Put A Marshmallow In Each Ear

Though 35 miles south of New York City, the town where Pete and I grew up was just as in the middle of nowhere as any other. Nobody had FM radio until the mid-seventies, but even after that, most people were marooned in AM radio waves while ABC and NBC radio battled it out. If you were really lucky, you had enough money for records or eight track tapes. I probably bought three or four records a year. For me, FM radio was like sparkly jewelry. I’d hear a song once, fall in love with it, then maybe hear it again months later. Sometimes I could figure out whose song it was, but most often not, and I had no idea what the players looked like. Sometimes, a song took on an air of mystery as I waited to hear it again, if I ever did. Here’s one now.

Those crunchy guitars, the mushy lyrics, the improbable and almost comical harmonies: to my 15-year-old ear, this was a perfect radio song. There was no way in the world I’d get to see a band play a show, and even getting to see a band play live on television was unlikely, so today is the first time I’ve seen The Sweet. Bless my buttons, these skinny boys are super sexay rock stars. The hairstyles alone are genius. My dad came back from Europe dressed like this and the women in my town lost their minds. Bonus: the bizarre camera work would not have interfered with my gooey teenage love of this song, had I seen this video. From experiences like this, from waiting for weeks or months to hear a song a second time, I developed a hunger for certain musics I couldn’t get to and couldn’t have.

You: Ta, what in glamorous tarnation are you getting at?
Tata: I thought you’d never ask!

I love this like the Flying Lizards’ craven and comic version of Money (That’s What I Want):

Needs a white scarf with fringe for real glamor.

Tomatoes and zucchini is the answer to the question, “What the fuck am I going to do with another freaking zucchini?” The recipe for onions in vinegar came from the Ball cookbook, which as you might imagine is full of Post-Its, index cards and syrup stains. The tomatoes and zucchini recipe has vague points like what volume of tomatoes to use and why after five minutes’ simmering zucchini would be cooked through, so I added some lemon juice to the jar before processing. The onion recipe is for red onions in red wine vinegar but I ran out of both and improvised with white onions and vinegar, adding a tablespoon of pickling spice to the simmer, which I let go awhile longer than the recipe described because my father-in-law arrived at my kitchen door. Pink pickled onions will be fantastic on homemade pierogies in January, almost as good as a new guitar sound on a bright summer morning, when anything is possible.

Of Skin You Can See Through

The packaging really sells this product.

Thursday night, I started feeling a little hinky. BP capped the gusher in the Gulf – if it is capped – and though my sense is strong that this thing is not done yet I was limp with relief and fatigue. On Friday morning, I woke up, called out and went back to bed but could not fall asleep. My mind ran in circles. I got out of bed and began tracking down recipes as a form of discipline, to prevent panic, which is only hilarious when you watch someone else do the silent-film-hair-stand, boobitty-boobitty-run-run and reeeeeewwwwww-faint. But you’re right. That is funny.

It's like the eye test of the damned.

Sometimes, when you feel like reheated merde, the thing to do is work for someone else’s good and quit thinking about yourself, by which I mean that it’s all about me when I think about you. I stuffed this pile of cat blankets into a space bag, sucked out the extra air – with a vacuum like other adults! – and wrapped all that in brown paper and half a roll of packing tape. This package sat in the little red wagon while I dragged it through the grocery store, where I remembered to buy gelatin packets but forgot cat treats. I shiver, just thinking about it. Then I mailed the package and felt a weight lift.

Please admire this festival of B Vitamin readiness.

For the past two seasons, Pete did most of the jarring and I ran around, peeling, scouring and scaring up recipes. Last year, I didn’t even boil water without him except to try a jelly or a jam that failed, as I recall. This year, Pete’s upstairs painting and I’m downstairs paring. Pickled beets are not my favorite nosh but that B Vitamin surge sometimes means the difference between my getting out of bed and my lying flat with cartoon X’s over my eyes. So it turns out jewel-like pickled beets are really easy to prepare, fresh pickling spice is a reason to live and little black cats will supervise your early morning photo shoot.

Me But I Was Only

These cat blankets are Topaz Approved.

