Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Best Years of Our Lives

The Jewish new year races in on dark autumn clouds and I'm cleaning house: throwing ballast, the rubbish and old rain boots, the matchless socks and phone bills from a number long erased, electric bills of an apartment that now holds the life of strangers; lidless burned out pots and pans, the clocks that stopped forever.

Reaching up to dust the shelves, I find again the journals, a row of frayed black sketchbooks filled with three decades of my story.

It's extraordinary to be able to look back in this way, as a historian examines primary source material. Grand themes in the pages: loves, lost and found, sex, marriage, birth, death. The world seen through the eyes of a schoolgirl, the growing up years, the years of uncertainty, dreams, desire, and loss, the quest for love and acceptance. My parents and grandparents are in there, all my family, from that precious time when I could still refer to them in passing, as we met often in the hall and I was always on my way to somewhere else, not really knowing how quickly things change and people leave, and that I should have stopped for a moment to listen and hear while I still had the chance; the new dress on its hanger was in no rush to be worn, and the boy could wait, slouching at my door. I could still refer to the dear ones dismissively, peripherally, when everyone was still together and alive and could be taken for granted.

There are empty spaces here and there: it is 1996 and then, all of a sudden, 1998: "...Alex and I have been married two years now!"

There are periods of garrulous, compulsive recounting: years of pages filled to the margins with tiny detail of wardrobe and crush, the things said, eaten, music of the moment and books read, little obsessions. Parties are vivid here, the little toy favors of childhood birthdays, and, later, those innocent debauches when the Brooklyn cops came, impatient and preoccupied, to spare the neighbors. Mementoes fall into my hands: last remaining petal from a rose tossed to me, by the Rev Al Green, at a concert in the park. Photo booth strip of young me and Alex, black-and-white looks between us so tender that they animate the static frames. And a tiny secret note from the eight-year-old daughter of a roommate I had in graduate school, slipped into my hand as she brushed by: "you are the best friend I evar had and I hope you new that."

In all those pages I'm there, as a child as a teenager a young adult as I am now. My flaws and faults are clear: vain, proud, arrogant, anxious, hot-headed, distractible. I like to talk about myself, I like clothes and shoes a bit too much. I retreat from people, sometimes, when I'm needed.

But there's something else too, a certain recapitulated variation on a theme. Through it all, through the very hard times and the very good times, I can count on the fact, as surely as I can count on rain and sun and day and night, that I will never tire of the clamor of life: its steady routine and its exigencies, the profane dreams and the clean sheets, the bittersweet flow of days and years, mad and sane, troubled or peaceful, all its variation and endless possibility.

photo of a stack of my old journals

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Rejected Post Topics Part 3

My mind is traveling here and there without fully alighting anywhere. So here, in relaxing list format, are some post topics I've considered and then rejected:

1. My romantic dream about Adrian Monk

2. Lesson that should've been learned from Valley of the Dolls: pills and vodka do not mix, my friend. Not even one pill and one vodka shot, not even in a moment of frivolity.

3. Before you lambast the NYPD, consider this: the nature of their jobs and the fact that, while you are hiding in your vestibule, or behind a bush, cheerfully hurling accusations of racism and police brutality into your camera phone while sipping cocoa and peeking out at the scene through double-paned glass or thick shrubbery, they must actively engage with it.

4. The grumpiness of tweens and how sometimes an offer of a cookie and a hug will diffuse that. Just like when they were three!

5. Too bad the focus was taken away from (creepy I'll admit) Michele Bachmann's initial take-down of Perry's mandatory HPV vaccine. And since when did hard science or objective evaluation research findings EVER STOP monomaniacal lobbyists on either side of the political spectrum?!

6. I propose that we employ a law enforcement staff who will serve the sole purpose of lurking around adolescents on dates and then holding them down to forcibly strap on rubbers at the moment of sexual contact. And if said law enforcement were kitted out in mirrored sunglasses and leather boots, I suppose they could serve as a Third! And let's call them The Rubber Squad. And fund them with tax dollars.

