Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Doing a double dare

I spend a lot of time in elevators. Taking the stairs is not an option in our historic building. Something to do with fire towers and heavy doors and interior offices.

Anyway, this morning I got on the elevator with three other people and as is usually the case, one of them had his i-pod cranked up. The four of us stood there silently riding to a sweet piano trill followed by a heavy metal blast. It hurt. Should I say something? Say something! The doors opened to the fifth floor, my floor and I turned to him and said, that was beautiful and got off.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I love Barack Obama

Especially after looking at this gallery.

I hope that I can live through the next week without exploding.

Monday, October 27, 2008

File under: OMGOMGOMG!!!!

Yesterday we harvested potatoes.

But let me start this tale by recounting last year's potato misadventure:

My beloved gave me ten potato plants for my garden in the Summer of 2007. They grew and grew until one day I came outside and discovered that rabbits or squirrels had mowed down every last one. Once the process of photosynthesis had been properly explained to me, I stopped watering the stumps.

This year my beloved tossed two plants to me. She'd given up. They were an afterthought.

I planted them and surrounded them with barbed wire and look-out posts complete with alarms, kleig lights and miniature German soldiers that screamed "Halt!" at the slightest movement.

Thus they grew uninterrupted.

Yesterday she convinced me that it was time to start digging. I was afraid. Very afraid. I could only remember last year's Potato Famine and the specter of my hungry, howling children rose before my eyes.

But she was insistent and so she started gathering the vines:
And this is what we found:

We started screaming and saying, Oh My God! Oh My God! Oh My God!

I still can't believe how very big they are. I don't know what the neighbors thought, they probably heard us, looked out the window, lit another cigarette and returned to watching Paris Hilton's New Best Friend.

Digging those potatoes was very similar to giving birth although there was a lot less pain and a lot more dirt. But a very similar feeling.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Roasting Chicken

Choose one that's plump.

Leave it on the counter because you read somewhere that it should be at room temperature. Risk your friends' health by doing so.

Turn the oven on to 375 degrees.

Wash your hands.

When you remember it, take the plastic off the chicken, remove the giblet package and rinse the chicken under cold water, inside and out. Think funny thoughts when you see the water come out the other side. Wonder how you can think funny thoughts at a time like this.

Look frantically around the kitchen for the paper towels, trying to remember where you last saw them. Give up and use a paper napkin and pat the bird dry.

Take out a frozen stick of butter. Melt it in the microwave. Yelp when you pull the bowl out of the microwave because even though you have done this 435 times you still like to take a chance that it won't be hot.

If you're feeling fancy, get some sage out of the garden. Rinse it off and wonder if it's really getting clean as the water doesn't seem to be penetrating the leaves.

Add salt and pepper to the melted butter.

Wash your hands.

Loosen the skin on the breast meat and insert the sage leaves on the breast. Only push them so far because you're grossed out by what you're doing. Brush the melted butter all over the chicken. When you flip it over notice that it looks like the back of your infant daughter in her first bath.

Wash your hands again. They're very greasy.

Find the string. Pull off a couple yards of it. Cut it.

Criss-cross the legs and wrap the string around the chicken's ankles. Wonder if that's the right word. Continue to wrap up the chicken with the string, making sure the wings are close to the body. Admire how well you truss a chicken.

Set the chicken aside while you chop carrots.

Lay the carrots side by side across the bottom of the roasting pan, creating a rack.

Place the chicken face down on top of the carrots. Put it in oven and roast for 20 minutes.

When the alarm goes off, don't hear it because you are reading an article on Huffington Post about Sarah Palin. Realize you haven't heard the alarm when you head back to Yahoo to check your mail and go into the kitchen to turn the bird.

Notice that the breast bears the imprint of carrots and wonder if that will change as it cooks.

Reset the timer and forget to check at half hour intervals. Know that it really doesn't matter.

Baste it when you do remember.

Revel in the beauty of the browning bird every time you check it.

Go outside to look for the dog who has escaped the yard. When you bring her in enjoy the smell of the roasting chicken.

Overcook the chicken because that is how your beloved likes it.

Take it out and let it rest. Wonder if it hasn't been resting the whole time anyway.

Cut off the string and if alone, suck on it briefly and then discard.

Remove the chicken from the pan and place on a small platter known only to you as the Chicken Platter.

Wrap it in aluminum foil.

Drive while your beloved holds it on her lap.

Realize that you are one pair in the history of the human family that is traveling some distance to comfort someone with the gift of food. Imagine sorrowful couples coming on foot, by camel, trains, coaches, cars and horseback to visit grieving friends.

After her husband opens the front door and you see your friend who has lost her son hold her for a long long time. Offer her the roasted chicken.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Beautiful Boy

Spencer Barnett was the kind of kid that you knew would go on to do interesting things.

He paid me the highest compliment by once calling me cool.

He used words like haberdasher.

I knew him because his mom and I are friends.

We saw the Gates in Central Park on its last weekend. It was cold and he stopped on the street when we were almost there because he was out of breath.

We bought hats for a dollar each from a street vendor because we were so cold. His looked jaunty, mine looked dumb.

I thought he was brave when he wore a throw-back flowery shirt in high school.

He made me laugh.

When you made him laugh it felt like you had achieved something.

We had a dance off at a party at his house.

He liked to play games that require paper plates and pencils.

He patiently explained to my family how to draw five squares across and four squares down without acting like we were stupid.

He was handsome.

He loved the Phillies, Project Runway and Barack Obama, maybe not in that order.

He knew a lot about music.

He was a theater kid in high school.

He was into Queer Theory in college.

He played Helen Keller's father in The Miracle Worker.

