A Million Miles, A Million Miles

My office is reorganizing, which turns out to be a reason to do the Happy Dance. I used to nest in the middle of the room, where I was forced to eavesdrop on my co-worker who can’t trust her grown sons to call their own banks, not to mention feel the whoosh! each time someone ran past my desk to bang on the copier. Obviously, using my powers for Good has its limits. I was so sick of the running I was planning to put down tire spikes, and if you think I wouldn’t, think again. Fortunately for everyone, I ended up in a cubicle in a remote corner of the room, where no one notices my hair standing on end like a plasma ball. Two conversations, this week:

Mary: What’s with the pottymouth on Poor Impulse Control?
Tata: I am a foul-mouthed wench, duh!
Mary: Sure, but every paragraph? What’s up?
Tata: I’m testy with piquant hostiility.
Mary: Will you help me and my divine daughter learn how to can fruit?
Tata: Okay, if you don’t mind an attitude that might shatter glass.

And Wednesday morning, 8 a.m. in the ladies room:

Beth: I’ve been meaning to ask your help with something.
Tata: Who, me? I do three stupid things before breakfast every day.
Beth: I have this problem and I don’t know what to do about it. Maybe you could –
Tata: Maybe I could eat cheese and wear at least some of it. What’s bothering you?
Beth: It’s just so weird and I don’t really know –
Tata: Spill it!
Beth: I glued my foot to my flip flop and I can’t get my foot unstuck and –

Beth curls her toes. They are stuck to nothing.

Beth: Oh! Never mind!
Tata: I need coffee…

No, really. I’m doing the Happy Dance.

To Fall Down At Your Door

Siobhan’s sister had a baby today, and there’s a distinct possibility this new human may get a familiar name: Fifi! Siobhan and I could have matching Fifis. You know what that means?

This may be the first child in history to sashay into pre-school with a feather boa.

Let the shopping begin.

I Can Smell the Chemicals

Remember this motherfucker?

“I think it’s hard to argue that families that can contribute to their shelter cost shouldn’t,” Robert V. Hess, the city’s commissioner of homeless services, said in a telephone interview Friday. “I don’t see this playing out in an adverse way. Our objective is not for families to remain in shelter. Our objective is to move families back into their own homes and into the community.”

But Ta, you say, the world is full of motherfuckers. Remind me: who was this guy and what mothers was he fucking?

Mr. Hess acknowledged that if a family does not pay the required rent, it could be told to leave the shelter, but he noted that residents can contest the rent required through a state hearing.

Oh. Right. Those mothers. Thank you, New York Times. Anyway, Mr. Hess isn’t through making the homeless more homelesser:

The new policy gives the city greater latitude to push families out of the shelter system, which had swelled to a near-high of 9,720 families as of Sunday. Families could always be evicted for illegal behavior like bringing in drugs or weapons, but they can now be ousted for any of 28 violations, including failing to sign in and out or not keeping an active case file with city welfare agencies.

The new policy is also meant to encourage families to more readily accept permanent housing, even if it is not to their liking.

“We would only expect to use this process in the most egregious of situations,” said Robert V. Hess, the commissioner for homeless services, in an interview on Monday. “We do have a small number of families where temporary emergency shelter is really being used as permanent housing.”

Evictions are for a 30-day period.

I’ve read those four paragraphs about ten times, and if those words make sense in that order I need a new native language. And watch this exhilarating turn of phrase:

Mr. Hess said it was not clear where families removed from shelter might turn. “The most likely outcome is that the family would demonstrate that they do have a place to go,” he said.

Or…they might be homeless and have nowhere but the sidewalk, which by this motherfucker’s definition is a place to go. But it’s only for 30 days, right?

An instructional guide provided to shelter operators appears to leave open the possibility that families will be subject to the elements. It instructs shelter operators that no families should be ejected during a “Code Blue Winter Weather Alert,” or when the temperature drops to 32 degrees.

Compassion like that brings a tear to the eye it does.

Robert Hess, Commissioner of Homeless Services:

Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City:

Government agencies sever parental rights over shit like failing to provide shelter. So why is the city doing it?

You’re Gonna Rise Up Singin’

Perhaps you’ve noticed I cope with insecurity through artmaking and prodigious swearing. Times are terribly uncertain. I’m armed with Dad’s Ball Jars, one-sixth of Dad’s remaining cookbook collection and a bad fucking attitude. About two weeks ago, I started pulling down cookbooks and reading them with what I was seeing in the farmers markets in mind. You will be surprised to hear I couldn’t find a single goddamn recipe for canning sugarplums, but that turned out fine since I couldn’t find sugarplums either. On Sunday, Pete and I jarred blueberries with a buttload of sugar and a spoonful of rum. As jarring processes go, this one was truly simple. Cleaning up afterward required dedication and produced bleach-pruned fingertips. Later, we played Edward Scissorhands with eggplant and jarred some zingy caponata. I love you and all, but touch my caponata and I will stab you repeatedly with a grapefruit spoon. Do not give me the boo-boo eyes. I am a hard woman!

