But We’ll Go Home Be Bearna

I have books and time to spend
I have soul and I have friends
I have a home and I have food and
Still I have a bad fucking attitude.

Difference Bedlam Rovers

The healthcare debate is such transparently stupid bullshit I’m practically speaking in tongues. Fortunately, while I %@%#)%&@_% and %&@)%!^% $%&!!, other people are saying doing smart things.

A Better World Cafe, housed in an historic brick church, is the fifth restaurant of its kind in the nation, which some are nicknaming “Robin Hood restaurants.”

The original socially conscious eatery was opened in Salt Lake City in 2003 by a former acupuncturist and advocates of the concept hope it will revolutionize eating out.

“It’s about how we’re going to need to change our systems if we’re going to survive as a planet,” said Tina Weishaus, a board member of Who is My Neighbor? The community group based in the Reformed Church of Highland Park co-owns the not-for-profit restaurant with Elijah’s Promise, a New Brunswick soup kitchen and culinary school.

Besides the lack of official prices — only suggested fares — the eatery uses mostly food from local farms and no plastic or Styrofoam. It also composts all food scraps and acts as a community forum by hosting talks and live performances by local artists.

Three blocks from my house: yay!

The Highland Park restaurant opened its doors Oct. 21. The simple dining room, with communal tables and metal chairs, has attracted roughly 50 to 125 customers a day, head chef Rachel Weston said. Three paid staff and volunteers serve food from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays. Advertising has been minimal: there’s no sign for the cafe in the front of the church.

Listed each day on a dry erase board is a menu of roughly a dozen items that change every week or so, with suggested prices. One item, the “complimentary community entree,” is free to everyone. On Thursday the free dish was curried pumpkin chick peas over rice.

A person who can’t pay anything is allowed to eat only the “community entree,” but can volunteer at the cafe for an hour to get a bigger meal with more choices. Weston said all patrons are encouraged to volunteer, to think, for example, “What if I came back and baked bread, or played the piano?”

Supper: you can sing for it!

ustomer Kathleen Logue, 49, said she has been unemployed for two years. But she still paid $6, more than the suggested combined price of $1.50 for a cup of Moroccan tomato consomme and $3 for a medium slice of roasted tomato and Swiss cheese quiche.

“There are people worse off than me,” she said.

Highland Park is an ideal town to host the novel restaurant, said Weishaus, with a mixed-income population that includes residents of housing projects as well as Rutgers University professors. The borough also boasts of progressive policies such as promoting fair-trade products at local stores.

The seed of the idea for A Better World Cafe was planted in January, said Lisanne Finston, executive director of Elijah’s Promise. She was giving a talk at the Highland Park church – commenting that the richest nation in the world should not have to have soup kitchens – when someone in the audience mentioned the new dining venture in Salt Lake City.

That’s the kind of concrete, direct action I need to see and support. It can happen near you, too.

Everyone’s Raging Everyone’s Roaring

Our recent rescue kitten roaming the kitchen, after stumbling face first into the cat food bowl.

I am so tired I spent three hours this afternoon staring into space. That’s not like me. I usually get up and go do something the moment my train of thought derails. Who knows what tragedy might occur if I let it crash into the tiny Alpine village below?

Maybe I’m A Dog That’s Lost Its Bite

Topaz is curled up on a caramel velveteen pillow with one paw resting on my left elbow. Sweetpea snores peacefully a few inches from my right thigh. In a few minutes, she’ll inch closer to my hip, then closer again, then lay her head on my lap and stare at me with the boo-boo eyes, then crawl on my lap. She won’t stay. She’s a restless sort. And Drusy’s upstairs, telling Pete all her girlie secrets. It was only two nights, but according to the cats we were gone forever.

Sweetpea actually pretended not to know me. I was like, “Girlfriend, PLEASE.”

