Saturday, October 27, 2007

"Harvest Recipe"

Take one locally-grown 4-year-old bubbie:

Mix in a little Mo Willems' KNUFFLE BUNNY:

Shake vigorously.

Months later, after ripening and fermentation, when the wee bubbie subsequently suggests making a "gravetomb" (preschooler speak for "tombstone") to decorate the yard for Halloween, gently fold in the question, "What shall we paint on it? R.I.P?"

He will figure out, with scant 1/4 cupful dollops of explanation, what the R., the I., and the P. stand for, ultimately decreeing, "No, I don't care if the people under the ground are left in their peaces. I know what we need to paint on it."

With that, his half-baked idea will hit the jar:


So for all of y'all who leave your porn propped open on the Fisher Price Rescue Hero Command Station, knock it off. Kids pick up what's in the reading materials. They internalize it. They paint it on their gravetombs.

And wouldn't it be a shame, this fine All Hallow's Eve, to have the neighborhood reading on your yard's gravetomb that "Hot sluts do it sideways"? Even telling passers-by, "Heck, my kid suggested it" won't keep you from being regarded as the local Larry Flynt.

Keep it clean this Halloween, my dear ghoulfriends. Keep it clean.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

"Jocelyn Buttstrong"

By mistake, I went on a 14-mile bike ride the other day.

It's not like I was transferring the sheets from washer to dryer, only to suddenly look down and note with a surprised "How the hell did this happen?" that I'd been spinning along on a bike for more than an hour.

That's improbable on several fronts, the least of which is that I suddenly found myself aboard a two-wheeler. In truth, the greater improbability is that I'd actually be washing sheets. That would imply I'd stripped a bed. And if it ain't March, and the buds aren't burgeoning on the trees, and the children haven't just been cut out of the long underwear I sewed them into last November, then the beds ain't been stripped.

However, I did, knowingly and willingly, lead my unsuspecting bicycle out of the garage last week, set it on an uphill course, and throw my leg over the seat. Yes, I was in complete possession of my faculties.

Or so it seemed for the first 45 minutes. My route took me along the outer edge of town, up a road named Unrelentingly Upwards Avenue. As I churned along, I played around with the gears, cursed my jumping derailleur every now and then, coughed loudly and frequently to let the black bears know I was around (the next day was garbage pick-up day in the ruralish neighborhood, which meant it was Bear Buffet Night at the trash cans), made up NPR stories that I might have heard, had I worn my headphones (for awhile, I pretended Terry Gross was interviewing Marilyn Manson, but then he shifted from seeming surprisingly informed and intelligent and just got creepy and annoying when he started to make the case for his 38-year-old married self having an affair with a 19-year-old). As the wheels spun 'round and 'round, I was definitely getting a healthy dose of Fresh Air.

But then darkness fell with a heavy thud. Out there, feeling quite alone--except for the ginormous 4 x 4 trucks that would speed by every few minutes, blasting me to the shoulder--I started to feel a little quivery. In addition to pedaling and coughing, I burst out occasionally with quick, audible pep talks: "Just 4 million more cranks of the legs, girl, and you'll be at the stop sign, turn left, pedal another mile, hit the next stop sign, turn downhill, and head towards the park. You can do it! And then you'll be home for eggs and bread and chocolate and a lovely White Russian."

It was really dark, though. All efforts at pep talks fell flat. I almost stopped caring about Russians of any color. Except the Red ones. Them, I still felt for.

Then not only my hands fell asleep, as is their wont when I bike, but my vajayjay got that bad tingle. And yes, there are bad vajajay tingles. The journey to crotch numbness begins with a single spoke, turning endlessly in the night.

Now I know people who are real bike riders find 14 miles to be nothing. Doing a hundred miles in a day is realistically very doable for even a slightly-above average Joe.

