Instead You Moved Away

Lovely Drusy, she of the glistening fur and loving disposition, yawns on a sunny afternoon, then naps. Thunk!

When I walk through the office with my helmet, bicycle seat and basket, co-workers who haven’t seen this ask, “Ta, did you just mug an undergrad?” While that would be amusing, I haven’t. Mostly. Today, the head of a different department on a cigarette break asked if I bicycle to work for necessity or fun. He meant did I get a DUI or plump up unpleasantly – or did I actually like it? I laughed. I actually like it. He asked a lot of questions. He seemed genuinely interested in the idea of bicycling to work. Not for himself, though: he lives ten miles from the library and has lungs like an octogenarian. Just generally interested. He also said the thing everyone says when they see me on a bicycle.

Dude: You have excellent posture.

In point of fact, I do. I also have abundant cleavage so if I did not have excellent posture every time I rode off a curb I’d risk a black eye. It’s polite of him to notice. Anyway, the more I thought about his questions as I rode away, the more I had to say about bicycling. You should at least pretend to be surprised.

In my two mile ride, there are five pretty dangerous spots, two of which will someday be covered with cut flowers and homemade crosses when some cyclist gets the tartare treatment. Pete and I last night worked out a detour I tried out this morning around another intersection so badly designed young lawyers should set up lawn chairs and tap their watches. These intersections are bad if you’re on foot, annoying in a car and positively life-threatening on a bike. People of all sorts walk across the bridge, but cyclists are usually students and Hispanic men; the people who aren’t finishing the bridge construction aggravating the arthritis of perambulating Jews give even less of a good goddamn about poor people on Schwinns skidding up a hill on gravel in oncoming traffic. Frankly, Siobhan’s got my lawyer in her five and if she doesn’t hear from me by 7:30 a.m., they plan for happy hour in the ICU.

The local gendarmerie is rumored to be very hostile toward bicyclists riding the sidewalks. I was specifically warned to steer clear, as tickets and frisking are a possibility. Last night – I don’t know if you heard – we had a badass electrical storm and this morning, debris lay everywhere. I rode down a small side street and found my path blocked by a huge fallen tree, upended sidewalk and jagged branches everywhere. Fortunately, I know the paths and malls; I wasn’t even late for work. It was even kind of exciting.

Despite all this, I really love bicycling to work. When I started walking to work in 2006, I also went whole months between visits to the gas station. I felt better being outdoors and getting some exercise before and after work, and spending the time alone improved the time I had to spend with – you know – people. Bicycling is even better. I recommend it completely, especially if you hate your office or have high blood pressure. I do not recommend bicycling if your wife has just taken out an unusually large life insurance policy. Because you know.

I have a thousand other things to say that’ll wait but I absolutely can’t wait to tell you this. Pete and I were driving to the Cape and I was taking pictures of my giant, thrashing hair. Just before the Bourne Bridge, I saw something I didn’t understand through the trees. I said to my brain, “Brain, you are full of crazy.” My brain was having none of it. “I am about to have a last laugh you will long remember,” said my brain. “Har har,” I laughed. Me? Remember? Then without my noticing, my hands picked up the camera again, turned it on and pointed it to that thing I was seeing and refusing to see through the trees.

At the dining room table at the Cape, I asked if anyone else had seen the giraffe. Everyone dropped a fork. What giraffe? The giraffe at the foot of Bourne Bridge. Where? On what side? On the other side. Where? At the foot of the bridge. I thought I was hallucinating it but then I took a picture. You have a picture of the giraffe? Yeah, I have a picture, maybe two. When I took the picture the sun was in the wrong place so I couldn’t tell if I was getting it. Point. Click. Point. Click. See?

I turned around the laptop at the dinner table and they saw. And the people who cross the bridge all the time saw the giraffe they’d never seen before.

