He’s Never Seen Trees

This morning, I drove into the parking deck, went up a flight and parked. As I gathered my book bag and umbrella, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a parade of underdressed ROTC students exit the stairwell, drop to their hands on tar covered with motor oil, chewed gum and broken glass and do pushups. I slammed my car door and they got up and ran off. It happened so fast, I didn’t have time to draw a breath to yell, but I had questions. First: why were those kids wearing shorts in a driving 40 degree rain? Second: where was that army going to wipe its hands?

Shortly thereafter, a blogger I respect but with whom I occasionally disagree contacted me about health insurance reform. She’d found PIC on some index of bloggers writing on the topic. As Dad used to say, often and with great relish, Well, shit. You’ve got me there. I’m waiting to hear what kind of plan might involve both a serious academic and a crazy refugee from the art world and the costume shop. If she reads through PIC for more than a few minutes, I expect her to change the subject, edge away from me and loudly declare that she hears her mother calling. My feelings won’t be hurt; I’m thinking the funny thoughts. Here’s one: I might like her plan.

I Would Buy Myself A Gray Guitar

Pete took this picture in the park yesterday. It rained all today and we’re expecting tomorrow a big storm or rain event, as the hysterical weather schnooks now say. I’d taken a vacation day to get tomato seeds into starter trays, but that didn’t happen. Instead, to cheer myself up, I took down the weighty winter drapes; then laundered, fluffed and hung the light summer sheers. They’re fresh and clean, and almost enough to carry me through the basement flood stories I will certainly hear all day tomorrow.

Winter kicked our asses and spring is sleeping with our girlfriend. Fuck!

Hills To Fly Them On Except

Pete and I walked around Princeton in a spitting rain, looking for a pair of black shoes to replace scuffs I’d worn to shreds over the winter. We’d already been through shoe stores every weekend for a month and I was a little testy about it, so today, we went straight to what we knew would be an expensive source. Four stores later, we were about to give up again when The Walking Store lay between us and our car. We walked in, I fended off a salesperson and sat down to scan the shelves. By this time, the pain in my hip was screamy-scream-screaming, so when my eye came to rest on a pair of UC24s, I gimpy-gimp-gimped to them and found the salesman at my elbow. I came clean.

Tata: I’m having trouble tying my right shoe, so I’m looking for slip-ons. The filthy things I’m wearing were a terrible compromise, but they didn’t exactly succeed. I’d like to throw them away immediately.
Salesman: You’ve chosen a shoe that will support your feet and cushion properly. Let me put some orthodic inserts into them. Try this.

I limped across the store. I limped back. I limped to the front window and limped back. These shoes were so brilliant the screaming died down. The salesman brought me Obeo sandals that felt pretty good, but there was something else calling my name: the crazy, crazy, crazy Danskos in colors and patterns that were no laughing matter. I pointed to a pair and said, “Leopard print. My favorite color.”

Earlier, we’d stumbled around Stein Mart and found these badass Liz Claiborn kicks with a kitten heel on sale for 50% off. They reminded me of the shoes Sherilyn Fenn modeled for the first few episodes of Twin Peaks – not that these shoes resemble those. No way. But that character would wear these. Also: I hate plaid, but love the patent leather tassels. You can almost smell the Campari, the soda, and the brimstone.

I will wear these to brief special occasions where no one mistakes me for a nice person.

There, in The Walking Store, these shoes looked like the kind of moist temptation you’ve been warned about all your life. The priest, the minister, the rabbi all agree: you’re safer crossing the street before you look at the Dutch shoes, but I tried them on anyway. In 1973, Dad sent us kids sabots – Dutch wooden shoes – which I outgrew immediately. But today, I put these on and the sensation in my feet stirred an old, old memory. I limped to the front window and limped back. Then I stood up straight and walked evenly to the front of the store, free of pain. It was a fucking miracle with a good news/bad news component. On the one hand, I tell people all the time: buy the good shoes to protect your knees and spine. On the other: I bought the cheap shoes and paid for that. The salesman threw away the old shoes like he had freed me from the curse of stupid, crippling scuffs, and I suppose he was.

Then I had to call Daria and tell her I bought wooden shoes.

Take the Short Road To the Answer

Things were different when we were kids. Everyone had to entertain him- or herself.

Pete: Remember that decorative brick wall in my house growing up?
Tata: Huh. Yes, I do.
Pete: My parents put it up one brick at a time. They made the bricks themselves. It took forever. Then some lunatic gave me a hammer.
Tata: Really?
Pete: Yeah, Ricky, the kid down the street gave me a toolbox with real tools for my third birthday. My parents took it away until I was a little older. I remember sawing the molding around the front door. Also, smashing the bricks with the hammer with my little brother.
Tata: Your Mom was the get-even type. Did Ricky’s get a bouquet of tacks for Mother’s Day?