7. While we're at it, Mayor Bloomberg, let's use tax dollars to fund an attractive band of yoga instructors who will roam the city, knocking cigarettes and Cokes out of our hands, pin us down between their yoga thighs, and stroke our brows with calming flower essence. Yes, let's!

8. Department of Transportation public service ads importuning the NYC bicyclist: "don't be a jerk!" Suggests too many NYC bicyclists are being jerks. Doesn't help their public cause...maybe a private mail campaign sent only to jerks?

9. pumpkin-flavored food items celebrating autumn: do we like them or are we wary?

10. Although women certainly don't ask to be raped, unless they're into role-playing B and D, it is to say the least ill-advised to stumble off from your group of girlfriends, at 2 a.m., heavily drunk and a walking bullseye. Harden your target, ladies!

11. Men who take up women's causes and then argue with women over women's causes are immediately suspect. I call it the New Sexism.

12. Pounding three shots of espresso wakes you up but then gives you the shakes: cost-benefit analysis?

13. Telling military men and women that you support them but not their job is like telling your mom that you love and respect her even though she sucks as a parent and well actually now that you have considered it, you don't love or respect her that much after all.

14. For the love of god, think before you hit send on that email.

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Ad Astra

These rocket thrusters, photographed at NASA in Houston, Texas, were some of the most hauntingly beautiful things I've ever seen: the inner rounds of them like whorls on a massive seashell, like things found in nature, realized in metal.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

New Boots

I've been trying to figure out what one does with a commentless blog, because I am so used to blogging with an eye to receiving comments.

I had another rant planned, but I was too busy to indulge myself today, so instead, I'm posting a photo of my new boots.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Two Lights above the Sea

For all the history of grief
An empty doorway and a maple leaf

For love
The leaning grasses and two lights above the sea--

(from 'Ars Poetica' by Archibald MacLeish; photo of the twin tower memorial lights taken outside my house in Brooklyn)

Friday, September 2, 2011

What Do I Tell My Daughter about September 11?

My daughter is the child of a 9/11 First Responder, and at ten-going-on-eleven, she's finally beginning to ask questions.

In the last 10 years, like so many children her age, she's held onto the specter of apocalypse, of falling skyscrapers, dust plumes that billowed as high as buildings. Daddy ran out of the house that morning to do his job, but wasn't missed during those long 3 days of absence by a baby who knew nothing of life but nursing and the cardboard block tower she built and wrecked over and over, in unwitting metaphor. In these last years, the threat was as dim as the threat of volcanoes learned in lower-school science unit, or a long-ago hurricane tempered by a funny anecdote of Daddy, in its quiet eye, asking to go out for ice pops promised in the heat of a South Texas afternoon.

We are a family that likes to keep memories. Writers, journal-keepers, recounters of stories--we keep history in words and telling. I knew once a generation of soldiers, back from the war, many of whom kept their secrets to themselves--Grandpa Ozzy, a tall, kind, and taciturn man, crawled the beach at Normandy on D-Day, amidst the bodies, dead or screaming, the sand and blood under his nails, the radio pack on his back slowing him down like the worst anxiety dream. He returned from the war quite deaf from the explosions all around him, and very very quiet on the subject, an anomaly in a family of Chroniclers. His memories were never told, and died with him.

As a child, I knew, and wondered, and knew not to ask him.

And now Elanor wonders, and, as we are consummate Tellers, we'll tell. Even Daddy, who is the chief memory-keeper of this particular bad dream, the one who, when the light hits him just right, is covered still in ghostly remnant of toxic dust and all the sights and sounds, even Daddy will tell.

But tell what, and how much? What details to tell, what to keep?

It is always said of children that they like an ordered, safe, predictable world. They like a hint of danger; to build pillow forts against it; to keep a tin of snacks and a flashlight for the tiny apocalypse or the little storm--but they want to believe in their own bodily integrity, and that life will move on smoothly, that bedtime will come, and after it the boring school day.

