Friday Dolphin Blogging: Do Birds Suddenly Appear Edition

Horoscopically speak, I’m not allowed to lie about anything, even the smallest thing, so I’m breaking down and telling you a few stupid truths. To advance the plot, you understand.

Perhaps you’ve noticed I’ve been a bit circumspect lately, more so than one might expect over filmy deposits left by my shampoo and dull, lifeless hair. Thing is: two members of my extended family are undergoing cancer treatment, which worked out less fabulously last time than we might have liked. Plus, there’s not a lot I can do besides call up one household and leave amusing messages, which I try to do now two or three times a week, and Heaven help me when someone answers the phone.

Sick Relative: Hello?
Tata: Did you know lips do not exfoliate and you must help them?
Sick Relative: Domenica, it’s always nice to hear you speak in tongues.

In that house, a whole lot of things snapped into fast-forward after the diagnosis, like that one of my cousins planned a wedding in eight weeks to land taffeta-side down minutes before Thanksgiving. Because. Because why? Because. We are going to gussy up, overeat, throw rice and take pictures, got that? You should immediately buy a case of Orville Redenbacher. This has positively awesome comic potential.

On the other side of the family, Pete’s sister Maggie was diagnosed out in Arizona with a cancer similar to the one that killed her mother. Maggie has been friends with my sister Daria since before either of them could say the words “I’m telling!” and my mother is a cancer survivor, so this is no laughing matter. Well, it wasn’t until Maggie started chemo and Pete and I mailed her whole family a variety of silly hats from the toy store for when, as her toddler said, “We all lose our hair.”

It was going pretty well until Maggie’s last chemo appointment this week. She was sitting in the waiting room, talking to other patients. One said he’d been getting chemo for two years, and she heard a few other things that didn’t make sense. Maggie’s a doctor of pharmacy. She calculated a few calculations and realized she’d been given the wrong dosages, so had other patients and who knows how many people are dead now. But instead of collapsing into a heap like a mere mortal, Maggie called one of her other best friends, a Manhattan malpractice attorney.

Perhaps, wherever you are, you hear a distant whooooooooshing sound coming from Arizona, as doctors and facilities rush to cover their asses. I wish them well. There’s no hope for them.

Speaking of hope – you knew there were animals here someplace – NOAA continues to hope the dolphins in the Navesink River will winter glamorously at the Jersey Shore.

NOAA’s Fisheries Service today announced a monitoring plan for 12 bottlenose dolphins in the Shrewsbury and Navesink rivers. The agency also announced that there will be no effort to force the dolphins out of the area at this time.

Monitoring by NOAA dolphin researchers over the past week revealed no indications of stress, illness, or feeding problems. They identified 12 individuals moving easily from the Navesink to the Shrewsbury in two groups.

“These animals are in typical habitat, food is present, and we have no reason to believe they are stressed,” said Teri Rowles, director of NOAA’s National Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Program. “We’re not going to interfere in what appears to be a completely natural phenomenon, especially when doing so carries a high risk of harming healthy animals.”

NOAA consulted with a number of experts on the condition and behavior of these animals in this habitat and determined the conditions of the estuary are well within those tolerated by bottlenose dolphins.

There is also general agreement that efforts to move the animals from the area by luring, chasing, or catching them for relocation would be difficult, potentially dangerous for the animals and people, and not likely to succeed.

That sounds really rational, doesn’t it? I read the article a few times and the most striking aspect of the language is the attempt throughout to shut down any avenue of discussion. If we were children talking about toys, that might make sense, but we’re not. Dolphins have frozen in the Navesink before, and if you’re in New Jersey, I don’t have to tell you it’s been freaking cold for the past few weeks. If you’re not in New Jersey, it’s been freaking cold for the past few weeks. It’s just a matter of time now until the rivers clog with ice.

There’s a website with beee-yootiful photographs of the dolphins, and helpful contact information.

If are not satisfied with the NOAA decision, share your thoughts via a respectful email or phone call. They seem very willing to discuss the matter with anyone who asks.

David.Gouveia: or (978) 281-9505
Teri Frady: or (508) 495-2239


Contact Governor Corzine with a respectful email and share your thoughts:

1. Just click here.

2. Choose “Natural Resources” from the drop down menu & click “continue”

3. On the next page choose “Fish, Game & Wildlife” from the drop down menu and fill out the form.

You can also contact Governor Corzine by writing to:

The Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 001
Trenton, New Jersey 08625-0001
PH: (609) 777-2500

It can’t hurt to talk about it. Please give them a call.

