Now Lemme Get This Straight

Today’s the Solstice, the year’s longest day and the last day of the 180 days project, which went the way of the dodo when foliage blocked the view. I couldn’t even be mad about it because: Hello! Foliage! My friend drew a labyrinth on the lawn of a church, so I went and walked it on my way to work. At its center, I left a bottle I’ve carried with me since 1996. It used to contain amber oil but now holds bits of broken glass. A labyrinth invites us to leave something behind and take something away. I left the symbol of everything about me that broke when Morgan left. I took away the question of how I might feel smooth if I didn’t feel jagged anymore. Symbolism aside, summer’s here, and I feel better already. I smell great too. Why?

Perhaps it comes as no surprise that I’m practically nocturnal. Thus, every morning, I more or less tumble out of bed, get a pint of water, walk into a few walls, then try counting how many fingers I’m holding up. Most of the year, I do this in the dark, which is a real treat. Come springtime, I’m sick of myself, the stale indoor air and the too-cozy cucumber, shay or cocoa butter products I’ve been using all winter. I need something new to kick my ass and moisturize my skin. By spring, I crave grapefruit body wash. Orange, lemon or lime will do in a pinch, but grapefruit is the citrus bomb. Good thing it comes with this:

How to use: Pour onto moistened pouf, sponge, washcloth or hands. Work into lather and rinse. Avoid contact with eyes.

At 6:15 a.m., I can’t be counted on to know that stuff isn’t eyewash. But hang on! No self-respecting diva uses fewer than four products during even the quickest shower. What about the special needs of my glorious visage?

The Alba Coconut Milk Facial Wash may be the single most fantastic accidental discovery of my illustrious accident-prone career. A natural beauty can be careless about where she put her Pulitzer, but not about her skin. I was standing in the organic products ghetto at the grocery store in my home town, staring at a bunch of bottles because about twice a day I’m going to wash my face, and it might be nice to use something vaguely soap-like. Whatever, right? I love coconut-scented crap, so I thought I’d give this a try. Anyhoo, I would not care even the tiniest iota if this stuff were made of toxic waste because twice a day I put a dime-size drop of this goo in my palm, add water and slather all over my face, where it smells like DELICIOUS GIRL SCOUT COOKIES! Using Alba Coconut Milk Facial Wash is like washing your face with chocolately THIN MINTS WITHOUT YOU DOUBLING IN SIZE! Ooh, and it comes with thoughtful advice:

Directions for use: Apply a small amount of cleanser to palm and gently massage over face and neck. Rinse clean and pat dry. Avoid contact with eyes.

Sense a theme?

All My Secrets But I Lie

The leaves now obscure view of the city across the river, which is just as well because leaves also damp noise. The construction on Route 18, now in its eight hundredth year, encroaches closer and closer upon the domain of the river people. Any day now, busboys will be driving bulldozers, if for no other reason than that if I wake up in a drainage pipe domecile and find a gassed-up Caterpillar plus keys, obviously that’s a gift from God.

Pete and I are about to start work on the bathroom at his house. This means we’re going to pull down tile and walls, replace all kinds of mossy, moldy things, retile, repaint. In between, unaffected fixtures will be plastic-coated to vapor-barrier perfection, and my homework is eye-popping exposure to Holmes On Homes. My new mantra is does it meet code? and I worship at the feet of Norm Abram, High Priest of the New Yankee Workshop. It’s also possible the bathroom’s too small a space in which to unleash our combined demo fury, and I’ll spackle the kitchen because, dude, I totally rock the 100 grit sandpaper without chipping my high-gloss sea-green manicure.

The Sky Come Following Me

Pete, who forgets to be scared at the right moments, has taken a shift or two at the family toy store. For my sisters, this works out great because if they get mad at him they’ve got me as the off-premises enforcer and on-premises comic relief. On Sunday, the town turned out for a street fair. Pete and I brought crunchy snacks because things will go right and things will go wrong and my family members will – you’re not going to believe this – forget to eat. Anyway, we worked like a team of huskies inside and outside the stores. I overheard stuff.