Saturday morning, we drove up to Cape Cod in the misty and sometimes blinding rain and fog that was the tail end of Hurricane Ida. We had arranged a quick trip to replace the warped and waterlogged storm door and cross a few small tasks off the big DIY list. Sunday morning, Mom, Tom, Pete and I drank coffee and talked about the door, which came with a frame. Mom busied herself elsewhere. Pete tore out the old door while I counted hardware pieces and Tom read the instructions. It quickly became apparent that this was a two-person job. Mom proposed that she and I go visit Grandpa. I cleaned up and we hopped in the car, where Mom recounted the saga of Grandpa’s shoes.

Briefly: a few weeks before, she’d picked up a second pair of Grandpa’s favorite shoes at KMart, but the shoes were too small when he tried them on. Mom tried returning them but KMart didn’t have a pair half a size larger. An employee – let’s call her Alberta – promised to call when a shipment of Grandpa’s favorite shoes arrived. Alberta called Mom the day before we arrived: a pair of shoes would be waiting for her. I didn’t think much of this except that this meant we were going to KMart, and shopping with Mom is fraught with peril. It’s hard to explain.

The strip mall was sad. At the other end, a Filene’s Basement had gone out of business, leaving a huge empty space. The parking lot was full of holes and broken places. As we walked through the store to Customer Service, we passed people whose skin was colorless, people who were oddly shaped and looked damaged. At the desk, we found one lushly beautiful young woman of Middle Eastern descent to page Alberta for us. When after a long moment Alberta did not appear, the young woman went to the shoe department, which was maybe 30 feet away and plainly visible from where we were standing. We saw her walk around. We saw her pick up the phone at the jewelry counter. She came back to the desk. Then out of nowhere Alberta appeared. WHOOSH! And she looked mighty familiar because when we walked in and asked for her, she walked right past us. Anyway: WHOOSH! At the same time Alberta appears, we hear her talking.

Alberta: Hi, I’m Alberta! Did you get my call? I called you! I called because I knew you wanted these shoes so I put aside a pair for you and another for another man. He was actually here at the same time as you. You might have seen him. Did you see him?

In the shoe aisle, a large box sits on the floor and a number of shoeboxes await Alberta’s attention. Mom is no slouch when it comes to talking a blue streak and I don’t quite understand what we’re doing so I keep wandering off and coming back. Finally, Alberta realizes I have something to do with this situation and extends a hand.

Alberta: Hi, I’m Alberta.
Tata: Hi, I’m Domenica and you’ve met my mother.
Alberta: That is your mother? That cannot be your mother. How old are you? And how old are YOU? I cannot believe you have a daughter her age. You’re both kidding, right?
Tata: Want to see a picture of my grandson?
Alberta: You can’t possibly be old enough to have a grandchild! You don’t look old enough to have a kid who has a kid. It’s the curly hair. That makes everyone look younger. See how young I look? It’s the curly hair! How old do you think I am?

Mom and I look at each other.

Tata: There’s no right answer to that question!

Alberta laughs, rushes to me and pulls her hair out of a clip.

Alberta: It’s the curly hair that makes me look young. My youngest is 18. I don’t look that age, and curly hair makes you look young, and you too –

Mom’s hair is poker-straight. Alberta keeps talking as Mom’s phone rings and Tom says, “I have a few things to tell you.” I am holding the shoebox of replacement shoes in the correct, larger size. Mom repeatedly listens to something Tom says then responds the same way over and over. Alberta has noticed my nose piercing and we are off to the races.

Alberta: Did that hurt when you got that pierced because it really hurt when I got my tongue pierced –
Tata: I had to take my tongue ring out because it started chipping away at my dentalwork. Mom, say goodbye to Tom.
Mom: I don’t have time to talk about this.
Alberta: I was never sure about leaving my kids with babysitters –
Tata: It’s always a dilemma. Mom, hang up.
Mom: I don’t have time to talk about this.
Alberta: Your hair was more recently frosted than mine but we have the same hair. It’s nice hair. Do you wear makeup? I can’t believe you have a grandchild –
Tata: You’ve been very helpful. Thank you so much. Mom, HANG UP THAT PHONE. WE ARE LEAVING.

