Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Solstice Letter

I really create everything I do from the heart.
Kenny G

Well, it’s that time of year again, when we send our family update to all our friends (except the illiterate, i.e. most of them).

It’s been a good year in our household, and nobody I’m related to slept with Tiger Woods (that I know of). We even re-decorated the living room this year. Billy Bob found some perfectly good freeway furniture that's pretty-much level and we tried to fix the smell of the couch by dousing it with a bottle of fabric deodorant. When that didn’t work, Ma poured some Wal*Mart brand Pine-sol on the cushions and hung them on the clothes line strung between the old refrigerator and Grandpa’s rusty old Ford in the backyard for a couple of weeks. Once dry, the cushions worked fine, and once we all got used to it, we don’t mind the crunchy sound the cushions make when you sit on them. It smells like a forest. As an extra bonus, we found that even Grandma smells better after spending a day sitting on the couch. The Pine-sol seems to overcome Grandma’s natural smell better than putting slices of Spam in the pockets of her apron did when we tried that last summer during the heat wave.

You all may have caught the episode of Worlds Best Car Chases that featured brother Lou Bob. You can see how much weight he lost the last time he was in jail, because it only took two cops to bring him down and his arms even stretched over his belly far enough for two sets of handcuffs to secure him. And once he stops being on the crack, he’s pretty nice most of the time, not like in the TV show where he’s cussing and whatnot.

Mabel Bob has finally finished beauty school after six grueling years, but is having a bit of trouble getting a job. She told Ma she thinks it because her front tooth is a bit loose and she’d probably get a job if only she had dentures. So I loaned her my upper plate for an interview last week, but then she blamed the yellow tobacco stains for their decision not to hire her. Sometimes, it seems like you can never please Mabel Bob. Let’s hope she gets a job soon, because we can’t collect on her as a dependent child much longer since she’s almost 40, and the profits from Pa’s still aren’t as high as they used to be, probably because the rotten potatoes he’s using don’t impart the velvet palate or crisp finish of hooch made with good potatoes.

That dog with three legs what used to live with us has finally moved on. We told Grandma the dog crossed the rainbow bridge, but there’s a good chance she saw when the tractor hit it one day because we park her powered scooter on the front porch most days so when she spits tobacco juice, it don’t stain the living room carpet. Next time we redecorate, we’ll find a brown rug at the dump instead of a pastel-colored one like we got now that’s kinda brown shag flattened into a lovely paisley pattern made by all them tobacco stains. We think it was once a pale ivory, but Mabel Bob insists she remembers it was pink because she lost her bus pass once and remembers it was the same pink color as the shag rug used to be because she spent a whole afternoon combing the rug with a fork looking for the lost bus pass. In vain as it turns out, but Grandma says what don’t kill you makes you madder, so that might explain why Mabel Bob is mad so much. That, or she’s going through the change, you know.

You might remember how tough that was when Ma went through the change in 2004. That was the year she killed a hobo with a shovel, but we luckily won that case on self defense because Cousin Willie Bob convinced the jury Ma’s cuts and bruises were signs of self defense rather than a result of her run-in with that rabid badger who cornered her in the outhouse the day before the hobo passed. And good news, Ma still has the asthma but the scabies have almost cleared up now that
she don’t volunteer down at the saloon no more.

Merry Xmas from our house to yours, and may your hooch be made with good potatoes, your dreams not be filled with raging zombies, and your freeway furniture not smell too much like something died on it and got left there for a good long spell.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Garden of Dreams

"We live in the city of dreams
We drive on the highway of fire
If we awake and it gone
Remember this my favorite son."
- Talking Heads, City of Dreams

My back yard is totally like an abandoned city, slowly decaying back in to desert. We’ve had two good rain storms over the past week or so. Heavy rain, accompanied by strong gusts of wind from the south, have cleaned up years of dried shedding bark from the eucalyptus trees, dead branches, pine needles and small boughs, and other fallen clutter. All of that is now on the ground, covering great swaths of driveway and making it difficult to drag the trash cans out to the street.

The shade cloth over the patio immediately outside my window has been hanging like a shower curtain blocking the door, one side having been blown down to the ground while the other side is still connected to the overhead guy wire.