Woman: I have to say it. I don’t like pizza.
Man: Well –

I ran out to the tent, where Pete and my niece Lois were describing gardening hats to young mommies pushing strollers. “He said, ‘Well, it’s not like you’re a COMMUNIST.'” Later, clouds gathered and a monsoon drowned the street fair. We had a great time noshing on grapes and arguing with carrot sticks and making plans huddled around the salsa. When the sun came out, Pete and I walked home and took a nap.

And Things Were Looking Like A Movie

A little while ago, Pete walked out to the fence to take that nightly picture we’ve neglected for the last week. As he framed this shot, he heard people talking, then saw them and their sleeping bags in the dark on the other side of this fence. Startled, he turned and walked back. Just then, a cop car materialized in the cul-de-sac and Pete waved. “There are people sleeping behind that fence,” Pete said.

I wouldn’t have done that, but Pete did because his tiny, middle-aged girlfriend sleeps 20 yards from this fence and he’s alarmed. The river people were down closer to the bridge and at river level a few days ago. I haven’t worried about them, but with a third night of rain predicted, I’m worried for them.

If they’re still there tomorrow, I should make them sandwiches.

Days Are Lit Like Everyone

Pete and I have had a tough time remembering whose shoes are whose, let alone remembering to go outside and pad back in with pictures and shoes on our paws. Such pressure! It’s so silly to fret when sun dapples our afternoons and yellow pollen coats our cars, which means that spring in the air and a rising prices at the pump turn a middle aged lady’s fancy to hoofing it to work. And hoof it, I do! I should start carrying a camera, shouldn’t I? I certainly thought so this morning, as I loped across the Albany Street Bridge over a Raritan River so smooth a single duck’s paddling strokes rippled gently from center and side to side. So let’s talk about space.

Our model is some sort of reality TV personality. Please don’t tell me who because I promise not to care. No, what’s important here is that our model’s spine looks like a spiral staircase and her toes could only be closer together if they were webbed. Women: I’m about to say something important. This momentousness may never happen again so please take note of both the date and what follows. Here goes: nothing says, “Infantilize me!” like standing around pigeon-toed and helpless. No man with a pulse and a say-so about your raise will take you seriously if you think this is an excellent posture to work, supermodel, work in your workplace, as in life. Strike this pose and you are toast, professionally.

It doesn’t matter if you agree with me. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like it. You will not be respected if you make yourself look feeble. Don’t bother exclaiming, “That’s how the models all stand now!” Despite our darling’s musculature, her feet make her look like a 98-pound weakling, unable to get out of even her own way, let alone up a flight of stairs or down to business.

Women, Miss Lynda Carter knew something thirty years ago working femmes may or may not know now: if you’re going to bump up against big boys you’d better take up some space. Think I’m kidding? Let’s experiment:

1. Sit in a booth with three male persons. No matter how big you are or how small they are, the menfolk will slouch, knees wide. If you cross your legs they will spread out wider. It doesn’t matter if these are your brothers, cousins or James Brown’s horn section; they will assume you are much smaller than you are, and the space under the table belongs to them.

2. Walk down a hallway where you know men will be walking in the opposite direction. Pretend for a moment you’re fully human and walk straight ahead. When a man walks dead into you and looks surprised, say, “Excuse you” and walk on. Another man will thump into you. It’s as if you’re only visible to special people, possibly with night vision goggles. Try not to act shocked. Back in film school, you saw Delicatessen, and somewhere deep down you know you’re edible.

echidne is in a bit of a mood, and as a no-wave feminist, I understand. Probably. My parents were feminists. My daughter is post-post-feminist. It’s all so very over in a time when girls grow up and skip off to corporate jobs without a moment’s thought as to what happened to both allow and force them to do so. In fact, we live in a time of enormously unexamined behavior, and for the most part, it’s up to each of us to give ourselves a vigorous look-see. Though I’m no expert at anything other than looking or seeing, I’ll help you get started. Stand up straight, shoulders back. Plant your feet parallel about shoulder width apart. Wear shoes that make you able and not unable. You’ve got to get some ground and stand it. Woman, take up some space.