However, I'm not gifted, physically, and I grew up in a family where we didn't leave the house much. Sure, there was the mail checking and all, but because retrieving OPERA MONTHLY from the mailbox is the closest I ever got to summer camp, I still have a pretty steep learning curve with this outdoorsy physical stuff.

Let's put it this way: I went kayaking this summer (for the 5th time in my life), and I had to cry a little bit. The paddle just didn't do what it was supposed to. And the kayak didn't move right. So I got frustrated and boo-hooey.

The good news about me and out-of-doors tears is that I pretty much just need to let them blow through, and after the catharsis, I can gird my loins, or spray skirt, and get back down to business. Then, when it's all over, I want to go again. And, yea, when I go again, I'll most likely cry some more. It's what I do. It's who I am.

So there I was, in the pitch black, pedaling and pedaling, getting really tired and realizing I still had a long ways to go. Or at least I thought I did; I hadn't ever actually biked this route before and was working from some half-digested directions given to me by my Groomeo back at the house as I snapped on my helmet and double-knotted my shoes. A little uncertain of where I was, and craving a large order of French fries, I started to feel like it might be time for a few tears, simply as a kind of on-the-road therapy. Interestingly, though, I couldn't tap into any tears. How strange. It was almost as if nothing felt quite right, and I really wanted it to be over, but, hell, what could I do about all that? Just keep pedaling, really.

Even when I came to a junction and, in the inky blackness, felt my way off the paved road, onto the gravel road that was supposed to signify the downhill turn towards home...and I realized I couldn't see the trees around me on the even-more-remote unpaved road and that I was constantly weebling into the ditch without knowing it until I would experience a thump and the ground falling away, again and again...and that I would have to turn around and retrace my route, back on the paved roads, thus lengthening my "fun exercise time" by an extra 40 minutes--even after all that, I still didn't cry.

It was starting to look like I might just knuckle down and do this thing, sans the requisite two-minutes of weeping. How odd, indeed. As a gal who's generally well in touch with her own drama, I'm not at all accustomed to pragmatic matter-of-factness.

So there were no tears, even though I was a reewy, reewy wong way fwom home, aww awone, twying not to hit the hungry bearsies.

Instead, I sang. Much like Avril Lavigne, though lacking a pair of Converse high-tops and heavy eye liner, I used singing to vent my angst. As long as I was belting out the tunes, I didn't have to wipe my eyes with my sleeve.

So I sang. What surprised me was my source material. Certainly, I didn't sing any Avril Lavigne. In case you didn't know, she's a talentless idiot who sucks. Nor was it the work of Beverly Sills that gave me heart that night, despite my upbringing; rather, it was the work of Alison Moyet during her Yaz (Yazoo to you in the UK) years.

Indeed, '80s pop saved the night. As an ode to the darkness, I sang "Midnight." As a tribute to my beloved Groom, whom I might never, ever see again--what with it being 8 p.m. on a Sunday and me 4 miles from home on a fully-functioning bicycle--I sang "Only You." Goodness, but I wasn't out in the country, all alone, cold, tired, bonky and a little sore. Nae! I was transported back to my dorm room in college, watching the old LP spin around the turntable, having just cooked up 9 cents' worth of Ramen noodles in the illegal hot pot on my desk. It was just me, my back-combed bangs, my shoulder pads, and my Yaz.

Sadly, due to all the diet pop I drink, my brain is riddled with Nutrasweet holes, so pretty quickly I ran out of lyrics.

Thus, by the time I reached the homestretch back in town--the last two miles home--I was a little hoarse, repeating the same eight lines over and over, alternating huffed croaking with wild hand shaking, as I tried to restore blood flow to my paws. Over the sound of my stomach growling and my crotch protesting (she's a screamer, that one!), I realized that my attempts at fitness had rendered me just the teensiest bit pathetic.

Not even Marilyn Manson would have dated me at that moment.