I may no longer be able to swing a shovel hard enough to kill a hobo, but I’m still in whatever category it is that can take down the already-half-removed shade cover. That's my job today, while the sun is shining. My weeping cherry will probably be cooked next summer without the meager shade cover overhead, but it’s probably time for me to accept the reality that I live in a desert. I did manage to get some lovely red basil, mostly gone to seed. I clipped some of the seeds to save, but couldn’t resist putting them in a stark arrangement to dry.

The silver lining is that the view and the mess encourages me to stay inside. Our Xmas wrapping theme this year is very green. I do all my shopping using the internets. Everything is wrapped in the mailing box or envelop it arrived in, or in brown packing paper from another box. Once corner of the living room looks like a scene from my new favorite reality show “Hoarders” which features pathologically disturbed people who live amid the junk they slowly bury themselves in. Watching this show gives me that horrible sense people get from looking at the devastation caused by a train wreck: what sickos these hoarders are, and how positively normal my own domestic mess is.

Besides, while I’m inside, I can look at pictures of the yard in better seasons past, remember it like a garden of dreams.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Roasted Pepper Saffron Pasta Sauce

I made some roasted peppers and saffron pasta sauce. Sweet yellow bells and a few bright sweet red bells. I amped up the garlic and added a large shallot. I can show you the golden roasted peppers before blending, and the glittering golden sauce they made, but I can only describe the smell. There’s something about roasting vegetable in the oven on a dingy chilly day. As the fragrance builds, I acquire this sort of olfactory superpower and feel the spicy sweet fragrances through my skin. Well, maybe not quite so ethereal, but certainly mouth-watering.

The basic recipe is by Andrea Chesman, from “The Roasted Vegetable.” (My modifications are in parentheses.) I would call it Saffron Roasted Pepper Pasta Sauce, but she calls it:

Saffron Pasta with Roasted Peppers
(serves 4 – 6)

4 yellow bell peppers
2 red bell peppers
(2 stunted but lovely sweet purple peppers from the Veggie Garden)
2 garlic cloves, peeled but left whole (WTF? Clearly more garlic is required) (6 fat cloves, sliced into chips)
(1 large shallot, sliced and separated into rings)
(1 T olive oil, in which to soak the shallot and garlic and add to the red pepper roasting pan for the final 10 minutes of red pepper roasting.)
1 cup high-quality neutral-tasting chicken or vegetable broth (I used organic chicken)
Generous pinch of saffron threads, crumbled (I used more than J would have)
1 cup half-and-half
1 pound linguine or rotini (I used egg noodles)
¼ cup chopped fresh basil leaves (I cut red basil and Thai basil in chiffonade)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
A few springs fresh basil, for garnish (All I had was lovely purple Thai basil which added to the bright color of this amazing sauce)

1. Preheat the broiler. Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet (I had only a 4-pepper sized ceramic dish that would fit, so I did the yellows first, then the red together with the garlic and onion)
2. Place the bell peppers on the baking sheet and space between them. Broil 4 inches from the heat for 15 to 20 minutes, until charred all over, turning several times. (I did 5 minutes on each of 4 sides, turning in between. This is where the smell first gets you.)

3. Place the (broiled) peppers in a covered bowl, plastic bag (yuck), or paper bag. Seal and let steam for about 10 minutes to loosen the skins.
4. Cut slits in the peppers and drain briefly into a small bowl to catch any juices. Scrape or peel the skins and discard. Scrape and discard the seeds and membranes.
5. Chop the yellow peppers. Combine them in a food processor or blender with the garlic and pepper juices. Process until finely chopped. Add the broth and wine and process to make a smooth puree. Transfer to a saucepan and add the saffron and the half-and-half. Heat gently over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
6. Cut the red peppers into thin, 1 ½-inch-long strips.
7. Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain well.

8. Transfer the pasta to a large serving bowl. Add the saffron sauce, red pepper strips, and chopped basil. Toss to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve at once, garnished with the basil sprigs.

Next time, I plan to try to can the sauce (excluding the half-and-half) but including the chopped red peppers and garlic/shallot mix. That way, when I open the canned sauce later, all I will have to do is heat and add the half-and-half and some fresh basil, and make my own egg noodles.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Rain, dammit!

“And now, hark at the rain,
Windless and light,
Half a kiss, half a tear,
Saying good-night.”

