think on what’s next is required. I am open to ideas. What will you be doing this winter?

Waiting For the Men In Black

Tonight, Sharkey and I are going to see Jack Klugman and we’re bringing a phone book, in case he would like to sit in a chair and read it to us. A few years ago, we saw John Astin do a one-man Edgar Allen Poe showcase and we mewed like contented kittens. Good thing we’re both secure in our manhood.

Section 3. New states may be admitted by the Congress into this union; but no new states shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other state; nor any state be formed by the junction of two or more states, or parts of states, without the consent of the legislatures of the states concerned as well as of the Congress.

The Congress shall have power to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to prejudice any claims of the United States, or of any particular state.

Section 4. The United States shall guarantee to every state in this union a republican form of government, and shall protect each of them against invasion; and on application of the legislature, or of the executive (when the legislature cannot be convened) against domestic violence.

Last week, I heard three stories that took my breath away. I’m still looking for a way to describe these utterly outlandish occurrences without, you know, inspiring people who know where I live to show up wielding lead pipes, but at least one I might get away with since Daria gets lost easily, especially when she’s pissed. I never underestimate her propensity for hilarious violence. I once saw her throw her crutches down a long flight of stairs and hobble after a smartass girl to kick that poor girl’s ass. And though I did have lie down to laugh hard enough, that girl never said Boo! to Daria again.

Article V
The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress; provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.

I dunno. That article is kind of like telling your children to redecorate the guest bathroom and any old colors will be okay. You’re in for trouble, my friend!

Article VI
All debts contracted and engagements entered into, before the adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.

This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

Yeah yeah, we’ll have the United States home by 11:30 and no, we will not at all have played Strip Twister with a gallon jug of Crisco on the beach. What’s that last thing, though? No religious test? I’m glad to hear that. And how long was the United States supposed to stay in that prom dress anyhow?

Article VII
The ratification of the conventions of nine states, shall be sufficient for the establishment of this Constitution between the states so ratifying the same.

I hate to say it, but if you’ve been hanging out here since 30 September, you’ve read the Constitution.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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