Virtue Slipped Into My Shoe

It’s a dilemma in an envelope: tomatillo seeds.

Two summers ago, one tomatillo plant took over a corner of the yard. True, I didn’t know how to cage and support the ginormous beast, but still. Ginormous. Seriously, every day, the thing seemed closer to demanding its own zip code. Now I have an envelope of tomatillo seeds. More than one plant would almost certainly germinate.

The garden is really small. I could plant two or three in pots and place them so they don’t blot out the sun. Maybe. I could give seedlings away, too. They’re like fruit-producing pets you don’t have to walk.

…and hey: Monkeyfister got chickens.

One Step Beyond

These are my friends Smarty and Ben. They’re rescue greyhounds sharing a domecile with my boss Gianna and her husband, the gent at the other end of the leashes. When Gianna’s family goes on vacation, I sometimes see my friends Smarty and Ben out walking with other humans. Usually I recognize the dogs first. Once Smarty walked up to me in town and mentioned he liked my shoes. I thanked him before I realized I was talking to a dog who would never need shoes, and that was some incredible abstract thinking on his part.

At the Water’s Edge In My Dream

Yesterday, Pete and I took our camera and had a frigging adventure. The man can take a picture that tells a whole story.

Midday, Donaldson Park from the Third Avenue Entrance. The water beyond the trees is the river.

We started at the park, where the park rangers had taped off the roadway. The river regularly floods and overflows into the park, which is why it is a park. The county forgot this and put in some very expensive, years-long renovations. They are about to be junk. People in town talk about the renovations in statements that trail off and nobody knows what to make of it all. Officially, I mean. We know these mistakes make for awesome, dramatic photos and fat, obnoxious geese. A whole herd of folks in rugged raingear turned up to see what they knew they’d see and what they’ll see again: the floodplain, flooded.

The tree stood next to the old farm house around which the tiny town was built. Just out of frame to the left is a destroyed car barely visible under the treetop. Yes, we were driving by.

We drove around town, dodging fallen trees and crunching over branches. This house is about five blocks from where we live under trees just as tall. The roaring wind the night before had made Pete and the cats antsy.

Early afternoon: Easton Avenue in Somerset, which Trout described as “the canoe-thru Wendy’s.” Through the trees, the canal and the river are running at the same height as the road, which I can only remember seeing a few times before.

We had to plot and scheme to get to the grocery store in our hometown, about 2.5 miles away. Fortunately, we rode bikes on the back roads as teenagers, but we had to outwit lost yuppies who moved into town ten years ago. When we got to the fence above Easton Avenue, about a dozen other people were snapping pictures before storming the grocery store, where cashiers loudly exclaimed they thought we were crazy to be out in driving rain, which we weren’t. The surface of the water is smooth.

Late afternoon: Donaldson Park from the Second Avenue entrance. The county has been renovating this park since Hurricane Floyd wrecked it in a way that looked pretty much just like this, except with fewer brand new backstops and soccer goals.

Less than five miles upstream, two towns sit below sea level. They get creamed in serious, fatal ways during and after nor’easters. It’s hard to watch the same drama play out every seven or eight years. We put on boots and take pictures and join in the cosmic joke.

Let the Red Flames Light the Sky

In the future, where we have jetpacks and that 20-20 hindsight, let us not confuse what we wish with what we are doing. An example: last July, bluegal wrote:

A fellow blogger had a fit last night via email, because that blogger heard a rumor that possibly abortions would not be covered under the Public Option. I. Just. Winced. All. The. Way. To. Bed. We don’t HAVE a public option yet. It’s not a sure thing. We have to wait for the insurance companies to fail before single payer is maybe possibly back on the table, but let’s pour a heaping cup of the most divisive issue of the past fifty years into the pot right now, because it’s so very critical.

These are the words of a fake feminist, no matter how she denies it. These are the words of a person prepared to change the subject when other people’s problems disgust her. I’d like to make a joke, but what is there to say when a woman who makes panty jokes kicks people below her on the ladder? I lost my cool.

but let’s pour a heaping cup of the most divisive issue of the past fifty years into the pot right now, because it’s so very critical.

I’m sorry you’re squeamish about this but it is, in fact, very critical. Further, I can’t really tell what point you’re arguing here. Are you saying that we construct a public option, which is already a poor compromise from single-payer, then decide what’s in our compromise, and then give away our reproductive rights?

Because: no. No.

I have three words for her: Bart. Fucking, Stupak, whose coming perfidy was visible for miles. She responded:

Tata I’m saying, particularly with this issue, don’t throw gas on a flame until you know what you’re burning.

We are going to have to work out what’s covered and what isn’t, sure. For instance, I don’t want public option to pay for Arianna’s botox injections.

I’m also not going spend one minute this summer getting into an abortion rights versus free-abortion-on-demand rights argument here. And I don’t think Congress should, either.

But here’s the deal: if Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh get to call Public Option a baby killer option we’re politically done.


