Is Pointed At Me

A Pleasant Solstice to you.

Today, we begin a new project Pete and I are excited about: 180 Days. One of us will take a digital picture from the same spot at the same angle every day until the next Solstice. We’ll publish the pictures on PIC every day (unless I am, say, on a boat in the Caribbean). The view is of the City of New Brunswick from the sidewalk in front of my apartment. Pete took this picture this morning. We discovered last night there’s no way to take these pictures at night because the city photographs at night on my camera like a distant Christmas tree fire.

So. The city sits on the other side of the river and through the trees. We will see more of it, then less. The place where we photograph from may change a bit. We shall see what we shall see.

I urge you to pick a place, take your digital camera there and try this experiment yourself.

Friday Cat Blogging: Teenage Hopes Arrive Edition

Topaz, you may recall, came to me with respiratory issues manifesting in the form of a weepy right eye. The vet promised me the condition bothered me more than it bothered Topaz so I let it go. As the temperature dropped, hatches were battened against the weather and the apartment felt snug, then stuffy. So did Topaz, who seemed to be constantly sneezing. On Wednesday, when I opened my bedroom door in the morning, the apartment felt like an oven and the sound of Topaz’s breathing was louder than the TV. I brought home a humidifier and set it up to run constantly. Minstrel advised what I pretty much guessed I should do, then the Chinese medicine consultant at the health food store agreed: eucalyptus drops in the humidifier. This morning, Topaz sneezed a bit but not much and was cranky enough to resist my efforts to wipe away a bit of snot. So: things are looking up. And speaking of looking up –

Topaz sits at Pete’s feet all the time and gazes up at him with all the sticky emotion one hopes to avoid in a torrid teenage love affair. Tuesday night, I was working on something and Pete said, “Get the camera.” Though Topaz usually sees the camera and takes a powder, this time Topaz sat still and blinked out her message of awkward, gooey love. Mostly, Pete ignores this peculiar source of unguarded affection, which reminds me that in high school he went out with the beautiful, shy blonde girl everyone stared at and sighed. I had forgotten he must have had awkward girls in pigeon-toed droves staring at him like this.

Yesterday was the longest day of my life, I think. I just have to get through today and then I’m off until 3 January; crucial, as I am running on fumes. Wednesday morning, I dragged a case of Joint Juice to my office, plus two packages to be mailed out, lunch and oranges for my co-workers. It was too much for me to carry, really, which I discovered during the quarter-mile trek from my car to the library. The wind was blowing in great gusts. I put up the hood of my coat and threw my messenger bag over my shoulder, which pushed hair in my eyes. I balanced the whole load and set off, pretty much blind. A minute later, I realized I was standing on a 30′ sheet of ice in 2″ heels, carrying more than I should. I wish I had this on video for you. You would enjoy it. I’ve recovered nicely!

Somehow, I got across the street before the case of Joint Juice shifted. Instead of plummeting to the ground it flew up in the air. I juggled it – juggled it – juggled it, then BLAM! It slammed to the sidewalk and one side burst open. I burst out laughing. A wide-eyed, almost hysterically earnest young woman appeared out of nowhere and helped me gather up the little cans. Still laughing, I said, “You have to admit: this is pretty funny.” She exclaimed, with deep feeling, “I have an exam. THANK YOU.” After she disappeared – whoosh! – back into nowhere, I toddled another fifty feet before I heard the shopping bag in my left hand tear. I put the bag down and marched into the library, where a man I know pretended not to be wetting his pants at my misfortune. He took the box of Joint Juice. I went back outside, gathered up disintegrating shopping bag and its contents. Then I went downstairs to tell everyone I was having a bad day with containers and should in no way make coffee. Fortunately, the office was out of bottled water.

Pete looks at Topaz and in his best Jan Brady voice says, “Drusy, Drusy, Drusy!” Pete claims Topaz has a Drusy doll stuck full of pins. As you can see, our long-legged princess doesn’t seem to care – not when there’s festive tissue paper to steal and destroy! Gift-giving holidays are a boon to the pussycats, who try to help with these chores. Tuesday night, Drusy stole and de-ribboned presents as fast as I wrapped them. I couldn’t get mad about it, though. She looked so happy, vanquishing the raffia. I almost didn’t have the heart to steal them back.

I have agreed to catsit for the people upstairs again. They bribed me with homemade pralines so good I wanted to slap them for the extra pounds on my butt. So next week: double your pleasure, double the cats.

Your Haunted Social Scene

From Wintle, our field reporter in the Land of Do-Goodery:

Yesterday was the last day that Amazon could guarantee delivery by Christmas. Therefore today is the first day the procrastinators shop!

Don’t want to give clutter to someone who has an uncluttered life? Don’t know how to gift to someone who so impresses you that you somehow suspect they wouldn’t appreciate a singing fish for their den? Want to kiss your bosses ass, but don’t know the slightest thing about what they like? Looking to get with the cute new receptionist with the Suicide Girls tattoo?