- Edward Thomas, Sowing

The rain is coming. Not yet, but soon. The bird feeders are dry and filled to their brims yesterday, already half full. Before the rain, I have to give everybody a drink of water (there’s no such thing as a gentle “soak”) so the ground softens enough to open and drink when the rains finally arrive. If I don’t gently hand-water a bit first, the first rain just makes the surface of the dry dust damp. The first water to fall from the sky rolls off my dry yard like a duck’s back, right down the storm drains.

So I go outside to water before it rains. The birds resentfully quit the bird feeders at my approach. Some of them are too fat to stand on the dainty feeders and, like the plump morning doves (aka, hobo chicken) who are content to forage on the ground below the feeders. The wren pictured here is actually too obese to feed from the hanging feeders . The morning doves also waddle around, sorting through the sunflower hulls for any dropped seeds.

In early spring rains, the seeds who have escaped the birds begin to sprout. I’ve sometimes managed to transplant the fragile sprouts into a sunnier spots where they survive and prosper. I’ve never had much luck buying sunflower seeds and attempting to cultivate real live sunflowers. Which is a shame, because I love sunflowers. Big, gaudy, and vulgar like their humble beginnings as subsistence food for poor farmers. Now the darlings of the Farmers’ Markets, the icon of the Art Nouveau which was beginning to fade and be eclipsed by Art Deco about 100 years ago. I insist that I liked sunflowers when I was poor, before they became trendy and sustainable and green and junk.

Some day, I will stumble my way into the perfect combination of sun, soil and rare rain to cultivate wildly successful sunflowers. My timing is also probably off, a sad metaphor for my gardening skills in general. I am the Almost Gardener, who may insist on not remembering all the right botanical names, but I garden for love and for physical and mental therapy, and probably enjoy it all the more because it relives me of my obsessive need to name what I see.

But someday, I will grow sunflowers deliberately. Meanwhile, my yard is overrun and run amok with mint: the perfect barometer of my measure of care in the yard. I practice gardening like a clinical drug trial doing the LD50 phase. This means the dose at which 50% of the patients die. I probably am doing better than 50-50 these days, but it was not always so.

One day, I will all arrive at the exact right time and deliver the exact right dose of all the ingredients needed to grow monster sunflowers. But first, let’s have some rain, dammit!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Xmas Shopping

“He realized now that to be afraid of this death he was staring at with animal terror meant to be afraid of life. Fear of dying justified a limitless attachment to what is alive in man. And all those who had not made the gestures necessary to live their lives, all those who feared and exalted impotence – they were afraid of death because of the sanction it gave to a life in which they had not been involved. They had not lived enough, never having lived at all. And death was a kind of gesture, forever withholding water from the traveler vainly seeking to slake his thirst. But for others, it was the fatal and tender gesture that erases and denies, smiling at gratitude as at rebellion.”
- Albert Camus. A Happy Death

Did some xmas cybershopping till I didn’t exactly drop, since I shop sitting down. Boy my butt is tired. And I’m a super cypershopper. I like, made a macro of my Visa card number. I use a Visa because when you select the type of credit card to use, Visa is usually listed at the top of the drop-down list. I’m listening to Hey Sinner Man, by the Long Beach Children’s Choir. Pretty xmasy, eh?

I did go outside briefly to loosen up my wrists and avoid fatigue. I was confronted by the glittering eyes of the tiny stone frog at the right of the mushroom. The yard is in it’s neglected minimalist pallet that would be conjured by Basho – stark monochrome of bright light against dark shadow.

There is nothing more likely to cause cognitive dissonance than my afternoon shopping on line, followed by than a walk in the dry warm air as it moseys around and then settles silently on the yard like a cat who circles around in your lap before finding the perfect configuration for sleeping.

Ahhhh, another day in the life of a non-working retiree with good health insurance.

All it would take to make my life perfect would be a snow-ball martini with some actual coconut on the rim. Godiva white chocolate liquor? Check. Coconut vodka? Check? Kalua? Check. In lieu of caramel sauce, I used a splash of butterscotch liquor the other night and it worked.

Like I see in the mirror on the mornings I’ve slept in my cat t-shirt: efil si doog.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Where Credit is Due

"If your grad school gives you a full ride you can easily afford to go. Or if you can afford to pay for your schooling yourself with money left over. Or if you don't want children and are completely indifferent to material considerations. A rule of thumb is that you can afford to go to grad school if you can afford to spend an equivalent amount of time lying on the beach."
Can I afford a PhD?

