Bright Lights Dim And the Night Closes In

I’m too tired to gab. Time is short and there’s no time to nap. Maybe. No. Yes. I’m baking sweet potatoes. The cranberries and dried fruit have already boiled and jelled. Later, I’ll steam snap peas – very briefly. Dad and his amusing entourage have arrived in New Jersey to roast meats. It’s Christmas – again. The second pan of manicotti I made a week ago is at Auntie InExcelsisDeo’s house. I hope someone took it out of the freezer or those are going to be some mighty interesting popsicles. With sauce.

If you’re alone or if you’re not, if you’re prosperous or if you’re not, if you’re happy or if you’re not, I wish you a healthy, happy, prosperous and loving New Year. Take good care of yourself. To better days, friends!

Acceptable, Respectable, Presentable, A Vegetable

Meanwhile, mysteries abound a Casa Ta: last night, my son-in-law Mr. Sasha finished putting up the storage cabinet in my bathroom. I am overjoyed! At last, I have an away to put my recycled TP. This cabinet serves also as a burglar alarm. It is mounted right next to the window, which location assures me that if unwelcome persons attempt to climb in in the night, I will hear the sudden collision of cabinet and floor and hastily summon armed locals – after I conk someone on the noggin with a rusty pipe wrench, because lockjaw is the gift that keeps on giving and I’m a generous gal.

This is a sensible arrangement and I like those. In general, I am pleased when things make sense to me. We all like that, don’t we, to find that our world view squares with what we observe in everyday life? That is why I was completely flummoxed to find large bits of broken cracker on my bedroom windowsill that I didn’t put there. My upstairs neighbor hasn’t been home for some time, though I’m not sure how long. This absent neighbor differs from the other absent neighbors in that my immediate upstairs neighbor is the single gentleman I sometimes see wearing pants and the others are a couple who always wear pants. I am pleased that this distinction serves my common sense purpose: my upstairs neighbor has not thrown crackers out his window for the squirrels. Neither have his pants.

This is the view straight down from my window. Not even an exotic professional basketball player could stand there and place bits of cracker on my windowsill. I have observed that this stairwell is wide enough for two fully grown PSE&G employees to descend the steps side by side, pretend they couldn’t open the door to the meter room and ascend to ground level without touching shoulders, no matter how manly.

We have established, then, that I did not place the puzzling cracker bits on the sill, that my upstairs neighbor did not drop them out his window, and that it would be very difficult for a person standing outside to place those cracker bits on my windowsill. Thus, we can only draw one conclusion: these cracker bits are a gift of the loving squirrel people, who sit in the apple tree and worship me from near and far. They adore me, do the squirrel people! Where they got these precious crackers, I cannot say. That they would leave me this offering is a sign that I am well and truly treasured by the squirrels. I am their god. I would rain favor and chunks of apple on them if my current lease did not include a proviso that I not throw things out my windows. No. Really.

Should you doubt the veracity of my story, you would offend me. To think that I would buy crackers prepared without whole grains is preposterous. I’m a Triscuit gal, or at the very least, stone-ground wheat. In the kitchen cabinet, I have some of those Norwegian crackers that taste and feel like stale cardboard, but even they are rye. I save them for days when I am displeased with myself and don’t deserve a good snack; thus, those crackers haven’t seen daylight in over a year. Take that as a sign that the squirrel people are not alone in their love of Me. Even so, sometimes an offering doesn’t fit a god’s common sense needs. Take this as a humble warning: I swept up the crackers and threw them away.

Greater Wealth Than Hughes Himself

Let’s play a game. Here are some rules.

1. My arrest record must remain clean.
2. The lowest form of life is a snitch. Men know it. Women know it. Little children in their cribs know it. I’m no snitch. My lease says no cats. Chances are good all the leases in my complex say that. Every window has a pussycat.
3. No animals or their dumb humans may be harmed before the fat lady sings.