This morning, I bicycled to work and parked my bike in a rack. As I was taking off my helmet, I saw reflected in the library’s windows what appeared to be an impossibly large bird sliding out of the branches of a nearby oak tree and onto the ground. I turned around to figure out what I’d seen and inched toward a low wall, beyond which a very large bird did in fact stand. I stood there and stared at her. She stood between 18″-24″ tall, with motley brown feathers and a hooked beak. I asked her what she was doing there. She looked right, left and right again, but she didn’t answer. Birds and squirrels overhead shouted and squeaked. Suddenly, I had an odd feeling I wasn’t seeing the whole picture so I inched closer to the wall so I could see her whole body. She was standing on a squirrel, which was making a frantic effort to escape. Speechless with horror, I stood there until the department head I’ve referred to for decades as the Source of All Evil walked toward me on the flagstones, asking what I was looking at. I pointed. She’s got one of the squirrels, I said. The Source of All Evil gasped. The giant bird startled and took off, taking the helpless squirrel with it. The shouting in the tree stopped abruptly. It was more than an hour before I stopped imagining the giant bird tearing apart my flesh. Later, Lupe appeared in my cubicle doorway, having seen a woman jogging in rutched shorts, a tank top and no bra. I would have traded her visit from 1987 for my sticky corner on the Circle of Life.

Are those red carrots or carrot-shaped beets?

Through Me Look Right

This morning, I got up before the alarm, padded to the bathroom and flipped on the light. It rained all night. The air was still heavy with humidity. My hair was literally standing on end and knotted into a nest. I looked around for tiny, homeless birdies to house.

Now don't fail my feet.

A few months ago, polishing my toenails became difficult. Washing my right foot in the shower now requires concentration and effort. Putting on socks has taken on an exciting suspense: can I apply the sock to the right foot without hopping across the living room and scattering snickering kitties? Do not kid yourself: you do not want to hear your cats laugh at you! Anyway, I looked at my toenails, previously a palate of wild color, and lamented how far away the seemed.

Tonight, I decided not to give an inch. It’s just a little thing, red is, but color at the ends of my toes provides proof that I can do what I decide I will, and I will prove it again every week.

You Lay Down In the Road

Via Monkeyfister:


The images and the prospects for the future shock the conscience. And yet, as David Fahrenthold and Juliet Eilperin report, despite the disaster, despite its direct ties to our addiction to oil, the spill has resulted in almost no groundswell for environmental change.

The WaPo article DDay cites points out that Americans have reacted with determined indifference:

U.S. government estimates show that public demand for gasoline and electric power is looking stronger now than last year at this time. If these disasters have made individuals start conserving their energy use, “it’s not something that we’ve been able to observe,” said Tancred Lidderdale of the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

All of this makes a sharp contrast to 1969, when a far smaller oil spill – 100,000 barrels (4.2 million gallons) – hit beaches near Santa Barbara, Calif.

That spill triggered new restrictions on offshore drilling and, along with other disasters such as the fire on Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River, it helped spark the first Earth Day in 1970. In the years afterward, the government imposed historic new restrictions to protect clean water, clean air and endangered species.

This year’s spill hit in the era of recycling, organic food and hybrid cars: In fact, two days after the explosion, the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig sank on Earth Day’s 40th anniversary, April 22.

But, experts say, the reaction to this spill revealed a shift toward quieter, less ambitious environmental politics.

One reason is the economy: Concerns about unemployment have made the public and elected officials wary of the costs of change. People still remember $4-a-gallon gasoline a couple of summers ago, and don’t want fossil fuel to become more expensive.

Compromised environmentalists don’t look so hot either:

The Nature Conservancy’s chief scientist, Peter Kariva, also responded with a blog post defending the group’s collaboration with BP. “In fact, although we have never engaged with BP or other energy companies on their offshore Gulf drilling, maybe we should have — we might have been able to help site their activities to reduce the risk to the Gulf’s globally significant habitats.” Commenters fired off many angry responses to Kariva’s post.

Reportedly, BP also provided $2 million in donations to Conservation International. In response to the spill, the group plans to review its relationship with BP. Conservation International Vice President Justin Ward said, “Reputational risk is on our minds.”

Further, the Sierra Club and Audubon, along with other energy and environmental groups, joined with BP Wind Energy in 2007 to form the American Wind and Wildlife Institute. The Economist also reports that the Environmental Defense Fund helped BP develop its internal carbon-trading system.