Christmas (and their ilk) conjures up dread in the souls of many. There is a cultural imperative to stoke the coals of capitalism by giving things to family, lovers and other people who wield power over our dreams and aspirations. Tribute must be given. A “thoughtful gift” is required. You tried the Barnes & Noble gift cards last year and it didn’t go over all that well, really, did it? Something new. Something different. Something that will get you laid.

The web site Changing the Present allows you to pick from a myriad charities (some really fun and unusual ones), nicely organized by category. You donate to the charity through the site. They send 100% the money to the charity (you pay the credit-card fee), plus they can send you (or the recipient) a nice physical card announcing the gift (Since yesterday was the XMas deadline for that, you might want to go with the eCard option). You get a statement for tax purposes. They even have an application for facebook addicts. Pretty cool, huh?

If you want more details you can read them here.

He’s always miles ahead. Thanks, Wintle.

A Spot On the Sidewalk In the City

I.

Pete has a cold but we still have scads to do, so yesterday, whenever possible, he held still and stayed warm in front of the TV. I made yogurt for the week, then made crepes for the Italian Christmas Eve manicotti. When I emerged from the kitchen, Pete was watching The Sand Pebbles. At intervals I didn’t understand, film guys sitting on film guy chairs would talk about the historical context of the movie, which was the Yangtze River in 1926. Let’s just say it was a bad year to be an American imperialist, but an even worse year to defend American imperialism on a Navy gunboat, especially if you weren’t an American. This movie is full of torch-wielding angry mobs.

Gritty. A minute or two after the end of this clip, the student-soldiers marched into the square and stood at attention for a while, looking for all the world like boys playing dress up. Our ingenue skipped lightly down the stairs and I said, as Candace Bergen, “Who wants cookies?” Then I went back into the kitchen to make breakfast. When I returned to the living room, where Pete was stationed on the couch, with breakfast on giant plates, one of those angry mobs was chasing Mako down a pier. I got a sick feeling and ducked into the kitchen for my coffee. A minute later, that mob had caught Mako and was in the process of torturing him as his shipmates looked on helplessly from a safe distance when this happened:

Tata: What the fuck is going on here?
Mako: [Screaming]
Chinese Character: Poor Po-Han! Someone should shoot him.
Mako: [Screaming]

No white man would suggest such a thing; thank Christ the Chinese guy is there to think outside the procedural box. Steve McQueen grabs a gun and runs somewhere for a clear shot. Richard Crenna chases him as if to stop him. Steve McQueen takes aim and hesitates. He loves Mako!

Tata: SHOOT HIM, YOU DOUCHEBAG.

Steve McQueen shoots. Mako recoils, obviously dead. I spend the rest of the day trying not to throw up.

Tata: Have you seen this movie before?
Pete: My parents took us to the drive-in and we sat in the back seat.
Tata: How old were you?
Pete: Six or seven.
Tata: Jesus Christ. That same scenario came up in The Cowboys and made me sick for weeks. I’m almost afraid to ask what they were doing to Mako.
Pete: It was the death by a thousand cuts. Can you imagine bleeding to death by a thousand cuts?
Tata: I would never have guessed that from what we saw, and I saw too much. That’s going to bother me for a while.
Pete: They cut a lot out. That scene’s been bothering me since I was a little kid.

II.

The unnamed university employs a man who does one thing, and one thing only: he removes gum from sidewalks. This is his whole job. Each day, he goes to buildings on campus, of which there are a great many, and scrapes gum off the sidewalk. Though I’ve worked at the unnamed university nearly all of my lengthy adult life, I had not encountered this man until a couple of months ago, when I was startled to realize the sidewalk leading from the street to the library was generously dappled with gum. Since then, I have stared at this walkway many times. There’s gum everywhere I had not noticed. It would not occur to me to stand next to a garbage can and drop gum on the ground. It’s an idea I would not have, and though the thought disgusts me, apparently a lot of people can have the same disgusting idea, at least in passing.

III.

There is no excuse for torture, and no excuse for defending it.

Period.

And Countless Screaming Argonauts

Let’s play a game. It’s called What Happens Next? Here is our game’s logo. I stole it fair and square from an image bank because I like the implication that thinking can keep you very busy!

Okay, you be you and I’ll be sitting on this glamorous bordello-red couch with patterned swirls while the pussycats make crunchy sounds with vivid green tissue paper but if you don’t play with them they might leave you alone long enough to play this game but only if you don’t have mackerel in your pockets, which you don’t. Our first question: got any gum? No? Okay, moving on, then.

1. Lucky you! Your new neighbors are a married couple named Ricky and Fred. They have two daughters named Lucy and Ethel. In this scenario, your marriage is suddenly:

a. far more exciting, as you and Ricky exchange shibari tips;
b. DOOMED! DOOMED! DOOMED! by teh gay death bomb;
c. irrelevant, but your wife sure is nice. Look! She took over rice crispy treats!

What happens next?

2. You share an office with a gentleman observing Ramadan. After a few weeks, he looks a little worn out. Do you:

a. construct a scale model of the solar system to determine sundown in your zip code;
b. offer him a pork chop and apple sauce, isn’t that swell?
c. make lively conversation to pass time. Have you seen the spring schedule at MOMA?