My mother, raised by her grandmother, taught her children quaint old-fashioned traditions you simply can’t explain to teenagers, I swear to Jebus.

Tata: I don’t know if these were real eggs. They’re hollow and decorated with real flowers.
Customer Mom: This has a hole in it. Oh, and another at the bottom.
Tata: That sort of argues for real. Did you ever blow eggs?
Customer Teen: What – I –
Tata: That’s the correct term. You stick a straight pin through the shell at the top and make a slightly larger hole at the bottom and gently blow the contents of the egg out through the larger hole while making every effort to not pass out and crack the shell.
Customer Mom: What is the outcome of that?
Tata: Omelets and decorated eggs you can keep without a biohazard event. Oh, and your face feels all sparkly.

Miss Sasha plans to deliver her second child in June, which necessitates my least favorite of all life events: a baby shower. I tracked down my grandmother Edith’s cousins.

Tata: Ellie, my daughter’s having a baby. Can I send you and your sister invitations to the shower?
Ellie: No, thank you. We wouldn’t have any interest in that. My sister is nearly ninety. We hate these things.

I burst out laughing.

Tata: I wish I could skip it. I hate them, too.
Ellie: Don’t go! Why should you go?
Tata: I am the mommy. It blows, but there you have it.
Ellie: Arrive late, leave early and bring a good purse. But leave early.

The person throwing this party is the Fabulous Ex-Husband’s current wife Karen, who also loathes baby showers.

Tata: Ellie’d rather be boiled in oil than show up to a baby shower. Me, too, but I’ll be there.
Karen: I wish I could be anywhere else.
Tata: Once you answer the door, these things conduct themselves. Let’s duck out for sushi instead.
Karen: What? I wish!
Tata: Life is short. Let’s get spicy tuna.

I may yet get a bouquet of tacks.

Smile In Your Face All the Time They Want


In the Oval Office Wednesday afternoon, Obama signed an executive order imposing restrictions on abortion funding in the new healthcare reform law. In contrast to the swarm of people in the East Room on Tuesday, this time it was just Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., who led the fight over abortion language in the legislation, along with some of their allies. The only record of the event allowed was a photo taken by the White House photographer. (It accompanies this post.)

This sort of thing doesn’t do much for the administration’s transparency credentials. But there’s good reason, politically, for a move like this. Women, especially women’s organizations, are an absolutely key constituency for the Democratic Party, and the White House can’t afford to alienate them any more than it already did by making this deal with Stupak. On the flip side, Stupak and crew probably didn’t want this moment to get much coverage either – though they did get this one concession, they still essentially caved, and have been taking a beating for it.

Alex Koppelman – like the administration, evidently – thinks women won’t notice the bill blows. Certainly, some women care more what the boys think than what other women need. The article’s wording is so awkward one can’t help but notice the boomerang construction. Read again:

This sort of thing doesn’t do much for the administration’s transparency credentials. But there’s good reason, politically, for a move like this. Women, especially women’s organizations, are an absolutely key constituency for the Democratic Party, and the White House can’t afford to alienate them any more than it already did by making this deal with Stupak. On the flip side, Stupak and crew probably didn’t want this moment to get much coverage either – though they did get this one concession, they still essentially caved, and have been taking a beating for it.

What the hell is this? A justification for something, but what exactly? Congress passed the biggest setback to repro right in decades and the President invited the sore winners over for a private hoedown – get it? A hoedown! And women aren’t supposed to notice, and when abortion is unavailable, no hard feelings, mmkay? It’s no big thing. Where’re your checkbooks, ladies?

That’s the kind of “choice” we have in America today—limited to those who can afford to pay. I’d like to say I’m hopeful that feminist groups and progressive allies can reverse this trend, but I’m not. Confronted with the GOP filibuster threat, the Democratic Party wholly failed to deliver on its promise to support reproductive rights for rich and poor women alike, and there isn’t any other viable political movement to turn to.

“And there isn’t any other viable political movement to turn to.” That tired story, too: Shut up, no one else would put up with you, make me a sammich. Well, leaving is dangerous, but staying with the abusive fucker will kill you.

When someone, be it a parent, a lover or a political party, is abusing you and you make up your mind that you determine your own fate, you look for your opportunity to leave. When you find it, you slip away. Sometimes, you don’t know where you’re going when you leave. You just go.

You’re ready. Just go.

Still At Last Your Love

Sweetpea, self-plated.