So there is a choice now. What to tell? The falling bodies of those who committed suicide rather than burn alive, or suffocate. Nightmare unending dusk, when Daddy and his comrades paced the unpeopled city, protectors of a mass grave. The fear that seizes us when we know real chaos and dust, blood and sand, noise and finally the silence of the low road.

Or the idea of a bravery so profound that it sent people down in an airplane to crash and die, knowing they would crash and die, knowing they were being used as a missile and choosing not to be that missile, choosing to die instead and spare others?

I started to tell her the story of that plane, and in doing so hoped, in my usual grand but well-meaning style, that I was telling her the whole history of great and terrible acts of human courage. But my story caught and stopped, and though not crying, I couldn't go on.

Well, perhaps another day. For I have to believe we have all the time in the world.

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Monday, August 29, 2011


A tree spear came down from the stormy sky and skewered the roof of our little guest cabin, pierced right through and through, driven by force all the way down to the floor inside.

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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hurricane Irene Party

The day ended with a swim in the lake and a picnic. The air was supernatural: completely still, a wild and lovely pink sunset, then darkness: close, hot, and humid. 24 New Way Lunch hot dogs with The Works: diced onions, mustard, a bit of cuminy meat sauce. Onion rings, ginger ale, beer, saki, candles, lanterns.

Now for the rain, the wind!

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Friday, August 5, 2011

But I Can't Fly Without Caffeine, Road Trip Part 6

Now that I've come down from that angel dust high of the South Texas beach, whose mad bright sexy come-on line made me think I might just launch myself airborne...well, sobered up, I can bitch about the other side of a road trip: the devastating lack of decent coffee. It is a sad state of affairs indeed when the Starbucks logo appears to me as a luminous emerald herald of all that is Good and Right...

Oh South, what is it with you and your weak-ass coffee? Why are you playing me like this? Even Cafe Du Monde--shame on you, former chicory haven--presented me with a pale drink as milky as an opal. Hot shops, truck stops, cafes, homes, hotels, motels, dives and fancy restaurants: uniformly pallid brew.

One lone beacon of hope was Tootie's, where finally I procured a deep dark cold murk of well as coconut custard pie...but we weren't speaking of pie, so I won't elegize, or rather fetishize, the smooth pale yellow creamy spoonsful, the toasty tender flakes, the thick crumbling crust...for while the South can't make a cup of coffee to save its Confederate life, it can certainly win the war with its pie!...

Anyway, bless you bitter expensive Starbucks, because three espresso shots and a few headlines later, I am for the nonce as right as rain.

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Thursday, August 4, 2011

South Texas Lullaby, Road Trip Part 5

I went to sleep last night in a huge soft white boat of a bed, toes tucked in cool cotton sheets, air conditioner humming me free of the murderous, humid heat, and as my eyes closed, the last thing I saw outside our bedroom window was the dark water moving and the last thing I heard was the singing of ocean wind, the lullaby of South Texas...

I woke again to water, a bright heat, and a lone crane visiting the neighbors across the way.

How funny it seems to me that a
Brooklyn girl, a lifetime back East spent on concrete and under immense dusty old-growth trees, or in the rumination of pine-dark, cold mountainscapes, could feel so right, here: the strange heat, the scrubby thirsty land remind me of my own bones, my foundation; and the vast sky, alive with clouds, releases the bonds of gravity. Looking up I am convinced I could fly!

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Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Weight of a Snake, Road Trip Part 4

The Voodoo priest was a very nice man, who giggled at his own little off-color jokes. Yet, behind the thin distortion of lenses, his eyes, preternaturally blue, held mine without once wavering. Even in the damp close hot courtyard where we met to talk, even in the close air of a Louisiana midsummer, I felt a prickle on the back of my neck, under that gaze.