But I like to think Terry Gross, admiring my fortitude, empathizing with my crotchiness, might have.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

"Bread and Pez"

As is the case with most households, we pretty much live in the kitchen. Food happens there, of course, but so do soul-baring, cross-word puzzling, game-playing, homework-doing, robot-building, friend-entertaining, and mind-numbing-boozing. We spend a good part of every day in that room; it is, quite clichedly, the heart of the house.

Yet our kitchen sucks big donkey dicks. Dark, dated, baneful, and nonsensical (what is that nutty little hallway that cuts a swathe through any sense of "flow"?), our kitchen is Suck packed into four walls, dusted with oil-drenched and groaning appliances, topped off with a cherry of dropped ceiling and atrocious light fixtures.

The kitchen is, essentially, made out of All Things Poo.

Literally, before people enter our house for the first time, I stop them in the foyer to apologize for the kitchen. I know they will want to shower after walking through it, and some may find they want to up their doses of anti-depressants.

Kitchen must die.

While we've been planning its ultimate demise for a few years now (awaiting an estate payout that would finance the remodel), we haven't quite gotten around to an orchestrated euthanasia yet. In the absence of our taking action, Kitchen seems to be taking matters into her own, um, faux-granite counters. Kitchen is getting suicidal.

First, she started purposefully hemorrhaghing linoleum tiles, causing them to stick to the bottoms of our feet as we carried tea from stove-top to table. Trying to save her from herself, we peeled up the remaining linoleum, inasmuch as possible (a few tiles remain under the fridge and radiator, where they artfully catch marbles, barrettes, and fridge magnets, and generally look like masses of Poo holding marbles, barrettes, and magnets), and in the process, we discovered a lovely old hardwood floor that will one day be refinished.

Next, Kitchen hacked up a microwave door handle, snapping it off one day and leaving us with a wall-mounted (above the stove) microwave that could only be opened by inserting one's fingernails into the slot between the body of the microwave and its door. With a tough, sometimes nail-damaging, yank, we could ease fraying tempers by warming up a comforting bowl of Campbell's Dora the Explorer chicken noodle soup.

Sure, some people would cave and get a new microwave.

However, we are made of firmer stuff. We know full well that if we bought a new microwave, when we do finally remodel the joint some months down the line, we'd end up planning the entire remodel around "the microwave we bought last Fall" which, invariably, would fit nowhere and would clash with all desired color schemes. Our fingernails would just have to bear the brunt of our parsimoniousness.

But then, suddenly last week, Kitchen urged Microwave to take a stand. Microwave was no longer satisfied with the Handle Challenge. Nope. He wanted our complete attention. Taking a cue from his cousin, Fridge, he set his fan to moaning and grigging and whooping, until finally Groom was compelled to tape the thing shut with a long line of masking tape reading "Do Not Use." Of course, since I'm the only other person in the house with the might to open the thing, I was pretty sure that obvious face-smacker of a message was personal.

With tit needing tat, I then taped a message across Groom's nostrils reading, "Do Not Snore." The masking tape approximates a Breathe Rite strip amazingly well.

Just a little FYI in the midst of all this DIY.

Anyhoodle, Kitchen's health has clearly been spiraling downwards for some time. Kitchen is a wanker.

And yet.

Out of a downward spiral can come a flash of unexpected creativity and warmth. Just as Kitchen's shenanigans edged us towards a broil, Groom realized we needed to embrace the demise. We hated the monstrosity that was the microwave, just as we'd hated the linoleum on the floor. So, hell, why not toss the beast out? Why not remove that strangely-placed kitchen accessory (it hung very low over the stovetop) and make it possible to actually stir a pot of stew this winter?

And as long as a few feet of wall were getting opened up there, why not toss a whimsical painting onto that space? In a few months, the room will get a full-body makeover, and anything we do know will be nullified, anyhow. So why not do it up?