Recently, there have been a number of student and labor actions, aka “strikes”, at the University where I have a young relative now in law school. He has posted here and here some perceptive and insightful reflections on these strikes, and on some of the actions taken by “The Regents of the University of California” and the administration at the University of California, Berkeley (UCB), Law Schook, aka “Boalt”. The irony that UCB is the founding member of the Free Speech Movement from way back in my own college days.

His undergraduate professors and his graduate professors were able to attend the University of California in the 60’s and graduate without any debt, and get a good job in the academy or the still shiny new corporate world. In contrast, Laz graduated with a PhD in 2009 and a debt of >$30k, as did his spouse with her own $30k school loans. Through hard word during and between academic responsibilities, they managed to buy a house when the market was at the top of its game, back before the Bush Crash of 2008. Having graduated without job prospects last May, they moved to Berkeley. Being prudent, they put their house on the sale and rental market more than a year before their anticipated move. It has not sold or rented to date, partly due to professional incompetence of real estate and property experts and partly to the global financial meltdown. They are flat broke.

Half the student loans come due next month. Some people look at their scholarly pursuits as if they are selfish in not procreating and consuming. What if these people admitted how easy they had it compared to this generation? What if we gave them affordable, good healthcare now, while they are in the prime of their lives and working harder than we did with less to show for it?

In their exceptional dedication and determination, my relatives in the same cohort as Laz have sacrificed material wealth in favor of what they consider a more worthwhile goal: to make the world a better place. Some have decided to forgoe adding to the weight of the world by making little copies of themselves to overdress and spoil. Others - in their wisdom and compassion drawn from a life experience in much harder times than we boomers ever had - have insisting on taking a course that meaningful to them: fostering a sound and compassionate community. I think that’s a better choice than my generation’s own self-absorbed insistence on our inalienable right to our own individual happiness.

They may fail. Just like the Hippies failed to change the world when we were young. They may also succeed. You’d think we’d all be looking for a better world, no matter who got the credit.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Tastes in November

“I thought I had an appetite for destruction. Turns out all I wanted was a club sandwich.
Homer Simpson

I’m mostly inside these days, my obsession with the doll house once again activated by the cooler weather. I managed to get lights into the wisteria chandelier I’m making.

The purple beads themselves were acquired years ago - woven into a bonsai-sized tree with a twisted gold wire stem that looked pretty tacky. I got it at a festival in Pomona, and knew I was going to deconstruct the tree and use the branches for the chandelier. I wound several strings of white lights around the branches with floral tape. Here’s the first floor. Notice the inlay in the floor of the dining room at rear beneath the wisteria arch.

It’s November but it’s still summer here. This is the time of year when I usually decide there is no such thing as winter and I can garden comfortably year-round. Then, it gets cold and rainy and stays that way until March. It does cool down enough in the evenings that we've already had a fire and heard the furnace kick on in the early morning hours.

When I did get outside, I planted some recent acquisitions – this being the time of year to plant natives and drought-tolerant plants. In deadheading and cleaning up, I ended up with enough cut things to make a lovely arrangement at the side of the pond (below). I put the copper canyon daisy and my tiny pomegranate tree that was a volunteer in the Veggie Garden.

I got a ton of starts at the nursery yesterday for the Veggie Garden: snow peas, red cabbage, yellow cauliflower, more broccoli. I have to buy beet seeds, but found some golden ones to plant next to the red. Got some asparagus in six-pack starts, deciding against buying the bare root ones. We need things in the veggie garden that will last more than one season, so why not make room for the asparagus and see what they do, even if it takes them a few years to get going.

I found some lovely red lettuce and some spinach. We have some radicchio in the ground, but the outer leaves taste bitter and I’m not ready to pull out the entire plant to eat the heart until I get something to replace it – hence the lettuce and spinach. Spinach is my classic example of how something that tastes lovely raw in a salad (especially with bacon and a dressing made from bacon grease and cream curdled in the microwave and tossed warm). You can wilt it and it’s still edible, but if you cook it and eat your spinach like Popeye did, it gives you that squishy feeling when you swallow that my sister K used to say about eating canned peas: “It makes my head wiggle”. That was when she was a kid. She probably doesn’t say that these days.