The game board is my building, where inside the fire walls nestle four apartments. Last week, one of the upstairs neighbors said his catsitting plans had fallen through and would I please look in on his cats on Christmas Eve (Sunday) and the day after Christmas (Tuesday)? I agreed to do this. He handed me a key and told me to leave it inside the apartment when I fed the cats the second time because he and his wife would be back on Wednesday, which is to say yesterday. Upstairs, I found two cats the size of Buicks, four giant bowls of water and five giant bowls of kitty kibble. On Tuesday, I noticed they had eaten very little. I filled the bowls and freshened the water. Then I left the key on the stove where cats the size of Buicks were less likely to kick it under furniture they liked to stand on.

Let’s not even talk about the three litter boxes in the bathroom. They looked okay but my eyes watered.

Are we on the same page? We are. Let’s play: the apartment upstairs is dark and it’s Thursday night. My neighbors have not come home. Their phone numbers are upstairs in the apartment I locked. The cats almost certainly have enough water and food. What would you do?

If I call the super, I’m making the issue the safety of pets we’re not supposed to have.
If I break into the apartment to get the phone numbers and I call them, what do I say? “Say, neighbors, I’m so trustworthy I’ve picked your locks. Are you coming home or am I still taking care of your stuff?”
If I do nothing, what happens if they’re in trouble and I haven’t acted?

Ready? Go.

Privacy Attracts A Crowd

That goddamned tire was flat again today. I had just read Mr. Breszny’s prediction for the Aquarian 2007:

There are still places in China where plagues of locusts periodically descend in Biblical proportions. A few years ago, farmers in the region of Xinjiang fought back, gathering an army of 10,000 chickens in anticipation of the invading hordes. The bird soldiers were trained for two months, and when the showdown came, they acquitted themselves admirably. This vignette is an apt metaphor for a challenge you’ll face in 2007. While in general the year should bring an abundant amount of sweet luck and high adventures, there will be a locust visitation or two. I urge you to assemble your own personal equivalent of a chicken army. What might that mean, practically speaking? Here are some possibilities: (1) Be well-prepared for natural anomalies. (2) Ally yourself with the enemy of your adversary. (3) Get others to help you fight your battles.

Fuck! I might have to report this to the cops. Is there a quicker way to recruit a chicken army? Fortunately, my innards are a double helping of red hot Scorpio.

In 2007, you’ll need to find the power to do the half-right thing when it’s impossible to do the totally right thing. To help you do that, remember this advice from Abraham Lincoln: “The true rule, in determining to embrace or reject anything, is not whether it have any evil in it; but whether it have more of evil than of good. There are few things wholly evil, or wholly good. Almost every thing is an inseparable compound of the two; so that our best judgment of the preponderance between them is continually demanded.”

Yeah yeah, Good. Evil. Good v. Evil. Good with a creamy nougat center of Evil. Evil with a hard, candy shell of Good. Reverse the recipe and rock on.

I don’t have enemies and I don’t want any. I want to skip madly along my own path and throw petals at the small-minded and selfish. Hopefully, somewhere along the line, another equally mad skipper sashays along side, but I can’t do anything about that. What I have to do is find an artform for the next stage of my life, which has nothing to do with anyone else’s problems with me, however real, imaginary or growling like a pirate. So if someone is flattening my tires, that person is seriously misguided. There’s nothing to be gained by damaging my car.

In other news, I’m spending too much time alone and a florist moved in a few blocks from here. I’m thinking of hiring my own Munchkins and easing on down Route 27. Often.

What To Do With My Strength Anyway

RAI Internationale burbles in Italian as I do little chores. The explosion in Lagos is no less horrible for the language gap. Cars and people are still on fire. Young men driving around Mogadishu in pickup trucks with machine guns is a recurring nightmare. Then there’s this week’s Italian government scandal. I might Nair my mustache in self-defense.

I could swear Atillio the Talking Testa said Dracula’s castle was sold. Or maybe it was Winona Ryder. My Italian isn’t so much rusty as rusted shut. But I have patience.