What happens next?

3. The best restaurant in your neighborhood is Oaxacan, and the food is so good you dream about the tamales. You only speak English but the staff, being from Oaxaca, does not. For lunch, you:

a. learn enough Spanish to get delicious tamales;
b. get frustrated and stomp off to McDonald’s;
c. Dos burros carne asada, dos tamales con puerco y dos horchatas. To go, por favor!*

What happens next?

Let’s look at our scores, shall we? If you chose a. in any situation, you’re on the right track. If you chose both a. and c., congratulations! Not only will you have a peaceful neighborhood, see good art and eat great food but you are cosmopolitan and get along well with others. Enjoy the tamales! You’ve earned them! I’m afraid that if you chose b., you’ve got a little work to do on polishing your karma. But when you do: tamales! Huh? Huh? Yeah.

*I am not claiming to speak Spanish. That would be douchy of me. You could take back my tamales for such a claim.

Friday Cat Blogging: Dancing Days Edition

It’s as if I caught them in a motel room.

Topaz is so ashamed! After I took this picture, Drusy sprawled across Topaz in a most possessive manner and Topaz closed her eyes. I surmise that after I left for work catnapping transpired, though I suspect there may also have occurred noshing, scampering and playing with toys. This is some life. I’m keeping them in the manner to which I’d like to become accustomed, and if it weren’t for the fishy canned food I wouldn’t nibble on a bet I’d feel truly outsmarted.

Topaz found my arrangement of Dad’s cookbooks to her liking and declared this spot the one where she lounges and stares at me. Sometimes, she sits and stares at me. This is less unnerving than when she sits and stares at something I can’t see, but more unnerving than when, as now, she appears to be stalking me. As you may guess, I’m pretty big prey. I could be delicious, but we don’t know for sure. Either way, I’m wily and uncertain I want to be caught.

In a previous life, I was a Biblical Revisionary artist. Thus, I can possess that image of Nastassia Kinski without apology. You, however, are on your own.

The other day, I turned my house upside down but couldn’t find Drusy. It’s a simple matter: sometimes I count cats to make certain my furry captives haven’t dug their way out. Darla counts ears and divides by two, but I’m just not brilliant at math so I count up one Topaz and one –

– one –

Hey, where’s one Drusy?

Then I panic a little. The first time it happened, I panicked a lot for about 45 minutes before calling Siobhan, who assured me the pussycats might like me but they love the free food. Because I hadn’t seen a cat curled up inside the catcurledup furniture thing I didn’t look there, though that’s where Drusy was the whole time. When I found her she looked at me the way dogs look at ceiling fans. Thus, whenever she’s invisible you’d think I’d make a beeline for the furniture whatsis. I do not. So the other day when I found her curled up and photogenic I was surprised and pleased: one Drusy. Ahh.

On Arrival, Fighting For Survival

My brother Todd cannot resist forwarding emails about interesting gadgets, geegaws and contraptions. It’s practically genetic. Dad was all about the kitchen whatsises. I have a pile of ’em and it’s going to take years to figure out if I can use them as cooking implements or installation art.

Todd forwarded the image of this ladder and I’m hooked on it. It might help you to know I’m so small I’m almost spherical, and I can barely see what’s on the first shelf in my cabinets. My kitchen contains an old 4′ wooden ladder the cats use to sharpen their claws and I use to find the vital wheat gluten; a dollar store stepstool that – hilariously – collapses randomly and a nesting chair Topaz sits on when I’m cooking so she can stare at me with those huge liquid eyes. In my kitchen, this thing would be both useful thingy and decorative objet. Todd’s email did not suggest a manufacturer or distributor of this item, so I can’t guess its price. Ah well. I could investigate further – perhaps in the spring, when I can afford to indulge my curiosity about whatever’s on the top shelf in my cabinets. Until then, I hope it’s incubating nicely.

Of Juniper And Lamplight

This week, Pete and I are packaging jams and jellies we made for shipping. I feel nervous for our glassy little darlings as they travel to Arizona, California and Cape Cod, but go they must, to be followed out of the nest by others in a day or two, to California, Utah and New Mexico. We have family in these places. Some recipients will see the significance of what we’ve done. Some will make toast and wield a spoon with abandon. We cannot say which is which, but one never can, which is half the fun. Merry Joyous SolstiKwanzHanukkaMas to everyone; to all, a Happy New Year.

This morning, I was thinking of wayward and lovely Isadora Duncan. You will note that baby had the temerity to not be born when I wanted him to, which of course sets the tone for a lifetime of scandalous public behavior. Personally, I suspect he’ll arrive on the 18th, if only because that would inconvenience me terribly. Rejoice! The banks are packed and the stores mobbed; the madding crowd will render me predictably homicidal. But, you know, it is better to give than to receive and I won’t be changing any diapers, so I’ll suck it up and sally forth. This kid might pick my nursing home. I should invest, don’t you agree?