Elvis Needs Boats

Tata: Frigging Connecticut!
Daria: On 95, are you?
Tata: Freaking Connecticut!
Daria: On the way home, I saw an eight-mile backup to get onto the Cape. I’ve never seen that before.
Tata: Fecking Connecticut! New Haven oughta be carpet-bombed. And don’t get me started on the roads around Bridgeport.
Daria: Even New Yorkers are like, “These people are crazy.” How do you like the stopping for no reason whatsoever?
Tata: Not as much as I hated stopping at a McDonald’s just inside the Connecticut border. I knew something was up when I saw someone had washed the floor with the wrong greasy mop and the floor was still wet. So I made the mistake of walking into the ladies room, where people in stalls were talking and stopped when I walked in. And the two open stalls? The toilets were full. I tapped the handles: disconnected. I walked right out into the restaurant, determined not to touch anything while I waited for Pete. The floor was still wet. You know what that means?
Daria: I could puke!
Tata: When I told Pete my story, we drove across the road to Stuckey’s, where the bathroom was only moderately gross. We got fake strombolis at the one and only Sbarro that doesn’t smell like burnt tomato sauce and sat down at a reasonably clean table. I have eaten about half of my lunch when this guy in a Stuckey’s uniform walks over to the garbage can behind Pete and sticks his arm into the can to smash down the garbage. Then he straightens up the used trays. I stopped chewing. The guy walks around behind me and does the same thing where Pete can see it. I said, “Did you see that?” He said, “I really did.” I said, “And now, we are leaving.
Daria: A district manager would loooooove to see that.
Tata: I know, but what can you do when a whole town doesn’t know shit about basic hygiene?
Daria: Todd was just telling me about taking his kids to Chuck E. Cheese, which is the Land of All Things Contagious. I mean, what do you do? How do you scrub up after that?
Tata: You slather your kids in head-to-toe Purell? Yeah, so we’re never stopping there again.
Daria: Exit 93? I’ve never been there.
Tata: Howcum you just know that?
Daria: You know, people who are not you actually remember things.
Tata: Okay, so the gross isn’t just in Connecticut. On the way out of town, we stopped for bagels. Pete went around the corner to gas up the car and I went into the bagel shop. So I’m standing behind this young couple that just started sleeping together.
Daria: What? In the shop?
Tata: No, at his house. I get his newsletter. Doofus! Anyway, they order a bagel each and a cup of coffee each. The kid behind the counter seems to only exhale, and he’s wearing one glove.
Daria: One?
Tata: Yup, only one. I watch him slice two bagels in geologic time, spackle them lightly with cream cheese and eventually pour one cup of coffee. They correct him. He pours another. He handles their money and finally looks at me. Meanwhile, three people wandered into the bagel shop and are now standing behind me. One walks out.
Daria: Really? It was that long?
Tata: Absolutely. The kid’s obviously someone’s nephew. I’m almost sorry to ask him to slice three bagels, put cream cheese on all of them, and on one, slice tomato and lox, but I do. The woman behind me starts to deflate. He cuts everything crooked, he’s stingy with the cream cheese. It’s a disaster. He disappears into the kitchen and in line, we just look at each other. He comes back with a few scraps of lox. Finally, he slices a tomato with what might as well have been a spoon. By now, Pete’s waited so long he’s walking into the shop to threaten the kid, because Pete’s seen this dance number a few times already and he doesn’t care for the ending.
Daria: Oh Lord, here it comes! What’d Pete do?
Tata: Nothing, because just then the kid asked for money and handled it with both hands.
Daria: NO!
Tata: Yes.
Daria: What did you do?
Tata: I turned to the woman behind me and said, “If I were you, I’d ask for a new glove.”

You Would Like To Fly

Life Magazine, August 1944.

I travel like a hot house flower so I took today off from work. It’s been hot and sultry and sunny and cloudy and dry and humid, and after 2, I became One with the couch. This evening, rowing was like an out of body experience. Even the cats lay on the attic floor with their paws up, groaning, “Mama, you move too much.”

It’s possible I hallucinated that.

Tomorrow, I go back to work. We’re expecting the arrival of a heat wave. I’ve laid out clothes for cycling. I shall miss the couch.

The One In Rhode Island

Should you traverse the countryside on Route 95 and pass through Providence for the first time, you will career like a roller coaster car up and down and swerving here and there at breakneck speed and surrounded by other vehicles failing to observe safety cushion rules and racing nearly door to door with you and yes, that is a motherfucking blue cockaroach the size of a freight train.

If you slow down for a look, you’ll be goo on a windshield.

Hello, It’s Me

I fought the frizz and the frizz won.

Pete and I drove to Cape Cod to see Grandpa. My passenger sunburn is sucking up tinctures and goos. After two hours on the road, I got bored with singing the Supersuckers’ greatest hits at the tops of my lungs so I took pictures of my hair flickering and flying in every direction. Some say they can see the fuuuuuture in my hair, as in a crystal ball or a pack of naked lady playing cards, but my hair is merely a reflection of your subconscious, telling you only what you already know: merciful dog, it is humid.

Your alias says you’re Captain Jean-Luc Picard.