He spoke in such a soft little voice that it was necessary for me to put my hands on the table and incline my head intimately toward his, all the way forward, as if leaning in for a lover's kiss. Even then, I could only catch every fourth word, like whispers on a rustling wind: "death...snakes...look...hear...old path." I knew that I was allowed to assign any meaning I wished to his words, or no meaning at all; in the end, the words were of no great importance, just something to say.

The priest stroked sweet oil on my forehead, and on my palms, and he laid the resting coil of python across my upturned hands, and blessed me, and the weight of the inscrutable snake was a new experience of sensation: cool, still, heavy, quietly alive. A message, a lesson: a way to be in the world!

The snake raised her head and stared at me for a moment and her eyes were, improbably, as blue as the priest's eyes.

(photo taken at the Voodoo
Museum, New Orleans)

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Friday, July 29, 2011

Voodoo Letter, Road Trip Part 3

Dear Jack,

I hope that you will feel this pin through your heart as I feel the sharp prick of the pin you slid into mine. I dream about you every night, strange dreams, cruel dreams, baroque dreams, drawing room comedy dreams where the polite laughter is always at my expense, and, right before I wake, I'm left alone at the roadside, the seaside, the dinner party, the carnival.

If only magic and prayer would keep you bound to me...



visit Theme Thursday: Letter!

(photo of a voodoo doll taken at the New Orleans Voodoo Museum)

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tennessee Morning, Road Trip Part 2

A nice bottle of Cheerwine soda pop and a leisurely browse through the Just Busted pages...Cheerwine is a subtle gustatory mix of faux cherry, off-brand cola, and poison. I will say that it woke me right up.

The mountains here are spectacular, and thanks to the hallucinatory effects of Cheerwine, they are looking larger and smokier than ever on this bright morning. Thank you for your hospitality, Tennessee! I mean that.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Road Trip Part 1: Hotel Room

On the road to far the sights: a truck stop, a bible, and rain on the windshield.

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Friday, July 22, 2011


Our fragments of Grandma are ruined, mostly. The comb misses its teeth, the straight pins are rusted. The lace yellow, beyond bleach; china chipped, beyond glue; sweater frayed, beyond darning; beads loose, beyond stringing; books grey, beyond dusting.

As if the violent storm of years tumbled the leftovers to, fro, in winds and waters, leaving them wrecked and broken, swept gracelessly back into the closets and drawers of a very old white cottage by a very old lake.

Alone of a lifetime's treasure, the buttons are whole, fine, perfected in their lovely utility, their softly crowding, clicking handfuls. Even the herring jar says: now I am beautiful!

[photo of a button jar found in my grandma's country house; for more writing on a theme, visit Theme Thursday]

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Phebe Jane, Clarissa, Rebecca, Allice, Olive, Nancy

My daughter and I walked among the women on the hill, where they rest in the sunshine, hot sunshine buzzing with flying things, rest from their housekeeping, the washing and washing up, the clearing away and folding, the stacking of platters. I took away, when I left, a hundred questions: for which the shameful secret, the secret love; for which the nerves and headaches; for which the murdered child; for which the bottle; for which a sheaf of letters never out of mind; for which the locked box, full of pennies saved toward a leave-taking?

The soil stirs, still warm, under their names.

Please visit Sepia Saturday

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Wild raspberries, blueberries, tiny strawberries in the fields behind the house, if you know where to look before stepping, and I do. Freshly planted lavender and a thousand free-growing tiger lilies, all bending toward us, confiding; and the pines, a hundred feet tall, their top branches mobile and creaking, reeds on the lake, and daisies on the shore, all moving together in flow and rush of wind. The nights are short between deep dusk and pale dawn, and in the afternoon the water catches sun, filling the eye with sparkle so that we're sparkle blind, nothing but sparkle and sun and the wind rush: summer.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Brooklyn, July 4th

Elanor and her friend were, for one afternoon, captains of industry on a bright hot corner of Brooklyn. The lemonade, squeezed by hand in a sticky orgy of juice and seeds and pulp, served in pressed glass pitchers, took pride of place. Ice was dipped with tongs, again and again, money changed hands, a great deal of money for little girls; the chocolate in the cookies, the marshmallow in the treats, melted a little, but no customer complained, and the heaps of sweets were decimated by day's end. With frequent breaks for cold seltzer and visits to the sprinklers across the street in the park, and quick intense water fights, sudden dripping little clouds of activity, another summer afternoon passed in the dusty diffuse light of old-growth trees and the heat of children. Another afternoon, like so many others before and to come.