Some speculate that construction on that big bridge at Highlands keeps the pod from migrating out to sea. Pete and I saw that site a few weeks back, and even on a Sunday it was loud and confusing. I hated seeing that, since twenty-five years ago, the foot of that bridge, then crumbling and untraveled, was where I went for peace and quiet. But that wasn’t so important, it was just another strange dead end for me on the day Pete and I scattered the one-sixth of Dad’s ashes in my possession into the thundering waves at Point Pleasant. Since Dad and I said everything to each other when he was still alive and he smirks in my dreams now and then wearing his usual European underwear, there wasn’t much to say as the powder that used to be Dad fell into the churning spray and foam and flew on the wind. I had chosen Point Pleasant because his grandfather had had a giant house on the ocean, where many of Dad’s favorite childhood memories were set, where I know currents cross the Atlantic and warm the northern coasts. So there was only one thing to say that was new at all.

Tata: ‘Bye, Dad. Be free. Hey! Now you can summer in Europe!

But You Can’t Stop Thinking About Her

Okay. Okay. Okay: we’re sitting in the car on the way home and I burst out laughing.

Tata: Omigod, I forgot to tell you something.
Pete: You like my rugged good looks?
Tata: Pffft! Like I shut up about that. Remember I took a shower for about a year before we went out?
Pete: I remember.
Tata: And remember that I’ve been glum about my hair for weeks?
Pete: How could I forget?
Tata: And I’ve been putting my hair up in a ponytail to avoid dealing with it?
Pete: I’m still snickering. I mean, sure.
Tata: And since I got sick I’ve been complaining I could smell fever on my scalp?
Pete: Hoo boy, yes.
Tata: And you know how we bulk shop at Costco and use giant bottles of smelly goo?
Pete: Indeed I do!
Tata: Well, I was in the shower before and I washed my hair, and I was really frustrated because I couldn’t get the shampoo to lather, which I thought was because my scalp had suddenly become oily or something. So I washed my hair a second time and still no lather and I was just like, “What?” So finally I turned the bottle around and if you can believe it, I have been washing my hair for – like – six weeks with conditioner.

And then, when I expected him to drive off the road in stupefaction at my antics, Pete said the most extraordinary thing.

Pete: I know.


Tata: What?
Pete: I was looking through the bottles on the shelves in the bathtub. There’s this stuff, that stuff, some other stuff and I said, “What’s she washing with?”
Tata: And you didn’t say anything?
Pete: Nooooooo. You’re mysterious.
Tata: I’m not mysterious, I’m – like – stupid.

Don’t panic! I’ve washed my long, luxurious blond hair, glazed it, conditioned it and come clean about this episode with every last one of my female co-workers, and at the end of the story, when they’re gasping at my ability to move about in society without a keeper, I can see they are mentally reviewing the products in their bathrooms.

Speaking of review, let’s review this new picture of Panky with pumpkins.

Man, he’s cute.

So You Can See What’s Going On

Let’s time travel a little bit. The easiest way is with wacky verb tenses. Watch!

On the Daily Show Monday night, Campbell Brown, bless her heart, said she wants to break free of the usual political bullshit, which is heartwarming. My icy heart almost warmed and everything! Then Ms. Brown repeats the modern political version of an old wives’ tale: for your news sources, you can choose Fox on the Right and MSNBC on the rabid left; Bill O’Reilly or Trotskiite Keith Olbermann. The thing is: that actually is bullshit. She might believe it, too, which makes it worse. Let’s talk about the political compass.

That’s me, there, waving to you from the southwest of freaking GANDHI. I am unapologetic in my belief in acting for the common good and leaving people alone to make the best or worst decisions about their own lives and medical care. I am unconcerned about where people were born, what language they speak, what religion they practice or with whom they knock boots; skin color and economics need not prevent us from attending the same tea party. I have a responsibility to care for people less fortunate than myself and to do good works in this lifetime without the kibbitzing of some bearded sky god. Adequate food, housing and medical care for all people are not too much to ask. Political prisoners of the war on drugs should go free. I try to think peaceful thoughts when I want to bash someone with a tire iron. My government does not own but retains stewardship of its public lands, and I want it to take that responsibility seriously while I figure out how to afford shiny-shiny solar panels. Damn it, I want all children to have shoes and safe places to sleep. And books. And uniformly good educations. That’s the lower lefthand spot from which I speak. You can find where your beliefs sit on the Political Compass Test.

You’ll notice the test doesn’t simply divide opinions into Left and Right. It also tests for libertarian or authoritarian impulses. I am shamelessly anti-authoritarian about individuals, which is the same reason I wish for rigorous corporate regulation the world over. It’s pretty simple: one person with a bad idea can do society some minor damage, but an multinational conglomerate with a bad idea can destroy the planet.