The Atlantic Ocean has certainly missed me. It was just lying there when Pete and I walked to it, but it perked right up. Oh, the fragrance of the evening mist, the cool of the sand, the wafting aroma of fresh dog poop! The Atlantic stood up and said, Hey darlin’ , how you doin’? I was civil, because you always want to stay friends. But hey, we had a thing, the Atlantic Ocean and I, and of course Pete knows. I keep few secrets, and how could I keep from him my thing with the A. O.? And it’s not as if I look like I did then.

I managed to stay dry.

Your Head Down To Your Toes

I’m feeling a little INSECURE:

ABC announced last week that production of All My Children would be moving from New York City to Los Angeles. If you thought you were surprised by the news, imagine how the cast and crew felt. There was no warning about the move and, according to Thorsten Kaye (Zach Slater), the cast has been given one week to decide if they plan to make the move to the West Coast.

One week to decide your whole life? That’s insane! It takes more than a week to plan a vacation to the opposite side of the country, let alone picking up one’s life. I’d have to imagine that there would be some sort of assurance that All My Children will be on the air for at least a few more years in order to get these stars to move. I’d be livid if I left my home in New York, moved to Los Angeles, and was told a few months later that AMC was being canceled.

What if the majority of the cast decides not to relocate? Will they cancel All My Children outright or try to do some sort of spinoff the way that Loving morphed into The City? Perhaps they’ll take the few stars that agree to move and have their characters move from Pine Valley to Los Angeles, thereby creating a brand new soap.

There’s talk that some of the veteran stars are planning a sit-in, so to speak, to prevent the show from moving. Can you imagine All My Children without David Canary (Adam/Stuart Chandler), Michael E. Knight (Tad Martin), and Susan Lucci (Erica Kane)? I know I can’t.

Last week on Regis and Kelly, Susan Lucci looked dazed as she talked about the decision to uproot AMC. You’d expect to see Susan as the show’s biggest cheerleader, talking about what an exciting opportunity and new challenge it will be to make the transcontinental move. But, no. That wasn’t her reaction. In fact, Lucci seemed to go out of her way to avoid saying that she would follow the show out West. In fairness, Lucci did applaud the move as a sign of ABC’s commitment to All My Children.

There’s no assurance that any of the show’s recurring players will continue on with the show either. Presumably many of the child actors will remain in New York, which either means there are a lot of recasts or “rapid agings” in our future.

So let’s TiVo it back a bit. Why has ABC made such a drastic decision? Quite simply, the cost of producing All My Children (and all soaps) is going up and up and the revenue coming in is, well, it’s not going in the same direction. When you can’t make ends meet, there aren’t that many options.

All My Children is going to get a new studio that is roughly twice the size of the one it uses now. On top of that, the new studio will allow ABC to broadcast All My Children in high-definition. If you can believe it, all of these changes will actually allow the show to save money. Don’t worry – I’m over here with an abacus trying to figure out it, too. With more space, All My Children can construct permanent sets that do not have to be dismantled on a regular basis. In New York, if a set isn’t needed on a given day, it has to be taken apart so that a scene that is needed can be put up in its place. This explains why some scenes seem to be overused: the show needs to reuse scenes whenever possible in order to cut the costs of assembling and disassembling the sets.

My instinctive reaction to news of Disney’s at-gunpoint order that the actors relocate to Los Angeles was a bit of blind panic, so I didn’t even notice the bonus union busting. That’s so awesome. If I hadn’t been keeping an eye on this decidedly East Coast soap for more than twenty years and didn’t love the characters I’d have to join a picket line or something. But hey, my favorite characters may not survive the move, so I may get five extra hours every week to plot revenge. Or get a life.

“Say, Ta,” you may ask, “How on earth can you care about something this trivial?” My pet, you ask the most delightful questions! I could just pinch you. The answer is pretty simple: I’m fussing over my soap opera because its current predicament is symptomatic of American society’s larger problem:

Feel like you’re working a lot harder these days, putting in longer hours for the same pay — or even less? The latest round of government data on worker productivity indicates that you probably are.

The Labor Department said Tuesday that the American work force produced, at an annual rate, 6.4 percent more of the goods they made and services they provided in the second quarter of this year compared to a year ago. At the same time, “unit labor costs” — the amount employers paid for all that extra work — fell by 5.8 percent. The jump in productivity was higher than expected; the cut in labor costs more than double expectations.

That is, despite the deep job cuts of the past year, workers who remain on the payroll are filling in and making up the work that had been done by their departed colleagues. In some cases, that extra work came with a smaller paycheck.

The higher worker output and lower labor costs have been good news for companies struggling through the worst recession since World War II. So far, some 70 percent of companies in the S&P 500 have turned in better-than-expected profits for the latest quarter.