Expectant Before:


(a piece of my summer, for Jimmy and Mr M)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Bomb'n Belle

An example of WWII-era plane art! From Sarge's archives.

Note: I have posted this photo before, of Sarge's dear cousin Andrew, and thought it was a fitting re-post for today's Sepia Saturday theme. Andrew, a Technical Sergeant in the U.S. Army Air Corps (later became the Air Force), circa 1944. Rattlesden RAF Airfield, England. The plane with the wonderful art, a B-17 G, was later shot down over Belgium, although the pilot survived.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Tsu Zetik far Maydelehs (Too Rich for Little Girls)

"...And they asked me in to dinner, to get the beauty of it hot"

My grandmother and a chicken: as was the wont of that generation, no bit went unexploited. Chewy heart, tender liver--fried with onions, the smell of it hot and golden. Neck--boiled in a soup, the bone like a strand of coral pieces, sucked, industriously, for every last hiding morsel. The carcass--picked smooth.

And the fat. The fat had its own calling: to become grebenes, the cracklings. My grandma offered me and my sister just one little irregular bit apiece. I don't remember the texture or the taste, or whether I liked it, but I like to think I did.

Grandma Eva's Jewish cookbook, on my bookshelf now, worn to fragments

a recipe for chicken fat cracklings, should you want to make them

for more memory posts, visit the Sepia Saturday blog

Saturday, April 9, 2011


Unstoppered, lurked her strange synthetic perfumes,
Unguent, powdered, or liquid—troubled, confused
And drowned the sense in odours...

Since the beginning of time

(or let me not exaggerate, since Eva first knew Maxie)

there was the bottle on the dresser.

My grandfather didn't believe in doing things by half-measures, and it was real perfume, not cologne. Like the fabled bolt of cloth, it would never run out, for no sooner did my grandmother apply the last precious drop to her skin, than a new bottle would appear nested in its blue velvet box with looping gilt writing: Shalimar.

I remember standing by that dresser, a little girl much too young for ablutions designed to seduce, tilting my head back, exposing my own soft neck like a vampire's girlfriend waiting for the bite...or in this case, grandma's fingertip dabbing the potion...

(I'm making this part up, for my usually generous grandma Eva was decidedly miserly when it came to sharing this gift, and so I never got the chance to wear it, and to smell like her)

So the bottle sat, unshared, sapphire stoppered, lightly signalling, in diffuse sunlight and lamplight, its private message: something I couldn't decipher at the time, a romantic love between two old people, who had once themselves been young. Mouth to neck, inhaling the scent...for why would such a gesture cease with age? After the children, ten thousand nights in the big bed, the mountains and deep shadowed valleys of years and years together, the private jokes and whispers, love letters re-read?

Now I know it all, and none of it: the idea of a love of decades, but not the secrets in the bottle, the letters, the Yiddish whispers, the bedroom after the door closed.

There was always a look that passed between them, not meant for children to see, a glance that contained, like a password to an arcane mystery religion, the whole ancient hidden meaning of love itself.

For more remembering, visit the Sepia Saturday blog

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Ne Igrushki (No Toys)

You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats

This is my Grandpa, and his two sisters, Liba and Tilda. They must have been new immigrants in America when this picture was taken. My grandfather rarely spoke of his early years in Soviet Georgia, and I was left with just a few dark images...foremost among these bits and pieces was the fact, oft repeated and with a stark solemnity, that there were no toys for the children. None.