Dad died two years ago, and this dehydrator sat in Pete’s basement nearly the whole time. We have no idea if this thing will dry fruit or achieve low-earth orbit, so tonight we peeled, cored and sliced apples – for SCIENCE! Currently, the mothership emits a hot, moist apple vapor that is immediately swept outside by an overworked window fan. I haven’t found much in the cookbooks about dehydrated foods, but as a preservation method dehydration is kind of interesting. I’m sure I’ll have storage questions. The Ball Co. book says storage is no problem: sterilize jars, let ’em dry and store your dried whatsises in a cool, dark place, and I say whatsises because the book intimates an industrious yet insecure person like myself can dry just about anything. Whatever you do, do not picture clam jerky. Just imagine the pretty, pretty fucking jars.

A Different Shadow On the Wall

Remember when I used to write a blog? It seems like only last week I wrote my often humorous musings on aging, politics, public transportation, food, gardening and green living, not to mention the surly extended family and the supercute grandson, at stultifying length and and interminable detail. Ah, those were the days. I was so young then!

Yesterday was the eighteenth birthday of my baby sister Dara. I called and sang “Happy Birthday, dear doofus” to her voicemail and was surprised when I wasn’t her one call from county lockup somewhere, but today, the night is still young and she might figure our sister Daria might be an easier mark. A bazillion years ago:

Daria: Daddy, if Domenica and I had gotten arrested swimming in the reservoir would you have bailed us out?
Dad: Hell no! I drink that water.

Okay, it wasn’t all that long ago, and our arrest records remain curiously clean, but everyone knows Dara’s an evil genius who forgets to plot escape routes from her crime scenes, and colleges care about that shit. So if there’s a lesson to be learned by the youth of America, who have spent every second of their brief lives under surveillance, it’s this: your fingerprints and DNA are probably on file in some government system. Your best bet for a life of crime is in computer science unless you can clone a good twin you can play for a patsy. Bon appetit!

Burn Your Eyes On You Moving

So I’m watching the Today Show this morning and something – I can’t quite put my finger on it – is making me very uncomfortable. What –

Last night, the president of the United States said nothing surprising when he observed that members of the Cambridge police “acted stupidly” in arresting a man in his own home after he had identified himself as the owner. Even the whitest and rightest of morans could figure out that’s a stupid, outrageous, disgraceful way for cops to behave. Talk about government overreach!

No, the real shocker was the audible gasp from the mostly white press corps as Obama said it. They don’t seem to understand, truly understand, that the United States elected a black man to be its president.

That’s close, but no cigar. When Matt Lauer asks rhetorically if it’s appropriate for the President of the United States to comment on his friend’s racially motivated false arrest, he’s not asking an etiquette question. Nope, he’s asking if it’s appropriate for a Black man to mention Black men have problems specific to being Black men, because the dominant paradigm says they don’t. I stopped huffing my breakfast polenta when I heard the word appropriate which was bad enough, but I got up, shut off the TV and brushed my teeth when I saw Michael Smerconish was going to discuss race with Michael Eric Dyson, and I knew Dyson was going to be told by two white guys that Mr. Obama had no right to mention racism.

Here’s the clip. Maybe you have more nerve than I do.

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

You Know That Magic Often Does

Yesterday, I turned a corner in the drugstore as two extremely tall gentlemen turned another and ambled toward me. I was startled by just how tall they were and burst out laughing. The first man laughed and said, “Hi!” I followed the second man down an aisle toward the door and watched him duck his head to avoid a sign attached to the ceiling. The two men left and I stopped at the cash register, overjoyed. The cashier smiled from ear to ear.

Me: That was so exciting! I’m often the smallest person in every room, so that has to be a completely different life.
Kid: I’m adopted from Hungary, but when my parents came to get me they were the tallest people anyone there had ever seen.
Me: I was tall in Ecuador! Also, not to be disrespectful but seeing them brought back a really odd memory.
Kid: Like what?
Me: I went to high school with someone who was later a professional basketball player and one time I ran straight into his bellybutton.
Kid: Omigod, what happened?
Me: Well, after that, he always said hello in the hallways to the top of my head.

Find It Hard To Write the Next Line

How often do you read a headline and groan? Buckle up.

Henry Louis Gates Jr. Arrested, Police Accused Of Racial Profiling

So I used to work in this punk rock bar where pretty much anything could happen, but what happened every weekend was the employees got tanked after closing, told very funny stories and did all kinds of things we won’t talk about until indictments are unsealed. One night, the bar’s owner Doobie told us one time some guy picked a fight with Doobie’s wife Connie. Hauled off and hit her. Knocked her off her barstool. Doobie groaned, “Oh man, you shouldn’ta done that.” Connie stood up, punched that guy straight in the face and knocked him out.

