I Said Hey

This hallway isn’t furry – it’s FERNY. I didn’t actually see this myself, but it was the talk of my office today.

Photo: Bob Hosh, used by permission.

Longwood Gardens just debuted new bathrooms built into a hillside.

Photo: Bob Hosh, also used by permission.

The stalls look like zo. Very European, oui?

Photo: Bob Hosh, and he said I could!

Other Birds In So Many Words

What is it? It’s a Buddha’s hand!

The golden fruit is especially popular at New Year’s, for it is believed to bestow good fortune on a household. At year’s end–the Japanese who call it bushukan, also buy it. They use it as a decorative ornament and place it on top of specially pounded rice cakes, or they use it in lieu of flowers in the home’s sacred tokonomo alcove.

This fingered citron grows on a small spreading evergreen tree that reaches heights of three to five feet. It bears its main crop in winter, though it may produce a few fruits from “off blooms” throughout the year. American gardeners coddle the frost-sensitive tree as an ornamental and there are a few small-scale commercial growers in California who sell to flower shops and fancy food stores.

Some varieties of Buddha’s Hand Citron have a sour pulp. some none at all, but cooks interested in exotica value the fruit for its aromatic peel. In the United States it has curried favor with western chefs. Gary Palm of The Mission Inn in Riverside, California chops up pieces of rind to add a slightly bitter citrus tinge to fish marinades. Lindsey Shere, pastry chef of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California uses the candied peel in Italian desserts, such as pane forte. Allan Susser of Chef Allen’s in Adventura, Florida bakes pieces of candied rind in biscotti. It adds flavor that he describes as “kumquat-tangerine” which is distinct from the more lemony flavor of regular citrus.

Once again, we were tooling around the produce section of our hometown grocery store and found ourselves standing in front of a small display. The nearby greens looked wonderful. The radicchio looked like purple and brown death warmed over. Nestled on a lower shelf, we found four Buddha’s hands with little stickers identifying them but no price placard overhead, so checkout was going to be a blast. Checkout was even blastier when the sticker had fallen off, teenagers were running the registers unsupervised and no one could find Buddha’s hand anywhere in the price list. Though online sources suggest this should be expensive, we got it for 62 cents.

What would you do with it?

Pops Something Spiteful

Someone else’s execrable week can give you a lot to think about, even someone about whom you have mixed feelings. John Cole yesterday:

I’ve had a really shitty week, so let’s have a positive thread, and think about all the things we have going for us. The topic for this thread is “Name the best thing that has ever happened to you.”

I’ll start, and since I don’t want this whole thread to be answers like “my wife” or “my husband” or “my parents,” I won’t say the best thing that ever happened to me was being born a straight white male into an educated middle class family in the United States. Not that there is wrong being any other race/sexual orientation, etc., just that being born a straight white male in our society gave me some really unarguable advantages to the extent I’m of the opinion that if you were born in the circumstances I was born in, and find your life to be a mess, you should probably look in the mirror for your biggest problem (and yes, there are always exceptions).

SO I will rule that out, and that leaves me with the Army and Lily. Going to the Army and getting yelled at and whipped into shape, then going around the world and seeing places I might never have seen, meeting a bunch of people who were different from what I was used to in WV, and then being able to use my military benefits to pay for my education was probably the best thing that ever happened to me. Until Lily came along. Yes, I love Tunch to death, and I will grudgingly admit to loving Rosie when prodded, but Lily is the greatest dog in the world and loves me to pieces. When Tunch comes into the office, he wants food or water or a brief skritch behind the ears. When Rosie comes into the office, she wants food, or to go for a walk, or a ball. When Lily comes into the office, puts her front paws on my legs, and looks at me, all she wants me to do is push the seat back a little bit so she can sit on my lap while I work.

I don’t care what you say about dogs being con artists. Lily loves me.

Man oh Manischewitz, my brain went SPLAT! I’ve been thinking about this since then and I have no answer. The best thing that ever happened to you is probably a different thing than the best thing you’ve ever done, but my life has zig zagged all over the place and has more turning points than a big city ballet school. One answer? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe I could come up with a list, starting with happening to be the ill-timed spawn of two very smart, very good-looking, athletic people, born after the invention of aspirin, antibiotics and the polio vaccine, into a family that valued books, a fast one-liner and me. After that, shit, don’t you just hope to sally forth and do something cool?

I may not come up with answers, but thinking it over is a blast. Go read the comments. Some people can formulate an answer and some of those answers will take your breath away.

All the Time They Want To Take

As I watch the Senate, the House Dems and the White House wrestle and rant over a bad deal that will, no matter how successful or full of FAIL politically, help almost no one and actually harm a great many people. A lot of ink will be spilled no matter what bargain is struck, but thirty or forty years from now, we will see that this moment was a turning point for our country and by extension the world. Once the safety net is torn out from under us, there will be nothing to prevent millions of elderly Americans from starving, and this is now going to happen. Until recently, I thought horror and human decency might save us, but no. If you voted Republican, you voted for the vile soulless monsters who will make this happen, and if you voted Democratic, you voted for the spineless tools who will do nothing to stop it. We will all be to blame. We will pay for this for decades to come.