So, in practice, I am a happy lowercase-L leftist. Socialism sounds fine to me, but I’m not afraid of a few words, either. I’ve got a dictionary! Have at it! But here’s the thing: the closest things we’ve seen to capital-L Leftists in American public life in the last three decades have been Dennis Kucinich and Reverend Al Sharpton, but neither one of them is a Leftist. They aren’t. They are slightly to the left of center, which you might have noticed if American political rhetoric hadn’t shifted so far to the Right that housing advocates are reviled as rabid Communists. Olbermann is not of the Left or the left. Olbermann is a centrist.

I could explain to you how silly that is but it would require hand puppets and Spam.

But enough about me, what do you think of reporters who don’t know the difference between talking points and facts? What do you think of people who claim to offer balance when they specifically mean they do not? What do you think of public discourse when one candidate in an American presidential election is described by his opponent through racial code words and the press takes up the vocabulary without skipping a beat?

Is winning so important we must reduce half of America to ashes?

As for Campbell Brown, I keep wondering if she simply doesn’t understand what she’s saying or worse: maybe she does?

From the Highest Tower

This morning, I walked to work. It was tough going, what with the fuzzy lungs and me allergic to cashmere. While I was dramatically infirm, I noticed a new recruitment ad for the military that made me delicately irate. In it, an older man of color asks an olive-skinned woman if her son is still talking about joining the military. She says the young man talks about nothing but. The older man asks if she is still opposed to her son joining. She says her son can be very persuasive, and her mind is opening to the idea. The older man says he’s impressed with both of them.

Congratulations to the US military, which has finally managed to convey what some of us have known all along: our sons are born to be cannonfodder in self-perpetuating imperialist wars. It is only our stubborn belief that children matter individually preventing the military from snapping them up like dropped pennies and turning them into gravestones or worse. And if mothers and fathers would stop being so damned picky about that whole PSTD-head injury-full-thickness burns-lost limbs-depression and suicide thing, it would just be so much easier to conduct these endless, pointless wars that are such a boon to the military-industrial complex. So this morning, when I walked around a ROTC flag raising ceremony because the sidewalk was blocked by shivering crew-cut teenagers, I was in a bit of a snit. But why talk about architecture when we can dance about war?

Never Have That Recipe Again

Last night, Pete’s tenant had a houseful of children who are growing up bathed in the cool light of satellite television, which went out during a storm. I borrowed the little girl, leaving my car keys as collateral, and pulled a couple of Dad’s cookbooks down from the shelves. We studied recipes. We studied lists of ingredients. We gazed at the clock. A whole lot of breakfast recipes require rising time, and little girls, bored out of their sweaty little skulls, go to bed early. I slammed shut The Breakfast Book.

Tata: Do you trust me?
Samantha: Yes!
Tata: We’re going to bake french toast tomorrow morning.
Sammy: We what?

Mam’selle professes a desire to professionally prepare desserts. To this end, I have seen her – from a safe distance – mash up marshmallow, rice crispie thingies and Nutella, spoon it onto a plate, stab the chunks with toothpicks and toss the whole mess into the freezer. To my abiding regret, I ate one of these morsels. I may be diabetic now or developing a Hallmark Card fixation, I don’t know. I had a moment where I thought I might – Jesus Christ! – says something nice, but it passed. Whew! Anyway, we sliced challah rolls in half and slathered the insides with homemade apple butter. Then we mixed up spicy custard batter with lots of cinnamon, cloves and fresh ground nutmeg. On a lark, we added sugar-free raspberry syrup, turning the custard Barbie pink. Sammy was delighted as we poured it over the rolls and put them into the fridge to soak overnight.

Late this morning, Pete and I took a long walk through the park, where we saw lots of adorable little duckies doing adorable duckie things. The walk was difficult because we’ve both been sick so long that the slightest exertion leaves us breathless, so my incessant swearing was practically aerobic exercise. But look at these duckies, frolicking and playing, splashing and diving, quacking for all they’re worth: they seemed very, very happy and I slowly cooled to a slightly less homicidal state. You will be happy to hear I didn’t beat any children even a little.

As a general point, it is a goddamn shame that divorced parents, knowledgeable about food, nutrition and healthy practices, permit their children to gobble shitty Booberry and Count Chocula by the troughful, sculpt the Chrysler Building out of otherwise untouched custardy french toast and homemade stewed apples, then offer those surly children fucking Kraft Macaroni & Cheese in giant soupbowls, because real food is a little too goddamn real.