But wage cuts and lost paychecks could seriously jeopardize the recovery of a U.S. economy that still relies on consumer spending for two-thirds of its power.

“You have a very severely harmed, injured consumer in terms of income slow down, job uncertainly, job loss, wealth loss, inadequate savings, high debt levels,” said Laura Tyson, an Obama advisor who headed the Council of Economic Advisors in the Clinton administration. “The consumer, I don’t see powering us out of this recession.”

After every story I read like this, commenter after commenter strikes another blow for corporatist oppression with the words, “Those jagoffs should be glad they have jobs.” No. That is exactly, precisely wrong, and what it does is seek to bring misery company. If someone’s unemployed, underpaid or overworked, then everyone else should be too, so that theory goes. And that’s just wrong. Okay, it’s not just wrong, it’s fucking wrong, and it’s the reason we need strong unions and elegant divas.

Starlight Under This Red Moon

Tata: I’m not thinking the funny thoughts. Sometimes when I re-read PIC, phrase after phrase makes me howl, but not lately. Why am I not funny?
Siobhan: That thing where rocks aren’t tasty unless they are is funny, but blasting phyllo dough with fake butter spray is very funny.
Tata: See? So I’m not writing well.
Siobhan: I tell you you’re funny and you tell me you’re not funny?
Tata: You’re right. I’m fucking hilarious. What was I thinking?

It’s a sultry Tuesday night, a storm is taking its sweet old time rolling in and the cats are virtually two-dimensional. In the backyard, an adorable skunk spent the last forty-five minutes finishing the leftovers at our daily stray pussycat buffet. The tenant and his son, who come out in spots when the temp beats 65, complained about heat in the kitchen, then baked brownies. The son is supposed to be terribly allergic to cats, which doesn’t stop him from scooping up Sweetpea for a scritch under her chin. It’s August, and finishing a sentence is a little too much like work.

Miss Sasha: Hi, Mommy! What color should I polish my nails? I’m asking because you’re all those miles away.
Tata: Mmm…purple.
Miss Sasha: Purple it is! I love you! Bye!
Tata: I love you! Bye!

If I feel ambitious later, I might try staring off into space.

Not Your Picture That’s Nothing

I’ve been keeping a terrible secret I’ve chosen this moment to tell. Minstrel Boy is on a train traveling east to Netroots, so he may be blissfully out of touch. Dad’s dead and no longer scoffing at my crazy culinary habits. My sisters are all at the beach and Mr. DBK, foodie that he is, may be busy monitoring either health care townhalls or discussing duck en croute with his cat Cora. So it’s possible nobody’s listening, and I’m going to spill this secret. I am! Ready? I’ve found a way to make baking with phyllo dough so unbelievably easy that if you have two functioning hands you can do it even if you can’t cook. I mean that. In fact, I don’t know why I haven’t heard this terrible secret spilled on the Food Network by one of their stars that can’t cook. This weekend, I wrapped up leftovers in phyllo layered properly and quickly, and lost only two sheets to stickiness. How?

Yep.

I’m so ashamed – or I would be if lunch hadn’t been so delicious.

The Lie Is On the Lips

Tonight in the dehydrator we have fingerling potatoes and white eggplant. Tomorrow morning, I’ll package up the eggplant and potatoes and start tomatoes and zucchini. In the afternoon, we’ll jar peach barbecue sauce and applesauce. WE hate winter so much we’re planting delicious time capsules of summer on our pantry shelves. This week, I’m going to try drying the herbs growing in our garden. We have a sage bush that resists all wildlife-based efforts to kill it, and it survived last winter, so I think it’s decided to stay. I’ve decided about half of its leaves would be tasty in soups and stews, along with mint, basil, tarragon, oregano and chives.

Our garden has suffered with the torrential rains and dry spells. Many of our tomatoes started to ripen and rot at the same time, which has been disappointing. Our peppers simply aren’t fruiting, and the squash blossoms fall, orange and vibrant, right off their stems. The Japanese eggplant show more promise but it’s too early to tell if raccoons will find them. On the bright side: a friend of Siobhan’s recently taught us a simple technique for better breads: the sponge method. The night before you want to bake bread, mix all the yeast, all the water, and one cup of the flour or flours your recipe uses and set aside, covered, in a warm place. Twenty-four hours later, assemble the rest of your ingredients as your recipe describes. You may want to add a little extra water but not much. Then bake as normal. This solved my texture problems and I haven’t baked a rock-like loaf since I tried it, and believe me, that is an improvement. Rocks aren’t necessarily delicious. I mean, unless they are.