Yesterday, Today And Tomorrow


Everything happened at once on Sunday and Monday. I couldn’t go to Virginia last weekend and the guilt was tremendous. Daria, Darla and Dara packed the up the house, though the packing never seemed to end, and on Sunday night, Daria had to leave to get her children to school Monday morning. Darla’s ex-husband drove down from Canada with a truck they packed all night. At about dinnertime yesterday, they closed up the house and Darla went home to Canada. Today, Dara went back to high school. We have said goodbye to Dad’s house, and to our life with Dad. For us, it is over. For Darla, a new life begins.


Miss Sasha, Mister Sasha and baby Panky – now nearly four months old – are leaving their house in California right now. Miss Sasha reports the house is clean, the boxes are stacked in another truck they’ll drive to San Francisco today. They have a plan, places where they have to report to the Air Force, and sights to see on their journey to North Dakota. They leave behind a forwarding address for packages that did not arrive in time, which turns out to be important. The birthday presents I mailed a week ago did not arrive. Let’s hope weary travelers are greeted at their new home by felicitous gifts.


I am washing and drying crisp pinstriped sheets and luxurious bath towels at home this afternoon. Yesterday I had some dental work done, so this morning, I called work and said my head wanted to stay flat for the foreseeable future. When you sit up and your skull says, “No, no, you had it right the first time,” you go back to bed too, right? Even Blogger refused to publish until now in the face of all this. The windows are open wide and a breeze perfumes the apartment. Sunlight dances along the surface of the gold organza curtains. This day was always coming. I can only let it pass through me on its way to Long Ago.

The Din Of Our Rice Crispies

I. I am a genius!

We dismantled Dad’s kitchen and I ended up with a bigass container of dried black beans; by bigass, I mean a 7-quart Sysco restaurant container, and by beans, I mean of indeterminate age and/or magical power. For many long months, I stared at this container and waited for inspiration, which means breath of the gods and there’s just not enough Gas-Ex, thank you. One day, a plan came to me. Pete laughed out loud, uncertain I’d do it. Two nights ago, we filled a quart bag with beans and went for a walk. The plan:

1. On a rainy night, fling beans near chain link fences everywhere.
2. Wait.
3. Watch out for falling giants.

The possible results:
1. Planting.
2. Composting.
3. Feeding outdoor critters.

We enjoyed furtively peppering lawns, alleys, empty planters and scrubby gardens with prospective beanstalks, which process became more entertaining the closer we walked to the center of town and spectators. No one asked us what we were doing. No one said, “You’ve literally beaned me.” No. People watched as Pete and I walked by and I exhorted our little legumes to grow toward the sun, be free, be free! This public art project memorializing my father is called the Beany Benediction.

No cows will be harmed in the making of it.

II. I am an idiot!

As we prepared dinner last night, Pete asked if there might be garlic in my kitchen. This request surprised me. “I’m fresh out of fresh but I’ve got chopped, freeze-dried and a metric buttload of granulated. When I acquire Garlic In A Tube, I shall rule the Alium World. Mwah hah hah!” I cackled.

Pete sniffed the chopped and made a face. Pete stared at enough granulated garlic to temper the effects of beach erosion. Pete grabbed a freeze-dried chip slice and tossed it into his mouth. Five. Four. Three. Two –

Tata: What’s the matter with you?
Pete: That was disgusting! Omigod –

And even though I watched him scrape the insides of his mouth with his fingernails I popped a freeze-dried slice of garlic into my mouth.

Tata: I’m not certain but my teeth may be on fire.

I sat on a chair in my kitchen, evidently waiting for the return of either common sense or blood to my extremities, as garlic still in my mouth continued hydrating. At no time did it occur to me to lean three inches to my left and spit out the tiny flaming tidbits singeing my tastebuds. For the rest of the evening, Pete and I randomly burst out laughing and moved a few inches further from each other. This morning, I woke up and the first thing I smelled was my own rank breath.