I also got some shallots, and chard, but passed on the collard greens. I’ll only grow what I like to eat and cooking greens seems somehow sacrilegious. While I’ll stoop to growing chard, it seems to be taking things too far to cook collard greens or kale. Once, I went to a KFC in the hood in Oakland and they had a side called “mean greens” which sounded more appetizing than their international orange mac and cheesoid product.

The greens turned out to be cooked collard greens with some nasty hot sauce. It was like the cook decided if you were going to eat something with a texture like cardboard only slimy, you might as well spice it up with enough Tabasco sauce and salt to preserve an Egyptian mummy. Why not just eat boiled cardboard seasoned with ground up mummy powder? I’d rather eat grass: which I actually do every morning when I juice some wheat grass and drink a shot. Tastes awful but goes down quicker than Homer Simpson can eat a club sandwich.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Winding Safe to Sea

“We are not sure of sorrow,
And joy was never sure:
To-day will die to-morrow;
Time stoops to no man’s lure;
And love, grown faint and fretful,
With lips but half regretful
Signs, and with eyes forgetful
Weeps that no loves endure,

“From too much love of living,
From hope and fear set free,
We thank with brief thanksgiving
Whatever gods may be
That no life lives forever;
That dead men rise up never;
That even the weariest river
Winds somewhere safe to sea.”
- Homer, The Odyssey

I can see my mom on the resting on the couch one autumn afternoon like today when she was dying of cancer and I went to stay a few days to say goodbye. Dad asked her what she was doing and she replied: I’m fucking dying over here.

I wasn’t there when Mom finally died. One year later, I went to visit Dad to be with him on the anniversary of Mom’s death. Thus, I was there when Dad died, suddenly and without time to for either of us to be afraid. From hope and fear set free.

All these years later, there are few tears left to cry, and even thinking of them brings only a gentle tap of sorrow, like the velvet feet of my cat walking over me and waking me early this morning. There are few words left to say either, about how wonderful they both were and how idyllic our childhood home was.

Time dilutes sorrow. As loss recedes into the past, it slowly becomes buried beneath the present, like M-in-M’s back garden now covered in fallen leaves. But somehow, the memories remain – most of them are good, and many are profane.

No life lives forever, but I still miss you, Mom and Dad.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Monday, November 09, 2009

Don't Disappear

Don't disappear.... By disappearing from me,
you will disappear from yourself,
betraying your own self forever,
and that will be the basest dishonesty.

Don't disappear.... To disappear is so easy.
It's impossible to resurrect one another.
Death drags down too deep.
Death even for a moment is too long.

Don't disappear.... Give me your palm.
I am written on it-this I believe.
What makes one's last love terrible
is that it is not love, but fear of loss.

Poem:Don't Disappear, Yvegeny Yevtushenko, 1987, Translated by Antonina W. Bouis, Albert C. Todd and Yevgeny Yevtushenko
Pictures: my mums, transformed into gold by the late November afternoon sun

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Guest Update from the Midwest

Just a quick post to illustrate the typically indecisive weather in SE Michigan this fall. The glowing maples show the height of their color on Nov. 1, and our increasingly frequent frosty nights have elicited a growing redness in the leaves of the dwarf azalea in the second photo. But daytime temperatures have also gotten up to 70 degrees this month, which has the bulbs confused. Beneath the azalea, note the tender, spring-green tips of a sure-to-be-disappointed daffodil. Poor baby.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Vacation Part 1: North Carolina

“She’s a quiet clapper in the bell of the prairie,
a girl who likes to be alone…
“The stiller she is, the more everything moves
in the immense vocabulary of being.”
- Margaret Hasse, Being Still (2001)

In mid-October, I went to visit J & R for Autumn in Asheville NC. Actually, they live in Marshall NC about 40 minutes into the mountains from the airport.

Winding through late summer hills in their final blaze of green, now following, now leading the shallow, fat French Broad River. We make a final crossing, leaving a rear-view mirror-full of Marshall.

Winding up through back public and private roads, waving to every car we pass. A sharp turn from this road into a driveway in need of more gravel, through some trees and around a corner into a high meadow. Welcome to Shangri-La. Later, our host stands at the far end of the porch, from which you feel like a sentry on look-out at a medieval castle at the top of the peak with a view of all who approach.

The driveway climbs toward the west, then abruptly right-turns into an open high meadow of natives grasses and wildflowers – an approach that can be overseen from these windows.