He had a big imperfect heart.

Friday, October 17, 2008

I work for a wack-job

So that you don't have to.

I have a slightly twisted parenting method. My life is a series of lessons that my daughters are to learn from and the lesson is usually Don't Do What I've Done.

I've worked for a series of crazy women starting when I was 16 and a mother's helper for a woman named DeeDee. She said jump, I said how high. She said clean the bathroom twice a day, top to bottom, I did. She said make the beds, do the dishes for the family of five and a dinner party for 12, I did, I did, I did. Make coffee for my husband, let me sleep in, take the kids to the beach, okay okay okay and cheerfully too what's with the attitude. The kicker was that I was doing her job oddly enough though, never to her satisfaction. At the time I thought it was about me. I was disoriented, edgy, waves of adrenalin washing throughout my day and a sick feeling in my stomach.

Today I have a meeting with DeeDee version 2008. I'm still jumping, higher though and in a different way, the dishes have become events, the beds, public relations, and the family of five the company I work for. And the whole time DeeDee stands off to the side, judging my performance and surprise, it doesn't quite measure up.

DeeDee died by the way, of breast cancer when she was 45. And her husband, this handsome, engaging man, dropped dead of a heart attack shortly after. But don't worry DeeDee, you live on, reincarnated in my life with each new job.

Sometimes I listen to her voice in my head and realize I've heard it for so long I often mistake it for my own. Maybe that's why I've never quite been able to kill her off.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


I get on the 8:07 train from Ardsley each morning and here's what I want to say after I've hauled myself up those high steps to the train and face my fellow commuters:

Hello people! Why so saddy?

Everyone looks so down. Just a big bunch of depressives riding backwards into the city at the start of another new day. Some day I plan to step into the car and just start flinging little bright anti-depressants into the air! But I imagine no reaction, the shiny pills bouncing off them and falling on the dirty dirty floor.

The train starts moving pretty soon after I get on so I have to lurch down the aisle and scope out a seat. There's always an empty next to this one guy and I only take it occasionally so that he doesn't think I'm stalking him.

Oh look, here's someone who has a two-seater, all their stuff piled around, their feet up, headset on, pretending to be asleep. I feel a little sadistic thrill when I say, excuse me, may I sit here? Translation: party, over!

Just when they've finished pulling all their stuff onto their side I pretend to look further down and say "never mind!"

I could take the seat at the end where I'll be facing backwards, my knees hitting the man's across the aisle from me but instead I make a twosome in a three seater make room.

The response goes like this: they look up at me. I smile and slightly shake my head, acknowledging that I have just ruined something good, like coming across a kid about to take a big bit out of a candy bar they thought they had all to themselves. They sigh. Then, the crucial moment when they reveal that they are either generous or an asshole: a generous person will simply slide over, take the middle and let me have the aisle seat. An asshole will get up, move into the aisle so that I have take the middle and then sit down on the aisle. Me, I'm a welcoming slider and hope that I never become a greedy aisle hog. When I do say thank you to the aisle hog I make it sound a little like fuck you.

Once in the middle I take out my newspaper and oh my I have to fling those arms wide as I turn the page. "Sorry!" I say cheerfully. But we both know I am really saying fuckyoufuckyoufuckyou.

And we continue our happy ride backwards into the city on a bright and shiny new day.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

What's important

The blue sky edged with pink at its horizon.

The smell of woodsmoke when I step outside to walk the dog.

The dog.

The tangle of yellow chrysanthemums in the yard of the house at the corner.

This house.

The last mow of the lawn.

The children next door who know me as their neighbor.


Unsown squash growing out of compost.


The call before sleep.


Monday, October 6, 2008

In these times of economic crisis and personal peril

I hunker down with a slim volume by Miss Read. I join her in the infants class where the narrator teaches and walk with her in the little English village of Thrush Green or Fairacre or Caxley. I enter an alternate universe where people experience collywobbles and talk to their neighbors over hedges, gather together when a tree falls on the church to raise funds, relax in front of a fire with tea and approach everything with a sense of humor. Things work out, the world is a gentle place, people are realistic but kind, life is centered around community and church.
It's how I envision my life in Maine in a small village, my future self toting a pie to the parish bake sale, greeting my neighbors by name, getting my groceries at the general store and knowing that others will help dig me out in a snowstorm.
My neighbors here will dig me out but there's no tea afterwards. (Everything that is missing in my life can be traced back to not having a fireplace in my house.) I brought gifts to neighbors who had babies early in my years here but I've gotten distracted and tired and the last time I gave a pizza kit to the couple next door. I couldn't even get it together to make a casserole. I don't know some of the neighbors' names.
So I settle down with Miss Read who takes me to a world where people aren't as harried as me and take the time to walk down the lane, visit their neighbors and start the fire together.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Walking Down Market Street, 5:45

Step aside sister, I have a train to catch.

My, aren't we the pretty pretty princess, all sparkly in silver.

You made a PROMISE not to run in front of buses.

Crap here comes the Lanyard Brigade, looking for City Hall.

Must, push, through, Lanyard Brigade.

He has no legs and seems insane, should I still give him money?

I just don't think he would spend it responsibly.

Why am I here?

Passing on your left!

Do I have time to check my balance?

Why doesn't the market stay open past 6?

Shit! I have yoga tonight.

I'm not going, no time for dinner.

Yoga dinner yoga dinner yoga dinner.

I have to run.

I am running I am running.

They're looking at me so what.

Yoga dinner yoga dinner yoga dinner.

Channeling Gayle Sayers.

I loved Brian's Song.

How come I don't have a piano?

I miss playing the piano.