This morning, I was wide awake and nervous before 6. It was dark out and creepy in, so I laced up my sneakers and went walking in the pre-dawn fog. I could barely make out gray figures of other people and dogs walking and running in the park. Being outdoors in the dark holds no terror for me – it’s peaceful and I am sure of myself – as opposed to shivering indoors, looking out at the night. The air was cool and damp and walking at a brisk pace was a little like breathing, drinking and marching uphill. Both ways. On my way back, I barged in on the cats upstairs who had a whole apartment to themselves but not quite enough food and water while their people were gone for a week. Their people left three litter boxes for two gatos and a box of homemade biscotti for me. We’re all glad that wasn’t reversed.

Mostly what I did today was rest. I ate a little. Cleaned a few things. Read the blogs. Napped. Scratched Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul. Napped. Ate a little. Miss Sasha called me at least three times to discuss hand signals we can use during phone calls with Mom, which worked great when Mom called to invite me over for dinner. I was honest. I said I needed rest. Then I lied and said Miss Sasha was coming over my house and could she get a move on? I’d send me to my room…but I’d be there. And I’m clearly a bad influenza.

It Sure Beats Rikers

Somewhere, in my palatial one bedroom apartment, I have misplaced a present. I recall cheering when I found it on my welcome mat. I recall opening the mailing envelope. The insulating bubble wrap is sitting on my couch. And yet, I can’t find that present. What the hell?

I’ll find it. It’s here. I asked the cat where one of us put it. He’s been no help whatsoever.

Until yesterday, the plan was that right now, I’d be getting dressed for dinner at Mom’s and swearing under my breath but – and I say this with exhausted glee – Mom’s sick and I’m home alone with the cat. Wheee! My stepfather Tom came to the store yesterday and delivered the news that Mom wasn’t feeling up to snuff.

Tom: Deine Mutter ist krank.

Okay, he didn’t deliver his lines in German. I’m hamming it up. See, Anya ran over from the toy store ten minutes before with fantastic news –

Anya: Guess what! Guess what! Your mom’s sick and our parents are thinking of postponing Christmas dinner!
Tata: Get out! I might get tomorrow off?
Anya: We can just eat on Thursday, anyhow. Why have dinner twice?
Tata: Speaking of which, I need a few things for Thursday. Where am I gonna get anchovies and a plastic deer head?
Anya: We have So-And-So again for the Not-So-Secret Santa. We had him last year and I don’t know what to get him anymore.
Tata: How about 49 things from the dollar store and gum?

– So when Tom appeared, I attempted to look surprised.

Tom: Your mother’s sick.
Tata: And you’re thinking of postponing?

Damn! That was his line!

Tom: Well, we are aware that if we postpone some of us who may have committed to dinner may not have other places to go.
Tata: I personally would be overjoyed to have no place to go. I’m thawing a duck as we speak.
Tom: You’re very talented.
Tata: Thank you. Thursday, then?
Tom: [ … ]

Tom said something but no one knows what it was, and it is now lost in the sands of time. I recall not being sure if I was off the hook for today. Even so, we were in the store and the public had gift-giving needs and I’m not entirely certain I said goodbye when he left. That’s a little anticlimactic for you. I apologize! Consider it a simple denoument and let’s crank it up.

On Thursday, Mom, Tom, Daria, Anya, Corinne, Miss and Mr. Sasha, assorted spouses, seven children and I will stuff ourselves into one house, eat too much and exchange gifts. The truth is we dread this day every year because if dinner is supposed to be at 3 it will be at 9 and the kids go crazy and there’s no room for everyone to sit down so it’s a constant game of musical chairs. With eggnog and glitter. I can work my way around a shrimp ring while everyone else runs in circles but the parents of small children lose their tempers after three or four hours of cramped, festive togetherness. One of these years, we’ll have a homicide.

On New Year’s Eve, Dad, Darla arrive at Auntie InExcelsisDeo’s from Canada, and we replay Italian Christmas Eve. The manicotti for this event now shivers in Auntie’s freezer. Rejoice! Planning, effort and homemade crepes have come together in such a way that I now have days of peace and quiet. If I am tired, I can nap. I am tired. I’ve napped once this morning and may nap outrageously again later. It would be divine if I had a companion to play with but I don’t and can’t do anything about that. On the other hand, I’m 45 minutes away from crisp roasted duck.