The driveway curves up the meadow and circles around to the east of the house. Here is the view of the top of the driveway, looking mostly east from the dining room.

We walked a path in these woods in the mist. The pines are unusual in that they were cultivated by a prior settler in this place. In America, anything over 100 years is ancient. Echoes from the Civil War seem to echo faintly in still in the air at twilight.

Later we walked through the open high meadow and heard the lowing of the cows on a nearby peak. We picked wildflowers, and the last of the cutting flowers. The next night it froze and killed the cutting garden. I was there at the exact moment the seasons changed.

The view from the house-wide covered porch facing west is of ranges of mountains, in different shades of purple The views near and far in every direction are more priceless than the clichéd punch line of a master card commercial. I walked part of my brother and his wife thirty-acre spread over the next few days.

We visited a nearby botanical garden and saw a row of trees burst into red flames. I cannot remember their name, but their beauty was unforgettable.

We drove the Blue Ridge Parkway and back into Marshall and saw the sun set from the Grove Park Inn.

Once in the “Historic” Grove Park Inn, thoughts drifted to the past. The hotel is about 100 years old and filled with relics reminding us of our past.

Back home, walking the 30 acre spread with the proud farmer. Turning a path into hardwood, we stroll by a tumbledown barn made from chestnut wormwood.

We passed a crumbling outhouse with a crystal door knob, and a four-room house with peeling ancient wallpaper, a tree through the roof, and a lovely crumbling porch with an overgrown view.

A world-class organic vegetable garden maintained by a world-class professional horticulturist. You can imagine the delicious food because I was too busy eating it to take a picture before dinner.

Autumn seems to be the season to remember. We who cultivate our gardens store up the bounty of the harvest that is bred in our bones. We remember the long days of summer, storing memories to warm us through the long nights of winter.

This is the season of remembering. I felt close to many of those strangers, friends, family members who are no longer here to see Autumn. We talked about friends and families who have died, who have moved on, who we barely had time to know. I loved the autumn colors, smells and sounds. I even enjoyed the gaudy fluorescent leaves and brazen purple berry clusters of the beauty berry at Biltmore. It seems to childishly shout out that all autumn isn’t muted, sometimes it’s brazen and drinks a bottle of red wine each night before the fire.

We have come of middle age, those of us who met as children. We are our families’ middle generation. Our collective, beloved parents and grandparents are long gone, our children and their childrens’ futures seems impossibly far into the future. But this season, we try to build a bride of remembrance. There is an urge to pass along stories, legends, family jokes, and love.

I enjoyed autumn with close family members to recollect, remember, and, to revel in the memories. And to pass along some wisdom I heard the day I returned to parched San Diego. Something I’m sure my parents once said to me: Thoughts turn to things. Pick good ones.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Haloween

"So Autumn’s not the end, not the last rung
Of any ladder in the yearly climb

"When that is deathly old which once was young,
Since time’s no ladder but a constant wheel

"Like an old paddled mill that dips and churns
The mill-race, and upon the summit turns

"Unceasingly to heel
Over, and scoop fresh water out of time."

Vita Sackville-West
The Garden, Autumn
Pictures: Greenfield Village in Dearborn Michigan, October 2009

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


And now, hark at the rain,
Windless and light,
Half a kiss, half a tear,
Saying good-night.

- Edward Thomas Sowing

It rained last night! I'm off for 2 weeks.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Can This Marriage Be Saved?

After all, tomorrow is another day. Margaret Mitchel

I think that was the name of the column in Cosmo. You’d meet Dick and Jane who would each frame the issue from the standpoint of themselves as the longsuffering victims. Then the Wise (i.e. Real) Doctor would preach at them until they were Saved and whatnot.

Tech Support Guy and I went to the grocery store yesterday. We each came home with our favorite staples replaced, and each made our own favorite sandwich for dinner.

TSG speaks:
I ate a baloney sandwich on Styrofoam day-old, generic, wonder-bread slathered with the butteroid material in the half-gallon vat of generic you-won’t-believe-its-just-lard, and topped with several peeled slabs of generic processed cheese log of orange rubbery heavy-weight jello-cheese product. I plated that with ruffled cheesy potato chips in a relatively somber international orange, that we both agree is god’s most perfect food. My meal was accompanied by an amusing little pink wine from a box. Note also, that I decant my beverage into a foggy plastic glass stained with your farmer bros coffee and/or your cola and artificial sugar flavored phosphoric acid. A plastic tub of plastic chocolate pudding and carcinogens topped off my meal.