But none? My young mind couldn't accept a child's life with no toys, and I made for myself a little fiction about the peculiar wooden man and bear, who would take turns clacking at the stump with their axes if you pulled the handles back and forth (and I did this very often when I was little). I imagined it was the lone gimcrack entertainment of Max's childhood, and that he derived great pleasure from its existence in the fashion of one unused to more. After all, even Laura Ingalls, living deep in the dark woods of Wisconsin, had the homely rag doll Charlotte, and paperdolls cut by Ma from butcher paper.

I hoped for so many decades that this had been his toy, when he was a boy in the Old Country, that I came to believe in the saving truth. So it was with sadness, this morning, that I was forced to forfeit this constructed memory. I took the bear and the man off its shelf and showed it to my mother, who told me that it had been among the leavings of the previous owners when she and Max and Eva and Abby moved into their brownstone in the 1950s. My grandpa had not, in fact, had any toys.

Ne igrushki.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Acquainted with the Night

Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you

When I was feeling low one day my grandpa Max told me something. How when he was a young man, feeling low, he would walk and walk and walk the streets of Brooklyn, smoking Sobranie oval cuts and thinking to himself until dusk turned to evening and evening to night, in and out of the pools of light from the street lamps, even in the rain, in the cold, in the heat, until something righted itself in his mind and he could go home again.

The vision of the young man walking, walking, smoking oval cuts superimposed itself and made me the same, made me as he was, as we all were, young people everywhere in every time. I am sure that if I were to go now, some drizzly April night, down to the Promenade that overlooks the harbor and the cityscape across the harbor, I would see the un-substance: brooding and walking, walking, brooding, the only solid thing the curls of smoke disappearing on the wind off the water. And I could take my place beside him and walk along there, until my mind cleared and I could go home again...

Friday, April 1, 2011

Emilia Romatowska

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

I woke to the memory of a name: Emilia Romatowska. Sometimes it comes to you this way, sudden and contextless as the scent of salt on the wind when you are not near any ocean.

The scene followed in a rush of detail. Curled up in the big leather armchair in my grandparents' formal parlor, hugging my knees, downcast over a romantic reversal. I'm fifteen. My grandfather Max listens to my story and counters with one of his own. The name of my heartache is long gone now, but the name of his remains: Emilia Romatowska.

She was dark-haired and dark-eyed, he tells me, a real beauty. A heartbreaker, I loved her once. But alas, he says, it wasn't in the stars for us. Good thing too or you wouldn't be here!

Is is not in the details that I find comfort--of his days working at great-grandpa Benjamin's tailor shop in Brooklyn, long evenings of night school, fortuitous hours that yielded the prize of Emilia, of the girl and her pretty ways, how he took so boldly her young immigrant hand--not so much in these details, but in the telling itself. He says her name again and there is a note in his voice, a certain delight in the tale of his downfall, as if he has just unwrapped a caramel, and eaten it, and his mouth is still full of the taste.

Sixty years after the fact, there is a fresh feel to it--the hunt, notes passed and walks taken, a pleasant yearning, the very loss of love itself--even at fifteen, I hear my grandfather's words, see his smile (half rueful, half wry, no part sad), and am reeling from sudden epiphany: these old pangs are what keeps one really alive.

p.s. don't forget to check out more Sepia Saturday posts HERE

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Freedom from Fear

On the night of September 11 into the dawn of September 12 2001, when Sarge was in a living hell of coordinated chaos and fear, ending his first of three days of non-stop disaster response work, I kept vigil quietly at home, cuddling my 9-month-old daughter tight against me. Unable to sleep in our bed, I gathered every quilt in the house and made a cozy nest for myself and our little girl on the living room floor, turned off the horrifying news coverage, and lay down with Hedgehog. Through that night, I nursed her and cozied her and kept us safe from imagined disaster. She was free from fear, unknowing in her sweet bubble of babyhood, though I was not.

In March of 2011, she is ten, lucky in the calm regularity of her life, lucky to end each day of school and friends and light and play in her own warm bed, under the cheerful pink and green smiling owl coverlet we chose for her last August, her arm around her stuffed dog; a lamp in the hall glows in steadfast reassurance, keeping the monsters and the darkness away.

