Pete and I recently had a house guest from Los Angeles. After dinner, she made a beeline for the kitchen sink and the soapy dishpan I’d set up before we sat down. Washing up proved quick with everything in place, but I watched quietly from across the kitchen as she rinsed with even less water than I would have imagined possible. Ah, I thought, she lives in a desert. The rules are different. Then we got almost no rain for three weeks while, north and south of us, we saw Wrath of God storms speeding across weather maps. Lawns baked brown and trees lost their leaves. Bees get angry, and you just don’t want your bees angry.I was raised by hippies and hairdressers, both of which cared about water conservation, though for different reasons. The former urged us kids to turn off the spigot because clean water is a finite commodity; the latter because water costs money, goddammit, and we are not made of money. I’m pretty careful with my resources, but not perfect. We use a rain barrel but could use three or four more. We are accustomed to water falling out of the sky every three or four days. When it stopped, we felt shitty and when it started again, better. I’ve been sick for two days and couldn’t get out of bed until 10 this morning. A full day of gentle rain? Bring it. All of this is to say the rain caused me to look out the empty bedroom window. In June, I sat in the backyard, pitting cherries with an old plastic cherry pitter when – THWACK! – the pieces in my hands flew apart and the spring disappeared. The cherry pitter recently disintegrated in my hands a final time and I threw away little pieces of a former kitchen gadget. A paring knife turns out to pit faster anyhow, and we find so few of those on the roof.
This morning, I simmered and jarred caponata, which is an eggplant salad unique to Sicily and the Italian foods aisle at your grocery store. You’ll find it next to the oil-cured olives, the pepperonata and the marinated artichoke hearts. If you still can’t find it, that’s because I got there first.
Last year was the first time I jarred this magical stuff. The first time I remember being aware of it was when Dad opened a prized jar of his private stash at Miss Sasha’s bridal shower and no I don’t know how this lapse in my culinary education was possible. Anyhoo, last winter I jarred it in 8 oz. jars; that’s fantastic lunch with a mess o’ Triscuits. Eight ounces of caponata is just the right amount for two sandwiches with melted Swiss. It’s not too much. It’s not too little. That’s why these babies here ate 12 oz. jars: because I enjoy playing with eggplanty fire.
Okay okay okay: tomorrow afternoon, my youngest first cousin gets married. That sounds pretty simple, right? It’s anything but: a few years ago, my cousin Tony joined the Army or the National Guard or something, went off to mechanic school and nothing happened for a long time. Finally, he was deployed to Iraq just as his father – my Uncle Frank – was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Uncle Frank is married to Auntie InExcelsisDeo, my father’s sister, and this diagnosis happened the fall after Dad died, so an entire Italian family ran screaming for about six months. Vern Yip redecorated Auntie’s house as a Christmas special and my cousin Sandy put together her wedding in a flash so her father could walk her down the aisle. The Army or the National Guard or something sent Tony home, which was a total shock to the woman he married in judge’s office on Tony’s way out of town, and they decided to get married in front of his whole Italian family, her biker gang and Uncle Frank, who’s building furniture and looks pretty damn good for a guy who was supposed to be dead two years ago, and two weeks ago now, Tony’s legal wife and shiny new real estate license holder Poppy announced on Facebook that she’s pregnant. Goddamn if I know where to shop for an event of this magnitude.
Tony and Poppy are getting married in a Friday afternoon ceremony somewhere near the Jersey Shore, but inland. It’s close enough that you can smell the ocean, but sometimes you can smell that from my house and we are talking about the Atlantic. Also: I’m not sure if it’s indoors or out, so who knows what we’ll smell. This wedding is also in the middle of August, when no one who’s anyone without a back-to-school shopping list would be caught dead in a a retail clothing establishment without a pea shooter and a garbled manifesto. Today, my sister Daria took pictures of half her plastic-wrapped wardrobe. Brace yourself: nothing says Poor Impulse Control like crazy people at a cocktail hour.
A week ago, the massage therapist watched me limp toward him. He pointed at my feet and said something remarkable.
Dude: Stop that.
Dude: How are you feeling?
Tata: My whole self is pretty good, but as far as you’re concerned I bet I feel less like a hip and more like two wire hangers and a canned ham.
About a week ago, my brain started to feel like a radio stuck between stations and broadcasting from Eastern Europe, but that’s okay. I’ve always wanted to see Prague. My confusion was compounded by Siobhan’s departure for a sparingly glamorous vacation just as it became apparent the Vespa dealers in New Jersey have all lost their minds. The guy in Neptune, for instance, actually said the words, “Yeah, but the color doesn’t matter,” as Fox News blared from the showroom flat screen behind his head. The dealer in Montgomery was pleasant, but allowed as how orange was a safe color for me, though of course it’s safe from me. Finally, the dealer in Metuchen put a quote in writing, then pretended he hadn’t, no backsies. I laughed all the way home, applying my reddest lipstick.
I’m going to make that man cry. Siobhan’s vowed to give up camping for good. So, of course, I feel better.