Weeping Sore speaks:
I had a sandwich composed of artisan cheese bread, gourmet mustard, Swiss cheese and pastrami and topped with a couple of fresh organic romaine lettuce leaves. My sandwich too, was also accompanied by god’s most perfect food ruffled cheese chips. I sipped a martini made with vanilla vodka and organic Italian blood orange soda, mixed 1:1.

Wise Counselor
No. This marriage cannot be saved…. Well, let’s see if we can’t make something good about this crap sandwich of a marriage. The gulf in the culinary tastes of TSG and WS might at first seem irreconcilable, but…

Ok. Let’s suppose no evidence remains about how the spatter stains of that luminol-fluoresced wall got there. Let’s say forensic analysis of samples taken do not match either TCG or WS, or their latch-key child’s blood.

Didn’t T, (can I call you Tech?) use coarse kosher salt, and didn’t W use homeopathic doses of the same coarse kosher salt? Yes? Yes! Didn’t you both design, build, and consume a sandwich composed of bread, filler, lubricant/sauce? That’s what I’m talkin’ ‘bout!

And, at the end of the day, it isn’t about the more sophisticated chemical compounds Mother Nature wouldn’t know from a chicken in an orange jumpsuit. It’s not about the preservatives, pesticides or other carcinogenic trace materials consumed. The one unshakable foundation of your marriage must be the potato chips.

Think about this. How many kinds of potato chips are there in this universe? There must be hundreds. And yet, you both agree that the foundation of your diverse sandwich tastes is the potato chip that meets the following criteria:
1) ruffled to permit maximum transfer of your topping of choice (T: canned onion dip. W: homemade Holy Christ roasted tomato ketchup).
2) Seasoned/coated with a fine grit dust of orange powder of various tones ranging from Headache International Orange Neon to clay-colored turmeric yellow.
3) Composition of Seasonal Dust is preferably cheesoid, but honey mesquite barbeque is acceptable to W whose more sophisticated palate enjoys a savory adventure from time to time.

Which, if I’m not mistaken is the secret to a perfect marriage that will transcend any difference in sandwich composition. That, and plus lies. Can’t have a lasting love without a generous pinch of denial in these tough times.

Voiceover in a voice of Kent Brokman:
TSG and WS lived happily ever after, at least according to the settlement decree approved by the courts and published by TMZ. And who the hell are you to raise your redundantly Supercilious eyebrows?

Did I mention I’m hormonal? Forgot what a mood swing felt like. It’s a bumpier ride than I remember, but something is twitching inside my brain, and I’m holding on so far. There may be something to this bio-identical hormone replacement therapy. But then again, Big Brother would say that’s anecdotal, invalid, femino-centric discourse. To which I’d reply – Dude, stop blathering. Take a placebo and chill.

My blood tests surprised Doc who said my testosterone is “off the charts”. T is out picking up my estriol and som’pin else that is not horse piss bottled by Big Pharma that causes breast cancer (oops their bad). So no wonder I want to bite the heads off chickens. You may ask yourself - how did I get here? Me, I ask myself, why not make another martini? But the doc told me to cut back on the testosterone. He promised that way I won’t grow a mustache, or attend a monster truck show in the arena wearing a Jack Daniels baseball cap backwards. Or at least, not yet.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Stylish Garden Aprons

Fashion is a way of not having to decide who you are. Style is deciding who you are and being able to perpetuate it.
Quentin Crisp

So, what else can I do when it’s too hot to garden outside? I’m so restless, I’m almost at the point of knocking on somebody’s front door and running away and hiding behind a tree and giggling. If my Mom was around, I’d call her and say, Maaaaahhhm… there’s nothing to do!

So, I went shopping. The local quilt store has rooms and rooms of fabric, and I fit the perfect profile to be wandering about a quilt store: pudgy middle-aged person in need of a project. Fifteen minutes and $73 later, I had six different patterned cottons all on a vegetable theme.

I made six aprons, lining them each since the stupid quilt store only carries the thin cotton stuff suitable for quilts, and I want heavier aprons with pockets because I loose about a pair of clippers a week if I don’t have a pocket to put them in while I work. The first apron took an entire afternoon because I use the sewing matching so rarely these days I have to re-learn how to thread bobbins and correctly thread the machine itself. Then, I had to undergo the humiliation of moving up, yet again, to a larger needle to do the hand sewing because I can’t see the damn hole in the damn needle any more. Damn.