On Sunday, my brother Todd ran the L.A. Marathon. This is really annoying. What about my needs, hmm? I had no idea he could run a marathon. Neither did he: it was 14 miles farther than he’d trained. You’re supposed to run 26 miles at least once before you line up at the starting line. Also really annoying: Daria’s high school cross country buddies talked her into doing a triathlon, though Daria hadn’t run a step in twenty-five years, but it involved shopping, so one pair of running shoes and three hot athletic outfits later, Daria’s determined. She called me up and asked if I wanted to do the triathlon as a relay – apparently this is a thing, and people do this thing, if you can believe that – and take the cycling leg. While I can pedal until the cows come home on the stationary bike in my attic, that is a distinctly different pursuit than painting on skin-tight togs and elbowing my way through a 15-mile crowd. But that’s not why I’m the teensiest bit testy. No. As a Jersey chick, I was born to elbow my way through crowds in form-fitting clothes. That’s nothing. I’m perturbed because Todd ran a marathon, and Daria’s planning a race, and I cannot picture myself as an athletic spectator. No, my new cartoon goal is a photograph* of an in-shape yours truly holding my barbell captioned THE BITCH IS BACK. What the hell! A year and a half ago, I was soft and fat, but not anymore. I stamp my tiny New Balance cross trainers and insist: if not this summer then next.

Sometimes pigs do fly.

*I am shallow and require flattering gifts from me.

My Little Home On the Hundredth Floor

Take it from a mean old bat: some of the coolest words in the English language are My sisters have a toy store! Pete loves the Angry Little Girl dolls and adds them to all the displays. We now have an Angry Kim doll in our living room Pete swears he hears running around at night. I sit on the toy store floor and read the books. When I find five or six I love, I pop them into an envelope and mail them to my grandson Panky. He’s a smart boy. He’s gonna read if it’s the last thing I do – unless the last thing I do is push Miss Sasha’s mother-in-law over the Reichenbach Falls and make an accidental swan dive. Our cats love the finger puppets we’ve casually dropped all over the house. Drusy brings tiny Peter Rabbit to us like a gift every morning. At least: we think it’s a present. It could be a warning to Grover and Stuart Little.

To Be One Of the Beautiful

Pete and I spent much of the morning in the backyard cleaning out garden containers we will reuse this season. Pete took a pitchfork to the leaf pile and trucked the leaves, now mulch, to a garden bed planted with ornamental trees while I stacked pots and organized the little greenhouse. Later, I planted lettuces, herbs, fennel, pak choi and tomatillos in starter trays. Just before noon, Pete greeted neighbors on the other side of the fence I couldn’t see. They too were enjoying the sunny weather after a long, miserable winter. Okay, they might’ve been a little slap-happy about it.

“It’s late enough and nice enough that we’re having a glass of wine,” blurted Matt, while his wife giggled.
“That’s a GREAT IDEA!” I said.

At 3, we sat down at the picnic table with glasses of wine. In the distance, we could hear the thug kid down the street talking about his car, but the warm sunlight had a tonic effect on us and neither of us felt homicidal. A carpenter bee stopped by for a visit and buzzed away. On the side of the house, forsythias budded and promised to flower soon. Our stray cat friends Tom and Cream crunched kibble under the porch. Every once in a while, a breeze brought us new scents from near and far. The weather forecast for the next few days is gloomy; we sat still in the sun, soaking in as much spring as we could. After our morning of industry, for one afternoon: quiet.

You Spill Up My Back

Tonight, we went to see our lovely niece Lois’s high school performance of Bye Bye Birdie, in which Lois played the ingenue Kim. Before you get nervous: Lois has the high, clear voice her whole family shares and it was a delight to listen to her sing. The plays gender politics utterly blow, but the kids did a great job with the big musical numbers. Two of dozens could dance. Did I mention they sounded great? They sounded great. We left happy.

In the car, Pete said, “Well, that was…wholesome.”
I said, “Next time, we have dinner in a strip club first.”

Of A Cottage On the Shore

Saturday morning, I reached into the dryer and broke a thumbnail below the nail line, which while short of being tragic was long on opportunities to see stars. One good whack and I had my own personal Fourth of July. Peeling off nail polish caused me to sing soprano for the first time in two decades. Washing the dishes stung like a very stingy thing, and this went on until – cross your fingers – this morning, when I shut my thumb into a desk drawer and went all blinky for a different reason. Yes, it’s the little things that make life worth living.

My mind has been elsewhere lately. It’s plain to me that the health insurance debacle will stretch on and on, wounding the vulnerable among us. Our situation will not improve; we will simply change the subject and insist we did, too. Those who should have raised their voices loudest were bought off and kept quiet. If Alan Grayson’s simple, sensible proposal passes, I will eat my houndstooth fedora. Today, I sent back another donation request from the Democratic Party with another blistering You’ve got a lot of nerve asking for money message no one will receive. I need to change the subject, too, or Poor Impulse Control is going to become a smoking hole in the ground on the internets. Or a knitting blog, bless my heart! This weekend, we’re going to set up our seeds, clean up the garden beds and give the composter a once-over. It’s head out of the muck and hands into the dirt for me.

And gloves. And BandAids.