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.

Young Blood Is the Loving Upriser

This is one of our stray cat friends. We call him/her “Woym,” like the kid from the Little Rascals. I can’t really explain that, but I can tell you that feral cats avoid contact with people. Some feral cats come to our All You Can Eat Kibble Bar and though we can see them they flee if Pete or I take a step toward them. Woym, on the other hand, seeks physical contact. Woym wants to chat about his/her busy day of being a cat, wants some scritches and a nosh, thank you very much. This means Woym is not a feral cat. Either he/she ran away or was abandoned. I’m working on finding Woym a home because I can’t standing thinking about what winter might be like for abandoned house pets.

This is something I can change. That is an important point to hold on to when much of the world feels deeply unjust, corrupt and profoundly dangerous. I can change some things. Sometimes it is a matter of finding a creative way to do it. We are looking down the barrel of an economy about to blow, which means we are hearing cries for help more often. We cannot ignore them, even as we accept that we have limited time, money and growing compassion fatigue. Arthur Silbers needs your help.

And I’m about to face (again) a choice between food and heart medication. I’ve eaten through almost all the food I had stored up; in the last week, I’ve been forced to eat the contents of a few cans of food that had been pushed to the backs of some kitchen shelves. They were very old; perhaps the recent intestinal unpleasantness was the result of something that shouldn’t have been eaten. But those particular problems have periodically gone on for a long time now, so possibly tainted food can’t be the entire explanation. Eating healthy foods, which would be a good idea given the heart problems, is pretty much beyond my means for good now. Last week, I spent most of a donation from a regular contributor on cat food. (Many thanks to K.R. and to the few others who make donations on a regular basis, as well as to all those who help keep me going.) First things first. It’s one thing for me to fade away, slowly or perhaps more quickly, but I can’t allow the same to happen to my two feline companions. If I were truly responsible, I would try to find them good new homes right now. That undoubtedly has been true for some time. But I admit that I can’t bear to think of life without them. The dilemma haunts me every day.

What can we do for him? If you’re in Los Angeles, can you help him find good homes for his cats? You can. Can you bring him a bag of groceries? You can. Can you help him find an air conditioner on Freecycle? You can. If you have a bar and a band, you can hold a benefit. If you’re outside Los Angeles, you could drop a little dosh into his Paypal account. Got ten bucks burning a hole in your pocket? Five? Three fifty? Please consider donating.

My friend Mary, deeply involved with the concerns of growing girls, forwards a link to Girl Effect. Their website is a little heavy on persuasion and light on statistics, but it reminds one of Kiva. I can’t vouch for Girl Effect, and hope you’ll do your own research, but it’s great to see momentum building worldwide for the improvement of education and economic opportunity.

Woym has sweet chartreuse eyes and soft fur. I have a feeling my co-worker, bruised by the sudden loss of a feline friend, will take Woym in. Serena told me her daughter had a dream about a tabby cat trying to get in. I said, “Far be it from me to separate you from your companion.” The path through despair is love.

Cool Winds That Blow Down

Photo: Bob Hosh.

Per Mr. Hosh: Perfect specimen of the “Destroying Angel” (Amanita bisporigera) the most toxic mushroom in North America. Found on a mountain trail last Saturday morning in Kings Gap State Park, PA.

First thing this morning, I dropped Pete’s socks and undershirts into the washing machine so he could hang them out on the clothesline. I don’t know why a poison mushroom made me think of that.

If Anything Was Broken I’m Sure

Via Pam’s House Blend, about which I am only a teeeeeensy bit obsessive, comes this suspicious tidbit:

No one is talking on the record, but here’s what happened:

“OLTL” was taping scenes in late-June concerning roommates Cristian, Layla and Fish. (They’ll air in September.) Cristian and Layla suspect that sweet cop Fish is gay, but aren’t sure how to approach him about it. So they buy a book about how to tell if you’re gay and plan to give it to him.

Cristian’s mom, Carlotta, was supposed to find the book and assume Cristian is gay. Her reaction was scripted to be very accepting and even amused, citing his love of art and fondness for going shirtless as signs she should have recognized.

But Mauceri, who has played diner purveyor Carlotta Vega for 14 years, refused to play the story as written, saying a Latina mother would not be so accepting. Rather, Mauceri rewrote the scenes to make Carlotta confused and troubled, and submitted them to “OLTL” execs.

“That’s not the story we’re telling,” responded an exec.

Mauceri then said she could not play the scenes as written, so the show called [Saundra] Santiago.

I don’t know about you, but when I read a story I am aware of things moving in the background. Sometimes I can see what they might be; sometimes not. Here, it’s possible Mauceri is an artist with some integrity, in which case working on the soaps may not be her best bet for avoiding cognitive dissonance. Listen: One Life To Life has underground cities, stolen babies, secret twins, visitations by the series’ creator, burn victims without scars, bullies with bags of lightly chilled blood we’re supposed to believe just came from a donor, folks rising from the dead so often crypts should have ejector seats, time travel, cowboy industrialists with lawyers named “Beaver,” multiple personality disorder described through hair and makeup choices, newspaper magnates lingering in modest kitchens over coffee, people cough a few times after stuff blows up, serial killers get their own European kingdoms, nobody ever goes to jail unless their contract’s up and not even I would plan a double wedding with my ex-husband. We’re not going to get much in the way of real life here. Or dignity. Even so, it must be said that recently OLTL has been a little weird in its treatment of Latin peoples, with a moment that made me cringe and turn off the TV. This one:

A character that supposedly lived for years in Puerto Rico and Europe is throwing a party and mistakes her guests for “the help” because they speak with a heavy accent. I threw myself at my remote and found something else to do for a while. So I could understand if someone had absolutely had it with this show on this topic and decided to give the script writers a little tough love. Unfortunately for Mauceri, writers are big users of strong words. Let’s go back to the article and weigh the words:

No one is talking on the record, but here’s what happened:

Omigod, I can’t tell you what happened but this is what happened.

“OLTL” was taping scenes in late-June concerning roommates Cristian, Layla and Fish. (They’ll air in September.) Cristian and Layla suspect that sweet cop Fish is gay, but aren’t sure how to approach him about it. So they buy a book about how to tell if you’re gay and plan to give it to him.

There are no gay people in Pennsylvania so you can get manuals that tell you how to be gay and only straight people know where to buy them.

Cristian’s mom, Carlotta, was supposed to find the book and assume Cristian is gay. Her reaction was scripted to be very accepting and even amused, citing his love of art and fondness for going shirtless as signs she should have recognized.

What could my son’s love of Post-Its and fondness for going to grocery stores mean? Perhaps I should have recognized his penchant for being Latvian.

But Mauceri, who has played diner purveyor Carlotta Vega for 14 years, refused to play the story as written, saying a Latina mother would not be so accepting. Rather, Mauceri rewrote the scenes to make Carlotta confused and troubled, and submitted them to “OLTL” execs.

If I can’t write caricatures based on my prejudices I don’t know what the world is coming to!

“That’s not the story we’re telling,” responded an exec.

Don’t think: it weakens the team.

Mauceri then said she could not play the scenes as written, so the show called Santiago.

I’ll overlook the fact that some people are still mad about Carmen Miranda’s Chiquita banana thing because Latin people are just so darned temperamental. You can’t work with ’em.

Frankly, I might be smashing heads in the office photocopier, if that were me. It also can’t be overstated that treating your gay roommate like his homosexuality is an exotic disease makes you a big jerk.

Of course, it’s possible Mauceri is just a bigot, but it’s also possible we only caught a glimpse of what happened and this is a smear. Mauceri’s out of a job. Everything else is rumor and speculation.