By the time I was on the last one, I had it down to about 45 minutes, and could even re-wind a bobbin without resort to profanity or medication. Of course, by then, I was on liquid medication, it being happy hour. The happiest part of this is that I set the sewing machine up in the living/dining room where we can close the doors to the rest of the house and turn on the old air conditioner. I can’t hear the TV with the AC on, but I was rocking out to the iPod anyway.

So, now I’ve got stylish aprons for my teammates who volunteer with me to maintain the veggie garden. Since nothing can grow without being subject to grasshoppers, bunnies and squirrels, nothing can grow outside of our custom made chicken-wire cages. This is our in-between season when the tomatoes are about done but it’s too hot for the broccoli to consider growing. It just hunkers there under it’s chicken wire wondering what we were thinking to plant it in the heat.

We all know who we are. We may not be good gardeners, but we’ll look stylish as hell in our veggie-themed aprons.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Glitter and Aromatherapy

‘I’ve been on food stamps and welfare. Anybody help me out? No.’
Craig T. Nelson, telling Glen Beck, with a perfectly straight face, why he’d like to stop paying his taxes.

The real world is pretty crazy these days. Nelson personifies the un-contemplative mindset so much in evidence these days. He makes as much sense as those opposing government healthcare while on Medicare. In order for me to hold on to the shreds of sanity that I have left, I sometimes have to retreat inside.

If you read about the history of gardens, you’ll find that one of the oldest forms of garden: the hortus conclusis, or enclosed garden, was created by religious people provide a peaceful quiet place to retreat from the noise and stupidity of the outside world.

Perhaps this began as an attempt to recreate the original garden, since once in the garden you couldn’t take two steps without tripping over some religious icon or symbolic plant – like the white rose which everyone knew stood for the purity of the BVM. I find that when it’s too hot to retreat from the political news to my own backyard garden, the world inside my head works just as well.

Whenever watching the news or reading the paper gives me a headache, I can always undergo my own aromatherapy cure. There’s nothing that beats the smell of roasting tomatoes with plenty of garlic and onions.

While the oven performs the miracle of caramel-ization, I entertain myself with clip art and make creative labels. Whether it’s Dirty Girl or Green Monster, I always finish off a label with glitter.

Glitter makes the dirty girl’s bathwater or the dragon’s scales sparkle. There’s no therapy like the aroma of garlic, Photoshop, and a glitter pen to make things right in my world.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Choosey Beggars

“The rays which stream through the shutter will be no longer remembered when the shutter is wholly removed. No method nor discipline can superseded the necessity of being forever on the alert.” Hank Thorough (sic), Walden

Gardeners always want it all in the garden. Both perpetual spring, the lovely labor of summer, and still we want to welcome the harvest of fall and light the first fire in the fireplace. Whether you are rich in worldly wealth, health and happiness, or a beggar beneath a bridge scratching a lettuce garden . Forget those rays of summer sunshine, coming through the west-facing bedroom window. Stretch across the bed at 14:00, turn on the fan and nestle with your cat for a last summer afternoon nap.

Soon, with the tilt of the globe, the sun will depart earlier, the weak winter sun will permit the blinds to be completely open for the first time since last Winter. Mail order catalog season is upon us. No more summer sunshine naps, feeling the warmth of cat and sun mingle on my skin.

Henry David Thoreau seems to be saying that if we just pay attention, we will be rewarded. He goes on to elaborate that more valuable than the most prestigious advanced education, just learn to see what there is to be seen.

Here’s what he wrote about he learned in his first summer at Walden:

“Sometimes, in a summer morning, having taken my accustomed bath, I sat in my sunny doorway from sunrise till noon, rapt in a revery, admist the pines and hickories and sumachs, in undisturbed solitude and stillness, while the birds sing around or flitted noiseless through the house, until by the sun falling in at my west window, or the noise of some traveler’s wagon on the distant highway, I was reminded of the lapse of time.”

If all you have is one window that faces west, this is the moment to sit or stand there and watch the garden one late September afternoon. Pay attention as the golden sun fades into the trees across the canyon, and dusk creeps in. Even beggars don’t have to chose our favorite season, we can savor them all.