At work, I handed out emergency Altoids and promised I’d never do it again.

Cartwheels Turn To Car Wheels

Some Saturdays, I get home from the family store motivated to scour my bathroom, vacuum the drapes and refold Rhode Island. I roll up my sleeves and make the most of it, when I have that kind of energy. Vrrooooom! I love things clean and sweet-smelling! I love the few minutes three times a week when the bathroom floor is gritless and cat-litter free!

Today, however, I want a nap. It is my very good fortune that today, I can have one!

Don’t Fear My Darling the Lion

New York Times Online:

White House Offers Grim Outlook for Medicare

I’ll just tell you right now I can’t read this article because I will suffer an aneurysm. God damn it, I cannot think rationally about depriving Americans of access to what little health care they have –

Okay, I read it and only went a little cross-eyed. Here’s the howling mad part:

President Bush set forth his vision for Medicare in February, in a budget that proposed savings of more than $180 billion in the next five years. The House and the Senate rejected those proposals in budget blueprints adopted earlier this month.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the reports reflected policy decisions made by Mr. Bush early in his administration. The president inherited a budget surplus, but, rather than using it to shore up Social Security and Medicare, she said, he squandered much of it on “tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.”

Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, the senior Republican on the Budget Committee, said the reports showed that the looming crisis in entitlement programs “is not a phony issue, as some Democrats have stated, but a very real problem that is on our doorstep.”

The administration has lied to us so often it now sends someone out to say, “We’re not lying”? If you’re lying, and you say you’re not lying, YOU’RE STILL LYING. I believe this is another effort to turn the fiscal clock back to the heyday of the robber baron, and I’m quite sure about 67% of Americans agree. Don’t fuck with old people!

The lighting fixture that started our quest for color that honored Pete’s late mother’s taste in furniture.

In other Stuff You Won’t Believe, Stop & Shop corporate headquarters has not responded to my email this time to find out if I’m a real human and actually talk like this, but the local store’s manager called me at work. We talked about recycled stuff and healthier products and he tried to convince me that he was doing the best he could. Chitter chatter chitter chatter later, I asked him straight out, “Why did you call me? You’re not going to convince me to buy Bounty and shut up.” He actually tried telling me that all his product options were set at corporate and recycled products weren’t available. I said, “The Stop & Shop across the river has an entire recycled and healthy products ghetto, which is bullshit because when customers are in the paper products aisle they can’t see what their real options are.”

He said, “They have that?”

I said, “Maybe you’d better go look and compare notes. Your store is in trouble when I can tell you what you can order and you don’t know.”

DING! Thus ends Round 2. I may have taken that one but anyone could still lose.

The Boom-Boom Into My Heart

Pete often takes interesting pictures of this dull landscape. Tonight, as he chose his images, a sunset orange as pumpkin blossoms kissed the city goodnight. It was impossible to photograph and gone in an instant. On Monday nights, Discovery Home Channel runs a series of shows about painlessly greening up your life, which is great but miles from our thoughts as we skedaddled to Pete’s house, where we’ve been plotting, scheming and plotting some more, and now our eeeeeevil plan is in higglety-pigglety motion.

We’ve smooshed everything together into the center of Pete’s dining room, covered it in canvas and painted one hundred year old plaster walls an elegant and foreboding red. On the way to red, we first primed the walls with a dusty rose primer that gave me terrifying eighties flashbacks. Remember that Laura Ashley period in your life or the life of a misguided loved one? Brrrr. Red is the toughest color to work with because everything else bleeds through it. We painted and cut in and painted and cut in and painted and tried not to kill each other and pretended not to notice the way the old greenish-teal trim appeared to vibrate horribly in a red room. You see it there, lurking in the distance. Eradicating it in the dining room became my obsession. I can’t tell you how many times I said, “Five more minutes! Five more! I can quit priming any time!”

We were undecided before but tonight we decided the trim should be white-white. When I saw the deep, velvet red next to the fresh, bright white, all I could do was cackle with joy. Joy! Tomorrow: we paint all the trim. Later, the radiator and a pipe will be silver.