Mom shut her phone and stared at Alberta. Mom doesn’t listen like other people listen. You don’t so much talk as have a story sucked out of you. I am not at all kidding when I say Mom makes car dealers cry. All she has to do is fix her gaze on them and listen until they beg her to sign something and for god’s sake please go listen to someone else. Though I was absolutely certain Alberta was hopped up on diet pills and hair dye, I knew what would happen if matter and anti-matter suddenly realized they were at the same party and wearing the same dress. To save the universe, I stood up and shouted mysterious words. I think they were something like, “ISN’T THAT ANWAR SADAT? I NEED HIS AUTOGRAPH!” And I bolted toward Customer Service, knowing that Mom would follow because obviously there was a story to suck.

If she’d followed a little more closely I would have sprinted to the exit. I stopped at Customer Service, declared to the lushly beautiful young woman that we’d made our exchange and didn’t wait for an answer. Mom turned the corner, staring at me with wide eyes and the same expression cats fix on mice. I said, “We’re done here,” and made a break for the door. I hate shopping! I was thrilled when Grandpa’s shoes fit because I didn’t want to discuss hair care products with Alberta.

We Are Strangers In Your Silent World

Mom and I are back now from visiting Grandpa in his impossibly good nursing home. Mom baked him cookies this morning and we brought him coffee. Mom wandered off. I sat on the edge of his bed. He and I ate cookies, drank coffee and laughed.

Tata: This is a good cookie!
Grandpa: This is a good cookie!
Tata: Pretty good coffee, too!
Grandpa: You can’t usually get coffee this good!
Tata: And how about this cookie? This is a good cookie!
Grandpa: Your mother bakes a good cookie!
Tata: I like this coffee!
Grandpa: It’s good coffee!

As conversations go, it’s one of my favorites.

Electric Eyes Are Everywhere

The test of a democracy is not the magnificence of buildings or the speed of automobiles or the efficiency of air transportation, but rather the care given to the welfare of all the people. -Helen Adams Keller, lecturer and author (1880-1968) Via Wordsmith.

CREDO action:

Did 20 pro-choice Democrats forget what happens when women are denied access to abortion?

Why did pro-choice Democrats vote to approve the Stupak Amendment, the most serious assault on abortion rights in a generation?

According to FiveThirtyEight.com, 20 of the 64 Democrats who joined Republicans to pass the measure are nominally pro-choice. We’re telling these 20 Democrats — all of them men — to reconsider their vote and urge Congressional leadership to do everything they can to ensure the health care bill that comes out of committee does not take us back to an era of coat hangers and back alley abortions.

Sign our petition and we’ll send a coat hanger to the 20 formerly pro-choice Democrats who voted to take away women’s rights.

About twenty years ago, I participated in an action where we mailed hundreds of signed drycleaner hangers to anti-choice congresspersons. Maybe we should make it an annual public scourging.

It couldn’t be easier to sign the petition.

Everything Under the Sun Is In Tune

I wasn’t much different as a teenager than I am as showboating old bat. In August of 1979, I was at the pool in a friend’s backyard and my friend’s older brother had a supercute best friend in a very convincing blue Speedo bathing suit. I had taken diving lessons since the Mesozoic, so I stepped up to the diving board, took a few swift, sure steps, made my hurdle, did something zany with a few somersaults, pointed toes and sliced gracefully through the water. Aaaaand I swam into the side of the pool and broke my front tooth.

In retrospect, it was at this exact moment I should have realized comedy would be my life.

The cute boy helped me find the broken tooth. My friend’s mother made one in what Mom remembers as a long series of “Mrs. LongItalianLastName, Domenica’s okay, but – ” calls. The dentist glued my tooth back together. A few months later, I was holding a ladder while a guy I’d just met hung decorations in the high school cafeteria when I recognized his butt. You would think a kid who spent all her waking hours in costume would have the sense to reach for a trenchcoat and false mustache, but no.

Tata: You’re friends with Nipsy?
Imminent Unrequited Love Of My Young Life: Yep.
Tata: You swim a lot at his house?
IULOML: Sometimes. Why?
Tata: Remember a girl with a fancy dive and an exciting faceplant?
IULOML: Yes, I do.
Tata: That was me. Hey, I’d like to crawl in a hole, now.