Within a week after the well blew industry shills mounted a televised assault on environmental regulation. For a few minutes, I was actually shocked that people were willing to cross this line into raving indecency – because make no mistake, that is what it is – and declare that despite an ecological disaster that will change the complexion of our planet our toxic lifestyle would continue. If they had fiddles, I’d swear Rome was burning. But why should I be surprised by the magical thinking that allows crazy people to blather on about trashing our planet, ourselves and acting like there’s some other world we can all wreck next?

Look, it’s over. This life is over. We have to adapt to this reality or die.

Everywhere In My Mind

In most things, one can find good news and bad news. When I read this recipe I had questions, but finally my first thought wasn’t I’ll ask Dad – to be immediately followed by Ah shit, not again. Usually, I’d ask Minstrel Boy technical questions about jarring, but he has his hands full at the moment with another matter. This meant that I stared at this recipe for a few days, bought the cherry tomatoes and still hadn’t figured out how to measure English pints in grams in my kitchen. Last night, Pete and I bicycled over to my sister Anya’s and asked if she had a food scale. She did not. Her husband Dan, who is a terrible liar – by which I mean he has no talent for it – pulled out a half gallon of soy milk and began converting milliliters into centimeters. I guffawed at him. If I remember correctly from third grade, that might work with water but not cherry tomatoes and certainly not since for me numbers are a little fuzzy. This morning, still perplexed, I called my boss Gianna, who lives three blocks away. She was not at home.

Tata: Hi, this is Ta. I was wondering if you had a food scale that measured in grams. I have a French recipe for tomato jam that calls for ingredients measured by weight and not volume, and since grams are usually the province of drug dealers, I don’t exactly know what to do. Stop laughing and call me back.

I thought about what I’d just said and rousted Pete from under his car. No, I hadn’t run him over. Yes, he was working on his brakes. With TOOLS! We went to Target and while I tied myself in knots trying to find something remotely underwear-esque to wear to the massage therapist’s, Pete picked out a decent food scale. He is our hero! I am considering going back for the boxer shorts with the mugs of beer.

Gianna was at a wedding and called back while we were in the car.

Gianna: I got your message. What?
Tata: The recipe I’m working on came from a French source and I got stuck.
Gianna: A French recipe. What? How?
Tata: Those questions sound so reasonable when you ask them! We bought a scale. If the recipe turns out, I’ll bring you a jar and if the recipe doesn’t turn out I’ll save your life and not bring you a jar.
Gianna: Thanks. I think!

Turns out 2 pints of cherry tomatoes weighs about 800 grams. Finally, I can start making sense.

Verse Same As the First

Having a bit of trouble with WordPress. This is where blogging is a tap-tap-tap test of my patience: I do not care a gold-plated whit for the technical aspects of programmers’ brilliant creations because they absolutely do not matter if I cannot post, dagnabbit! So after two days’ frustration, I’m back at the drawing board. Here, watch this silly video.

Last night, I was futzing around with a post and published it just to see if I was imagining that WordPress was rewriting my code. The phone rang and Miss Sasha sounded panicked.

Miss Sasha: It’s all letters and numbers!
Tata: Wut-wut-wut?
Miss Sasha: Your blogpost! It’s all letters and numbers!
Tata: Not only that, but I haven’t figured out how to delete that! Wait, don’t you have small children, a husband and an indoor petting zoo to feed?
Miss Sasha: Sometimes, they feed each other. Whoops! I love you, bye!

She says, Whoops! I love you, bye! a lot lately. I don’t mind so long as she calls back later and says something like, Well, llamas spit. What’re you gonna do? because how can I argue that?

Today, Trout cleaned out her closets and brought me a big mess o’ yarn for the cat blanket project. That was nice, but what left me speechless was she also brought a DVD of an ambitious group performance piece from 1995 called Wrongs and Rites. Trout had a video tape. Her Significant Other converted it to the current format for me. Just this morning, I was saying to Minstrel Boy how I despise cowardice and this evening, the Universe called my bluff. Johnny:

This week, I bought a pair of Doc Martens for the motorcycle safety course. Did you know 1995 was 15 years ago?