After a family brainstorm of possible mini-murals...during which we gently rejected the kids' rainbow- and Pokemon-inspired scenarios...this is what Groomeo pulled off with a few hours' work:

Such a modified wall space lifts my heart everytime I enter the kitchen to dig another handful of chocolate chips out of the bag, and that's frequently. It makes my spirits sing as I pour granola into my yogurt. It makes my eyes twinkle as I pull the cork out of the wine. More honestly, it makes my eyes twinkle as I unscrew the cap on the wine.

As I love up the new wallspace, I'm considering starting to hate other parts of the house, just so Groomeo can paint over them and create unexpected and capricious little scenes.

Come to think of it, I strongly dislike the bare plain that is our toilet seat. Wouldn't it benefit from a picture of Pikachu lounging under a rainbow?

When fun idea meets with competent execution, any house project can become glamorous, ja?

Just look at what The Master and his Wee Niblet Apprentice cranked out a few weeks ago, with little more inspiration than the words, "Daddy, we should make a haunted house out of shoe boxes."

I dig my "anything-is-possible" boys.

Monday, October 15, 2007

"FREAK IT, But She's Hot"

Even heathens and pagans know this one:

A guy named Paul, a whole long time ago, found a scroll and a quill and, over a leisurely cup of red wine, asserted that "a woman's hair is her crowning glory."

For completely non-biblical reasons--who is this Paul to me, after all?--I've often believed that this assertion is true. I love the hair on The Ladies. Even in the midst of several years of sobbing that no one would ever love me, an enduring belief in the power of my hair often pulled me through. Loneliness was counterbalanced by my excitement over follicular sheen and gloss.

I'm all superficial that way.

So riddle me this:

If I love the locks, how can I be completely convinced that should fado singer Mariza ever grow out her hair, it would be an affront to humanity and the heavens?

Because seriously? She got it all goin' on. Hair? Would interfere with her beauty, charisma, and dynamism.

Suck hair.

Who needs it?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

"All Shook Up"

My mom graduated from high school in 1953. She graduated from college in 1957. In many ways, she remained distinctly behind the times; for example, when Elvis Presley first appeared on the Ed Sullivan show in 1956 and essentially transformed youth culture in the space of 3 minutes, my mom was blissfully unaware that some lip-curler with a pompadour and loose hips had just awakened a generation from a slumber it hadn't known it was having.

She was at choir practice, you see--that night, and most nights. And when she wasn't at choir practice, she was at a Bach concert. Although she was deeply acquainted with falsetto and vibrato, she knew not who Elvis was.

Nor did she care a whit for the Beach Boys or the Beatles or any other group that subsequently rocked through the door Elvis had opened.

You see, even when there wasn't a Bach concert on the agenda, she could always count on Hayden being played somewhere. Indeed, the classical composers kept my mom out of the mainstream, kept her dreamily drifting through a world of scores and maestros instead of twists and shouts.

In other ways, however, she was completely a reflection of the times, of the 1950's. She was chaste. She was modest. She was provincial. She had a poodle skirt.

True to her roots and poodles, she's continued to make a life's work out of sweetly-sheltered naivete.

Exhibit A: She had been married for some years to my father and had given birth at least once before she got her first inkling of what male homosexual sex entailed. She--hand to throat, accompanied by a gentle gasp and a little handkerchief waving about the face--had no idea. Who knew how versatile an orifice could be? Certainly not me ma.

Exhibit B: About fifteen years ago, when I was in my mid-twenties, she and I were taking a cross-country road-trip. To pass the time, we were reading aloud a Margaret Atwood novel. Right around the Oregon border, as I relaxed with my feet propped up on the dashboard, holding forth from the book, we encountered the term "69."

"Stop there," Mom said. "Now I've always wondered: what does 69 mean?"

"Well, um, you know, I could tell you and all, but since I'm squirming at the idea of using some of the words around you, Mom, could we pull over, and I'll just draw you a picture?"

The brakes were hit. There in a rest stop, I created on paper two very lucky stick people who happily met each other head to toe.

After a few "Oh, well" and "Oh, my" exclamations, we clambered back into the car and zoomed on to the family reunion and some ambrosia salad.