But upstairs, after her bedtime, we sit close together on the couch talking in frowns, because her father and I know better--that the world is terrifying, that darkness can only be held back so much and so long, that we can only make our best effort to keep her out of harm's way, and that for some people in some places, even a best effort is not enough. So we can only try--and probably--please God--succeed...

But how to keep her free from fear?

How do you keep your awake and aware ten-year-old child free from fear?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Peanut-Ham Spread: Excruciating, or Delectable?

I collect old cooking pamphlets, and the 1950s appetizer publications are chock full of concoctions that read like a passage from de Sade as rewritten by William Burroughs. Naturally, I'm fascinated to know: are some of these woefully misbegotten ingredient combinations somehow alchemized in the mixing, into something scrumptious?

Case in point, Good Housekeeping's 1958 peanut-ham spread:

Those guests look cheerful enough, as they begin their delicate ravaging of the hors d'oeuvres table, don't they? Nothing seems particularly amiss, does it?

I laid out my ingredients, each individual food item much beloved:

I measured and observed, how the impending mixture might be so insulting to the senses as to induce existential nausea:

I mixed, and looked again. Aesthetically unthinkable:

Attempted to plate it, a heaping dose or two on wheat rounds:

Choked it down with the help of ice-cold Dr. Pepper:

THE VERDICT: If you can get past the texture, the taste is, remarkably, quite inoffensive. The appearance and feel of it are quite another matter. I can only use the adjective: malevolent.

I wouldn't serve this to guests, not even if I were to be transported back in time to the 1950s, when, I believe, enough hard liquor flowed at these events to render visitors helpless before the truth of a dubious repast.

However, luckily the same booklet offers some other options, including this:

p.s. a friend suggested Miracle Whip instead--I think I should have gone with that...

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Blackbeard's Challenge, or, Naughty-Naughty Putt-Putt

We had a few hours to enrich before we left Orlando, so we took Hedgehog to Pirate Putt-Putt near the hotel.

This is what greeted us at the first, er, hole.

Sarge and I stood staring, balls and sticks firmly in hand, squinting to determine whether it was just a trick of light and shadow. Then we exchanged a glance. Blackbeard's Challenge was apparently of the concupiscent rather than mercenary variety.

Monday, January 31, 2011

High and Tight and Sophomoric

I was sitting in the old-school, no-frills Brooklyn barber shop the other morning, waiting for Sarge to get his high-and-tight. Sounds dirty right? Not if you've ever been in the military, but I won't interrupt the image with an explanation.

So anyway. I was bored. The only reading material was a year's worth of issues of Maxim magazine, a "men's interest" publication not quite as naughty even as Playboy, but still chock full of those ubiquitous shiny-skinned knee-socked ladies with their racks and asses (see? I can talk like a proverbial "man") at 3/4 visibility.

Okay I'll admit I was intrigued if skeptical. Then more intrigued and less skeptical. Then completely won over. Maxim is my new favorite reading material. I laughed my way through two issues. And had a realization that my sense of humor is totally sophomoric. I'm not even going to analyze my enjoyment as I usually do.

But I am going to subscribe. Yes I am. And I look forward to seeing which mailing lists this puts me on. I will keep you updated.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Disney World: a Journey into Meh

Flight cancelled, stranded by the fancy pool in the fancy hotel in Orlando (courtesy of the MIL, whose brainchild this trip was)...I suppose I can't complain...

Or can I?

Not capable of well-phrased linear sentences, so will instead resort to lists

Things I Hate about Disney World:

1. Disney World
2. Walt Disney
3. Mickey Mouse
4. The extortionist prices of everything from postcards to hot dogs.
5. The dictatorial nature of the place: you must do certain things in certain ways and feel a certain way about it.