I read this article and groaned, “Oh man, you shouldn’ta done that.” This is very bad:

[Gates’ attorney, fellow Harvard scholar Charles] Ogletree said Gates gave the officer his driver’s license and Harvard identification after being asked to prove he was a Harvard professor and lived at the home, but became upset when the officer continued to question him.

“He was shocked to find himself being questioned and shocked that the conversation continued after he showed his identification,” Ogletree said.

Ogletree declined to say whether he believed the incident was racially motivated, saying “I think the incident speaks for itself.”

Some of Gates’ African-American colleagues say the arrest is part of a pattern of racial profiling in Cambridge.

Allen Counter, who has taught neuroscience at Harvard for 25 years, said he was stopped on campus by two Harvard police officers in 2004 after being mistaken for a robbery suspect. They threatened to arrest him when he could not produce identification.

“We do not believe that this arrest would have happened if professor Gates was white,” Counter said. “It really has been very unsettling for African-Americans throughout Harvard and throughout Cambridge that this happened.”

The Rev. Al Sharpton is vowing to attend Gates’ arraignment.

“This arrest is indicative of at best police abuse of power or at worst the highest example of racial profiling I have seen,” Sharpton said. “I have heard of driving while black and even shopping while black but now even going to your own home while black is a new low in police community affairs.”

Ogletree said Gates had returned from a trip to China on Thursday with a driver, when he found his front door jammed. He went through the back door into the home – which he leases from Harvard – shut off an alarm and worked with the driver to get the door open. The driver left, and Gates was on the phone with the property’s management company when police first arrived.

Ogletree also disputed the claim that Gates, who was wearing slacks and a polo shirt and carrying a cane, was yelling at the officer.

“He has an infection that has impacted his breathing since he came back from China, so he’s been in a very delicate physical state,” Ogletree said.

But wait, there’s one more gut-punch:

The Middlesex district attorney’s office said it could not do so until after Gates’ arraignment.

Arraignment. Arrested for disorderly conduct in his own home.

Karmically speaking, we are about to see some shit go boom.

Back To Where We Started From

Okay: I give – and these words may never have been uttered in this order in all of history: what in glamorous tarnation happened to my fucking swiss chard?

One afternoon a couple weeks ago, I went outside to gloat about my sprouting planters and verdant garden beds, gloating, you understand, requires a significant investment of time, not to mention warm compost. Which is worth it. When I came around the corner of the picnic table, I found about half the chard leaves blistered and browning. This is hard to describe without sounding like a Discovery Channel special. But here goes.

When I was eleven, my parents had only just turned thirty and separated, so I spent a great deal of time unsupervised and at least once, burned down the kitchen. We ate a lot of take-out Chinese for a while, and Mom got a new stove out of the deal, but also, I watched with scientific detachment as a huge blister rose on the back of my left hand where a giant glob of molten wax landed, ending my career as a candlemaker. The blister was huge, the skin taut; I couldn’t take my eyes off it. I was sorry when it healed, as slathering it with emollients had become my hobby.

So I was both horrified and fascinated to observe that chard leaves have top and bottom surfaces that can separate and resemble a blister. The leaves were taut, like a Ziploc bag sealed with air inside. I had never seen this before, so I did what any idiot would do: I got gardening shears and trimmed off the blistered and browning parts before they ate up the rest of the leaves. Nom nom nom. Of course, a gardener who knew what she was doing wouldn’t have pictured her swiss chard stepping all over Tokyo and munching on a subway train, but I can’t help but wonder if this could have been avoided somehow. What happened? Did the roots hit a chunk of something they didn’t find tasty, maybe?

Pete and I are trying to jar or freeze something fresh every weekend. Last summer, we worked hard at it but we were also doing so much work on moving and the house that we didn’t have much energy left to devote to preserving. Even so, we put away quart jars of Pete’s tomato sauce that carried us through the raw, frigid days of February, when – let’s be honest – if even dinner’s no good you just want to kill yourself. Last night, Pete made both basil pesto and arugula pestos, which we put into the freezer. We have arugula growing on every surface, and the flavor has been peppery and sweet and totally fantastic, so its addition to regular pesto adds spice and bite and a nice change. On Friday, I picked up peaches at the farmers market, so this afternoon we’re going to make a peach barbecue sauce we both love so much we’d eat it off a garbage can lid.

As a gardener, I leave much to be desired. Our next door neighbor’s garden is lush and gorgeously green. The houseplants Topaz and Sweetpea tortured all winter came outside and promptly withered. I don’t understand it. Last summer, in the exact same locations, the houseplants did everything but sing. This year: we pull them out at the anemic roots. And for some reason, I may be the only person in history who can’t grow strawberries. They’re weeds. Last summer, I planted strawberries that grew for a matter of minutes before they took one look at me and went to horticulture heaven. In May, I planted strawberry plants that gave me the raspberry, so last month, I planted more. These, finally, grew like gangbusters. Two days ago, they started to droop. I have every confidence these will be pinin’ for the fiords by the end of the week. But at least I’m consistent.