Exhibit C: Just this week, we leapt the Grand Canyon of Uninformedness. Mom is visiting for a week, and it's been all mellow cross-stitching and caramel-apple dipping, save for one quick conversation held at the top of the stairs.

As Mom returned a few borrowed books to me, she said, "I'm still reading that Julie & Julia one, though. But I can't read any further until I get a dictionary."

Why? Well, in this book about a woman trying to cook every dish in Julia Child's most famous cookbook, there are some, as my mom says it, "sex-sual" terms with which she is unfamiliar. And so she needs a dictionary.

Or a daughter.

"Try me, Mom. I bet I can help."

"Well, off the top of my head, I can't remember them all, and I can't seem to find them here in the book right now, but I do recall one was a word, something like 'connie-lean-goo-ass.'"

Sucking in a deep breath, I clarified, "It's cunnilingus, Mom. And it means oral sex, when it's performed on a woman."

Thinking further, I added, "Do you know what oral sex is? If not, I can draw you a picture. I mean, I do have some stick people in my portfolio who have been experiencing a pretty serious dry spell. They'd probably be pleased to get a little action."

But, see, Mom divorced Dad a bit ago. Since then, she's had a couple boyfriends.

So the stick people will have to remain celibate, perhaps until she asks about fellatio when she turns 80 in a few years.

Mom's answer? Tittering a little, she informed me, "Oh, I do know what oral sex is for a woman. In the last five years, I've learned more than I ever thought I could know about that. I had no idea, but now I sure do."

It would seem, then, that at age 72, my mom is finally ready to walk through the door Elvis opened all those years ago. She might even be ready to consider the implications of Gene Simmons' tongue.

Monday, October 08, 2007

"Sucking It Up"

In last month or two, during a phase when my lap is always full, my neck skin is constantly fondled, and "I yuv you a bushel and a peck" is whispered repeatedly into my ear throughout the day, I am exceedingly aware that

I have never before--and will never again--be loved as








as I am by my four-year-old Wee Niblet.

It rather takes my breath away.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

"Mounting Evidence That I May Not Hate Poetry"

"Mom, how come you have that poem taped to the end of our bunk beds?" Girl asked a few weeks ago.

She was referring to this:

"A Supple Cord"

My brother, in his small white bed,
held one end.
I tugged the other
to signal I was still awake.
We could have spoken,
could have sung
to one another,
we were in the same room
for five years,
but the soft cord
with its little frayed ends
connected us
in the dark,
gave comfort
even if we had been bickering
all day.
When he fell asleep first
and his end of the cord
dropped to the floor,
I missed him terribly,
though I could hear his even breath
and we had such long and separate lives

--by Naomi Shihab Nye

My response, as is my wont, had many layers and went on at great length.

First, I told her, "Well, I like this poem because it reminds me of you and Niblet and how lucky you are to have each other and to be each other's special person for all of your lives. You know, Dad and I will die someday--not for a long time, we hope, not until cars can fly and fold up into briefcases that we then tote into our offices as we're carried along by a moving sidewalk--and most likely you and your brother will have a lot of years of life without us. So it's a comfort to know you'll always have each other, even after you grow up and go off and do your own things."

Girl nodded warily, distracted by the idea of briefcase cars.

Then I told her, "Plus, I like this poem because it shows how sharing a room can bring brothers and sisters together. I mean, do your pals K and J share a room?"


"Do they get along?"

"NO! They fight all the time!"

"That's what I mean. How about your other buddies Q and M? Do they share a room?"

"Oh, yea," she said, sucking on the ends of her hair and contemplating.

"And do they get along?"

"Totally! They never fight."

"So, Girl, do you think there's a connection? How about you and Niblet?"

"We share a room, and he's my best friend!" she screamed joyously, as the pieces fell into place. Our bodies flushed with the pleasure of a communal comprehension.

Point made. Case rested. Next question?

"Mom, when can I have my own room?"