Soon after, I spent two years picking leftovers out of my braces, so my high school years were like a catalog of dentalwork failures. Six years ago, I got braces again. That’ll put a crimp in your adult sex life. Stop laughing! Three years ago, I had capped four teeth damaged by braces and moral sloth. Immediately, one came apart: the one I broke with my enormous ego and a concrete wall. I have my own dentist now. He’s pretending all his patients go through gallons of epoxy. He glued it back together, and again three weeks ago.

Tata: Okay okay okay, I am in such a MOOD. A few days ago, I thought I was imagining my tooth was loose, but no. The cap came off in my hand. I was so mad I actually cursed my own ancestors, which means yours are cursed, too.
Daria: That explains the noises in my attic and my children speaking in tongues.
Tata: But the cap went right back on like a puzzle piece and everything was fine while I waited for the dentist. But then the dentist needed to take the cap for a couple of days to clean off the glue.
Daria: So you stayed home and whistled?
Tata: No, I went to work and scowled like George Harrison.
Daria: OH MY GOD! You snaggletoothed it for TWO DAYS?
Tata: Yes, and my job involves talking to lots of people, so I mastered the fine art of talking to people like they’re actually standing five feet to their right, not to mention facing away from them in meetings. It’s a good thing people already thought I was insane or it might bother them when I walk up to them backwards.
Daria: I can’t breathe!
Tata: So he glued it back together and then I bit down on some frozen dark chocolate with 85% cocoa content. It’s full of antioxidents, you know, and my tooth broke into three pieces.
Daria: I know how mad you were then. You don’t have a Louisville Slugger anymore, do ya?
Tata: Nope.
Daria: Then your dentist’s probably safe. Is it fixed yet?
Tata: It is not, and here’s the best part: we’re going to Cape Cod to fix Mom’s front door and you know who cares more about my teeth than I do? Mom does. And our Mom’s mean. She’s going to stare at me. I’ll have the heebee jeebies!
Daria: Your best chance is to bring extra wine and hope Mom gets crosseyed.
Tata: I thought my best chance was to dress up as someone Mom would ignore, like police officers and car salesmen. But your way is better.

For the first time in my life I look forward to getting dentures.

And Give Young Sally Some Room

Via every-freaking-body on the intertoobz, but in this case from Crooks & Liars:

Nicole Belle:

Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), one of the GOP’s minions, continues the Joe Wilsonification of Congress to prevent discussion over Stupak’s amendment, one that may actually lead to effectively a ban on abortion for low income women:

“The real goal of abortion opponents isn’t to maintain the status quo. It’s to extend federal prohibitions into private pocketbooks. By restricting coverage offered through the exchange, they hope to make abortion coverage so unattractive that insurers eventually stop offering it in the market for individual and small-group policies.”

And they don’t even want us to discuss it. Those white men of the GOP don’t want women to insert their remarks into the record.

Kind of makes you long for the day genuine leftists barged into Rotary Club meetings squawking “Property is theft!” and “Are you done with that cheese platter?” It is important to remember that each one of these censorious, shouting motherfuckers would run crying to Fox News if anyone did this to them. Almost no one does, except their own cohorts. Ask Lindsey Graham.

I was inches from losing my mind watching this vomitrociousness when a great, great thing happened:

the Bedlam Rovers’ 1990 CD Frothing Green landed in my mailbox. I went from hopping mad to jumping for joy in seconds flat. The band stayed at my house when they passed through New Jersey a zillion years ago and I was hopelessly, droolingly starstruck every time. It’s a little embarrassing to remember, but when the CD played tonight, none of that mattered. I love these songs. They’ve aged beautifully; their politics are more relevant now than ever before. It’s even good to recognize that I learned a lot from meeting the band. For instance: genuine socialist health care would be good for everyone and everything, except the careers of corporate water carriers, who no longer even suffer the pretense of democratic process.

It’s not easy to dance when I’m this testy.