By the way, I moved a few things and found the lost present.

Crashers Getting Bombed

Anya, Mary and I ran our butts off in a tiny space at the family store for hours, including a raucous visit from The Fabulous Ex-Husband, his fiancee Karen, Miss Sasha and Mr. Sasha. Customers were thrilled when this was a felicitous turn of events not ending in bloodshed. No, it ended in gift wrapping. Everything ended in gift wrapping. I didn’t get home until 10:30, so I was up until 1 assembling the manicotti. Now, I’m off to the store again.

Yesterday, a customer came toward me with a Yule card, asking, “What’s this for?” Mary and I, seeking to avoid an Unfortunate Incident, smiled and spoke all at once.

Mary: Some people celebrate the Solstice –
Tata: It’s kind of seasonal –
Mary: The changing of darkness to light –
Tata: It doesn’t at all involve bonfires and nekkid dancing, no –
Mary: Get a load of you, sistah…
Tata: Oh. Was that my outside voice?
Customer: So it’s not for Christmas?
Mary: Noooo.
Tata: Still, very festive…!

Back soon.

Games People Play, Honor Bright

Someday, I will pen a lengthy and erudite treatise on the locus of identity. It will be unlike an other treatise in the history of treatises in that footnotes, while properly formatted, will look a lot like this.* In the meantime, Blogger can kiss my fabulous rump. I can choose my own identity because of who I happen to be, in this time and place, and I firmly believe I can’t afford to give any ground on this. It is the natural state of society and other people to see us their own way, which is why Michelle Malkin can advocate concentration camps for brown Americans without irony. Ultimately, we are ourselves as long as we inhabit those selves and stand that ground.

I’ll be popping in here every few hours to kvetch about whatever crossed my path or smudged my lipstick. Join me when you can. Or not. I’ve got solvent.

Whatever you’re celebrating, give a thought to people who are struggling. They’re everywhere, and you might not see them if you weren’t looking. Go in peace, my pets!

*Motor Vehicle Services should put down the crack pipe if it thinks it determines who I fucking am.

Tell Each Other Fairy Tales

This morning, I woke up arguing with my sister Anya, and because I was arguing with one of my sisters in my sleep, I couldn’t fall back to sleep. I was all riled up! Fortunately, I went to the orthdontist instead. At the office, I am universally loved because I laugh all the time and bring everyone cookies. It impresses people that I add vegetable oil and an egg to lumpy powder and apply heat. Yeah, I don’t get it either. Anyway, he’d promised me all fall that my braces would come off before Christmas. Blah blah blah before Christmas blah…anyway, today he said no. I almost burst into tears. Since I’m not the bursting-into-tears type, I consoled myself by buying a frozen duck and nail polish, but not at the orthodontist’s. They don’t have those there.

In the big picture, I am one of the most fortunate people on the planet. I have a very nice apartment, a good job, a nose usually found on infants. My sick cat is relatively well. My car runs. I can walk to work because winter has been mild. I have good insurance and can afford to take care of myself. Yet in the smaller frame, aspects of this past year were difficult and painful and news that metal spikes will stab my tongue for another month at least sent me scurrying to the frozen foods section. I even looked at ice cream, which I never buy. The wind’s out of my sails. I’m exhausted and needed some good news. I needed progress I could see. Instead, I got tater tots.

I do love tater tots.

My brain says So what? Something good will turn up. Maybe so. Suddenly, I am not so sure.

In the Garden Where Nothing Grows

If you will just have patience with me for another 7 hours, I plan a return to this version of my self. In the meantime, perhaps you can play the home version of Poor Impulse Control. Blogger is screwing me over. I have to change my names again, and since I’m just not going to tell you the name my mother growls when I show up in fishnets, I require glorious new nomenclature. What should we christen me for the foreseeable future?

If you happen to know the name on my driver license, please don’t enter it into comments. It won’t help, anyhow. So. What’s my new name, lover?