Things I Love about Disney World

1. Daisy Duck
2. The bizarre, stylized way the beautiful princesses hug the little girls.
3. The exuberant loveliness and well-meaning racism of "it's a Small World."
4. Watching dads posing with Ariel and trying to cop a feel.
5. Watching Ariel evade dads' pinchy fingers.
6. Listening to Sarge do his Evil Mickey impersonation.
7. Getting to deconstruct my experience rather than being in the moment.

Things I hate about Universal Studios

1. Universal Studios
2. Not meeting a costumed Snape character in Hogsmeade

Things I Love about Universal Studios

1. Hogsmeade
2. Hogwarts
3. Animatronic owls
4. Frozen butter beer
5. Cold pumpkin juice
6. The Hogwarts Express
7. My new Slytherin scarf
8. The possibility of meeting Snape around any given corner. I didn't, but I might have.
9. The Hogsmeade postmark.
10. Did I mention, Wizarding World of Harry Potter?

Well, suffice it to say, I am a cynical cynical woman, and prone to self-conscious analysis and social commentary. In the end, these places are not for me.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

You Know You Want a Disney Princess Postcard

Hey you!

I'm off to Florida in a few hours, and I suspect it may well be The Land of Postcards, a veritable dragon's hoard of them.

So...if you would like a postcard from Orlando, leave a comment here to remind me, and then send me your addy at

even if you think I have it, send it again! I'm feeling disorganized this morning.



Friday, January 21, 2011


Looking back on my last few posts, I realize just how dark and gloomy this place has become. While I can't fake it, I suppose I could take a little break from the angst, so...

we leave tomorrow for Disney World and I'm looking forward to blogging "on the road" from my iPad. I will try anyway. Stay tuned!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Missing Still

My dad died six years ago. I don't think about him very often because when I do I can hardly stand the feelings.

Dad was a complicated person. Not always nice, and sometimes even cruel. Even a little bit scary. But also:

Loving. A wonderful person to talk to about books and about problems.

Charismatic. His light shone on everything around him. He was brilliant. He knew things, and he knew how to think about things. He understood jokes. He understood me.

He never laughed at me, not even when I was at my most puerile. He made me feel as if I was a force to be reckoned with, even when I was young and stupid. He loved me for my writing, my conversation, my poetry, my soul, my spirit. His eyes told me I was a worthy friend.

When he hugged me close his big red beard tickled my cheek.


Thursday, January 6, 2011

6:15 a.m.: a Brooklyn Street Scene

I'm walking Remus. His usual early-morning pee and a nice sniff around to see what's doing.

Sunlight hasn't yet reached our world down here. It's cold.

The van--black inside, rocking and banging frantically. Right in front of my house. I stand by it, pissed off. Sometimes they come to our end of the street for this--the quiet end, thinking what? No one lives here? Do they know, somehow, that before the loud and dirty highway was built, our antique house was right on the docks? That the Brooklyn waterfront is historically the place to be for these sad stolen activities?

Once or twice I find a used condom in the gutter, when I'm taking Hedgie to school.

I stand motionless staring my fury into the back of the van. One of them notices, I guess, my shadow, thrown over them in the beam from the lone street lamp, and there is a sudden movement. He crawls backward out of the van, opening the hatch, shedding light on the scene, zipping his fly, angry.

The hooker lies prone on the floor. Naked from the waist down, cheap clothes hiked around her waist. Four-inch red heels. I tell him to move along before I call the cops. He tells me to fuck off, but he's getting in the driver's seat. I tell him "you have 5 seconds." The hatch is slowly closing, and the woman stares at me, without expression. There's nothing in her face: no shame. No opinion. She doesn't even move to cover herself.

As they drive off he rolls down the window and shouts, "get a fucking life."

I don't feel the need to school him on the pathos and irony of this suggestion.

On the curb in the quiet dark regular Brooklyn morning, holding Remus' leash (he sits and waits), two thoughts go through my mind:

I'm not afraid of anyone anymore.

And I have looked into a dead man's eyes, and her eyes were just as dead as that.