In other news, with a simple diet, exercise and meditation, we might get to hang onto minimum wage jobs long enough to put our grandchildren through useless make-believe community college: the new American Dream.

To Ease Your Pain Free Your Mind

Cats insist I'd feel better if I rolled in this like catnip.

Believe it or not, cats are alarmed when you cough up a furball. Which you might. I mean, you could. No matter how many times your cat friends have themselves coughed up a sticky goober, you should expect them to scatter if you offer noisy, gurgly hints you might do the same.

I shudder to think of it, myself.

Cats will also be alarmed if you buy presents online without free shipping. When the package arrives at your house, cats somehow know you paid retail plus shipping and everyone knows retail is for suckers. Cats, as everyone knows, love boxes. If you place a box on the floor that once held something purchased at retail cost, cats will scoff at this box. At this very moment, Topaz is hunkered down in a box marked HOT LEATHERS.COM, while Drusy circles and waits for her chance to sit in the box. Another box, halfway packed, rests on the floor near the dining room table, but the cats don’t care for it. I have a cup of soothing mint tea. For the moment, everyone is quiet. Everyone is listening.

Pretty People Nervous People

Working tonight on a donation inventory for the anti-hunger project. My hands don’t work so it’s all chicken scratch. My hip hated the hours of opening boxes and frenzied jotting. For hours, I categorized and counted everything one group of my co-workers donated for a family consisting of four children and one woman. The generosity was unbelievable, not to mention the wild imagination. Finding four tiny samples of my father’s obscure, expensive, favorite French soap, I burst into tears. My faith in humanity is fucking restored.

Wishing I had my own union elves.

Hooray For Our Side

Sometimes, people accidentally tell you what they really mean. Via Think Progress, today’s accidental truthteller is Senator Dick Durbin. Dick:

Social Security is the most important social program in America. The commission creates an actuarially sound program for an additional 75 years. It increases the minimum benefit for the lowest income Social Security recipients and adds a much needed increase in benefits for those above the age of 85. It raises the retirement age one year to 68, 40 years from now, meaning no one above the age of 28 today would be affected and the retirement age would be 69, 65 years from now. To protect those in manual labor jobs who cannot wait to retire, we create special benefit package that will still allow for early retirement.

My bold. That appeared Thursday in the Chicago Tribune. Back in October, though, he said something that explained why the hubbub, bub. Again, Dick:

Durbin said raising the retirement age would be unfair to workers who do physical labor.

“It’s tough to say just stick around and deliver mail for another couple of years, be a waitress for another couple of years,” Durbin said.

Instead he recommends boosting the percent of wages that can be taxed to fund Social Security. He said in 1983 90 percent of wages were subject to Social Security taxes and now only 83 percent are. He added that the increase would come from beneficiaries “in upper income categories or their employers.”

Also my bold, but I’ve seen that little slip widely misquoted. Okay, bear with me, my dumplings. We’ve studied the language for decades and we have our own opinions, but the fork in the road lies at the intersection of I’m not sayin’ and I’m just sayin’. Look at Durbin’s phrasing. He’s NOT saying it’s tough to stick around and deliver mail for another could of years or be a waitress for another couple of years. He’s saying it’s tough to tell people they will be doing so. A month later, he finds finds the strength. Our suffering is nothing compared to his. His heroic stand for our ability to eventually retire from jobs we can’t get or physically perform will be long forgotten by a workforce too old to work and too young to expect to be treated respectfully. Imagine being 25 and competing with Grandpa for a minimum wage gig.

Thus, Dick Durbin accidentally tells us what a dick he truly is, and what a progressive he is not.

Addendum: Shortly after I posted this, Planet Green,an entity with the words sustainable and vegetarian in its mission statement, broadcast Buzzworthy Barbecue, demonstrating that nobody knows who the hell they are and what the fuck they’re doing.

I’m An Ordinary Guy

Do not laugh at nurses. Heed me!

For three weeks, the lung ick and the anti-hunger project have been racing to kill me. I answered emails at 5 in the morning while gasping for breath. Sick days were notable for their number, intensity and hoarse phone calls to volunteers. I broke down and took Advil. Then Almanzo over there tossed the “What if I cut cancer class, huh?” card on the table as I was no longer able to even lie flat, so I went to the goddamn doctor. The doctor prescribed two more prescriptions than I would have been willing to take even a day earlier, then I went to take photos for the project while coughing, which means eyeliner was coursing down my cheeks. We locked up the donations and I went for a chest x-ray. Hey! No pneumonia. My sister Daria owes me five bucks!

Being sick is boring and talking about being sick is a bore. I can’t wait to have something else to talk about and a voice to talk about it in that doesn’t remind me of Joy Behar’s. There’s nothing wrong with Joy Behar’s voice, when it’s coming out of Joy Behar’s mouth, but when it’s coming out of mine, I’m looking around for Whoopi and ready to kick Elizabeth Hasselbeck’s pampered ass. After a nap, maybe…