I wouldn’t be surprised at all if some cunning insurance lobbyist floated that rumor just to run the public plan off the rails. It just might work.

That explosion you just heard? Yeah, the top of my head blew off. There was no point in trying to show her the future – except what was certain.

O’Reilly’s going to be all over that by dinnertime tonight. You’ve bargained away the repro rights of the people the plan is supposed to cover without a fight.

Game, set, match for the forced birthers.

The health insurance bill will set back repro rights in ways we will spend decades discovering, which makes me so angry I can hardly see straight. What makes it worse is when women like bluegal, who should have been able to see past her Ick Factor problem to observe that strategically when women’s groups didn’t get out in front of this issue, we lost everything. Again. The reason it was completely foreseeable is it happened every year since Roe v. Wade was decided. Bluegal is supposed to be smart – her masthead says as much – so she either knows that or doesn’t care if repro rights survive. The argument she makes is a dead giveaway.

Here we are, in the completely foreseeable future. If you can’t guess what’s going to happen next, maybe you could ask her what she thinks won’t.

With A Deck Of Fifty-One

I’ve butted into your business before and I will do it again, but this has to be said: make your own damn yogurt!

Recently, 8 ounce wide mouth Ball Jars changed my ultra-glamorous life. The glass jars that came with my ancestral yogurt makers have become delicate with age and I’d prefer not to take them to work. One day, I was foraging in my vast stores of Stuff Dad Gave Me and discovered the 8 ounce wide mouth Ball Jars. They fit perfectly into one of the ancestral yogurt makers and they don’t break when Topaz pushes one off the kitchen counter. You don’t have Topaz reorganizing your glassware, but the Ball Jars might help you carry that yogurt you’re making to work with you.

Lovely Drusy cannot sniff you without playing kissy face.

Miss Sasha calls and asks questions. Is Jell-O gluten-free? This morning, one of my co-workers stepped into my cubicle and said, “You are a genius, I think. Has anyone ever said that to you before?” A couple of months ago, I was walking to the bank when a woman across the street waved and shouted to me in a peppery mix of Russian and English. From a distance she looked like Auntie InExcelsisDeo, who does not speak Russian and though she speaks no other language avoids speaking English if she doesn’t have to, so I approached with a smile and realized we did not know one another. By the time I put my hand on her forearm, she had called me a genius and by someone else’s name. I said, “Hello, but I am not her.” She said, “I thought you were my niece!” I said, “I thought you were my aunt!” Then I laughed all the way to the bank and checked the name in my underwear – and I was only sure I was me when I wasn’t wearing any. Memory can be overrated but being able to work out a problem is good stuff, so I told Miss Sasha to call the phone number on the box and ask a direct question.

In fact, my co-workers ask me questions all day long.

Beth: Can I ask you a question? I was just cleaning off my desk and I moved something and do you know what size mouse droppings are? Have you ever seen them? Are they small or big? We were having a mouse problem awhile ago, I remember, and I was just wondering –

Hmm. That doesn’t do this justice. Imagine Beth, who is a gentle, lovely person, talking without taking a breath.

Beth: CanIaskyouaquestion? IwasjustcleaningoffmydeskandImovedsomethinganddoyouknowwhatsizemousedroppingsare? Haveyoueverseenthem? Aretheysmallorbig? Wewerehavingamouseproblemawhileago,Iremember,andIwasjustwondering –

Tata: You saw mouse poop and thought of me?

Beth: [Can’t breathe for laughing.]

Tata: Go talk to Hal. He’s lived on farms all his life.

Maybe it’s the decades of working in a library, but I’m convinced that whatever the question, someone – somewhere – has the right answer. It’s probably not me, but someone. For instance, someone knows why this bullshit health insurance debacle has gone so horribly wrong and I am afraid it might be Dr. Marcia Angell.

Earth Is In Your Gentle Hands

Topaz and Drusy chase a moth from a strategic position atop the dining room table.

Open a bag of carrots. Cut off the ends, peel and slice on a diagonal. Heat a bigass frying pan and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour chicken or vegetable stock into the pan to a depth of about 1/2 inch. Sprinkle in: ground ginger, ground cumin, salt, pepper, minced dried orange peel. Add: one teaspoon honey. Toss in carrots and one can of mandarin oranges, whooosh around, cover and pop into the oven for half an hour.

You can substitute 1/2 cup dried cranberries for the oranges if you are so inclined. Don’t be shy if you like herbs: basil, thyme, marjoram or sage would be great, but don’t be afraid to try savory, cilantro, fennel seed, allspice, cnnamon…you get the delicious picture.

This Red Moon Leaving the City

Staring at the blank page.

Staring. Staring. Geez Louise, sometimes I have nothing to say and sometimes I have something to say that is going to burn down the house, baby. My mother now emails me each time she encounters a libertarian propagandist with a cursory knowledge of YouTube – not that she believes in that reheated crap. She just wants to know if I am familiar with the individual mouthbreather. I should just delete these emails. They make me want to scour my cerebral cortex with Scrubbing Bubbles. This morning, I told her today’s frother was inciting viewers to commit federal offenses. She thanked me for this analysis. Then I had a squinty headache all morning.