On the other hand, you know, duckies!

Tomorrow Goodbye That Day May Be Soon

She calls me. It’s urgent. She doesn’t say hello.

Mary: Bread pudding?
Tata: Love it.
Mary: Stale bread?
Tata: The stalest. Thrifty. Good.
Mary: It’s not too stale?
Tata: The staler the better. Love custard?
Mary: Love it.
Tata: Add raisins, walnuts, fruit.
Mary: Not sure. Don’t like?
Tata: Use extra custard. All good. One more thing –
Mary: Ready!
Tata: Don’t let anyone talk you into using doughnuts. That shit’ll kill you.
Mary: Over and out!

I have every confidence that Mary, who tonight baked her first loaf of bread with her divine seven-year-old, baked a lovely, custardy, delicious bread pudding.

Next week: hard sauce.

See Her Much Since She Started To Ride

In our vast old age, cable television or satellite or some pulse-pounding form of high-def radio will become increasingly important as we spend more time nursing ourselves back to health, because tonics and balms aside, few things make a geezer jump up and twitch like taking a gander at Darrin’s office in McMann & Tate. Think back! You’ve seen it a thousand times, and if you get colds you’ll need to see it a thousand more: desks are covered with ashtrays, cigarette butts and half-empty bottles of scotch. Obviously, we’re healthier than we know, and scotch prevents absenteeism. Obviously. The bug Pete and I and half the city have been trading, mixing and matching for over a month has settled into my lungs and makes breathing an unpleasant adventure.

If only I hadn’t quit smoking.

A Nice Day To Start Again

This is my grandmother Edith, my father’s mother, my refuge, anchor in life I still miss daily seventeen years after her death. And an, um, friend. Edith called this picture “Two Mules.” She was six when it was taken and always hated it. You can see – or at least I can – that she never really had a child’s face, though it is charming to see her nose before she broke it playing football with her brothers. As the middle of seven children and the oldest girl in an immigrant Sicilian family, she always carried more responsibility than she should have had to bear.

I like the detail of the shoes, and that this picture was taken, if I recall correctly, in New Brunswick, where no one ever sees a mule just in passing anymore, though if one did, one would not expect this mule’s jaunty joie de vivre.

We are a long way from a post-racial society, at least in part because the issue of race makes us stupid. We say stupid things. We act against our best interests because we stupidly can’t see what they are. I can’t claim to be smarter than the next idiot but I can tell you this: anything that creates or prolongs suffering adds to the Stupid, and whatever works for the Common Good speaks for itself. Perhaps that is why I love this picture, below, so much. It’s nothing, it’s just a young man and his grandparents. They could be anyone and I would still feel the same way about it.

Very few of us are simply, genetically, one thing. There are remote places where people have not intermingled much with the world, but you should expect to find few teeth and supernumerary digits. Further, history is full of raping, pillaging, slavery and diaspora, so no matter how you slice it, a picture of your family tree will inevitably come up short a few branches – or maybe you’re missing from someone else’s.

I take the election season’s racial dogwhistling very seriously. It’s not hard to predict the outcome. When the Towers came down and Americans waved flags, I said, “Brown people are now going to die, as they do every time jingoism is the zeitgeist.” And now I say we are about to revisit that part of our comparatively recent history where white people act on their basest, most vile impulses and truly believe they are acting in the interest of White Pride or White Heritage or …whatever. But Americans really ought to know in 2008 that there is not now nor was there ever any such thing.

There is, however, you and your grandchildren. You and your grandparents. You and your cousins. You and your people, who may not be who you think they are. You and your own people are our people, and now is the time to ask yourself who they might be, because we cannot truly, absolutely know. You can’t know.

I Don’t Bother Chasing Mice Around

This picture, found on Cute Overload haunts me. I cannot get over the terrible fear that I may be nothing more than cat staff to tiny, adorable pussycats who will one day climb me to reach the can opener. The current cold snap has done nothing to alleviate these fears, since Pete and I now feed two giant outdoor pussycats we suspect might be mountain lions – but, you know, with really good manners. They haven’t looked at us and licked their chops even once, so we put out a bowl of kibble for breakfast and another for dinner. They reward us by intimidating the yard squirrels.

We’re considering bringing in houseplants we put outside for the summer. Snake plants are pretty sturdy but these have become really large, vivacious and refer to us by name. Sort of. I distinctly heard one burble, “Hepzibah, dahling, bring Mama a drink,” though the plant might’ve been talking to Topaz or Drusy. That’s probably an in-joke between them.