Lately, my co-workers and I are having a misunderstanding. They come to my cubicle and tell me about themselves without taking a breath. I listen. They tell me things I can hardly believe and stories they probably shouldn’t. Sometimes, I try to steer the conversation to less revealing, more work-safe topics, but I am not always successful. Because I choose to say little about myself, my co-workers now assume my internal life isn’t worth talking about. I realized this the other day when Tabby, another woman in my office with hip problems, asked me a question about my hip, then talked for twenty minutes about hers.

At the moment, I’m struggling with my feelings for the bar. I love the bar. I hate the bar. I loved every brilliant show I remember and forgot. I wish I had known when to leave. I am sorry I learned the hard way who my friends really were, but I’m glad I know now. And the bar needs help, again. In November, we had a nervous few days when everyone searched under couch cushions for change to help the bar pay back taxes before someone came up with a certified check. Now there’s a benefit to pay back the good Samaritan, and the cycle begins again.

What is it worth to have your punk rock bar? Tickets went on sale last week and I did nothing. I looked at the website and did nothing. Yesterday, someone asked me about the bar and I told him what I knew and I did nothing. Today, I bought tickets. These are my people. As much as I would like the bar to be less fucked up and the people to get over their co-dependency, neither is going to happen. Good thing I love Patti Smith.

What to say? What not to say? I’m considering starting a Facebook group called IF YOU ABSOLUTELY CAN’T STOP YOURSELF FROM FORWARDING UNFUNNY RACIST, SEXIST, HOMOPHOBIC, XENOPHOBIC, CLASSIST CRAP, UNFRIEND ME RIGHT NOW. Then again, that’ll burn down the house and you don’t want to do that by accident.

That you do when you’re good and ready.

Love Will Come But Like A Refugee

Seriously, I have a house guest hangover. Sabrina’s on a train to Secaucus. I’m draped over my desk, blurting, “I’m awake!” each time a co-worker trots past my desk. Pete, Sabrina and I talked all Saturday evening, all day Sunday and I wish I could have stayed home but I was afraid someone would talk to me, so I came to work, where people are used to me growling and baring my teeth.

Omigod. I’m exhausted! My hair, while really nice, is pointing towards magnetic north. I put on makeup this morning but it’s like my face soaked up color and demanded more. I’m wearing a pink shirt. Why do I own a pink shirt?

This is better than when I used to wake up with strange people and mysterious tattoos – but not by much!

All Made Out Of Ticky-Tacky

Yesterday, I was elbow-deep in a wild gift-wrapping extravaganza at the family store when Pete’s friend Sabrina called from Newark Airport to say she was at the car rental counter and her driver’s license expired in February. Oh sure, we’d chatted about her flying in for Pete’s birthday weeks ago, but time passed and I forgot all about it. I spun around behind the counter and observed three facts: the customers kept wanly saying Take your time, the gifts sat in a field of festive ribbon curls and the airport was more than 40 minutes away. I said, “There’s a train right to New Brunswick. We’ll pick you up by the bridge.”

Since then, no one has used his or her inside voice.

Don’t Be Blind To the Big

We interrupt this blog to point out that playing with your food is funny. For me. If I were you, I’d be dialing the pizza place right now.

Miss Sasha, my sweet:

A couple weeks ago, we were talking about edible cupcake papers and I brought up egg roll wrappers. You are probably right that spring roll wrappers, properly prepared, are the kind of textural nightmare dessert enthusiasts might find disconcerting, but I haven’t given up hope. In the meantime, I bought a $1.49 stack of dumpling skins, dug out the mini muffin tins and persuaded the cats to take a powder.

1. Spritz pans with release.
2. Fit dumpling skin into muffin well thingy.
3. Spritz dumpling skin.

Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes, depending on how half-assed your oven is. They came out of the oven crisp and golden brown. The second time:

4. Sprinkle on cinnamon and sugar. Lightly. I mean that.

Dude, these things are tasty, crunchy, subtle and you immediately shout about things you will be stuffing these cups with, should you stop what you’re doing and make more. Which you will.

So I was foraging in the basement for the regular size muffin tin when I came across a bag of my dad’s mini fluted pastry forms. After a good soak, the forms still look like murder weapons. That’s how you can tell they were well used, not that we’ll ever know on whom.

The dumpling skins fit beautifully into the forms but you have fit the skins with a firm hand. Once baked, they slip from the form or pan without any effort on your part, yay!

Baked dumpling skins are pretty. You can flavor them with anything. I wouldn’t try serving anything wet in these shells – or any shells, for that matter – but Pete promised me smoked trout salad with goat cheese and chives. Naturally, I will make the great sacrifice of eating that. You know. For science.

My sweet, if you think you could use the fluted forms, you can have them. Let me know what you think.