Saturday, November 28, 2020


It's my job to make croissants for family feasts. I'm not much of a baker, but I get the nod in my family because basically no one else wants to bake at all. This year we had no prospects for a big Thanksgiving dinner and no real plans for ourselves, and that was okay, because Dave has never particularly like turkey anyway. He always made the turkey, and the stuffing, and the potatoes, and the side dishes, and the gravy, and the peeled prawns with tarragon mustard sauce, and a selection of Horse Doovers, and he opened the can of cranberry sauce and shlorped it onto the plate, but he always groused about the turkey (little ground bird humor, there) and wondered why we couldn't have prime rib instead.

Anyway, this year seemed like a good opportunity to not have turkey, and we didn't have any other plans, and then it occurred to me how about I just make a batch of croissants and we eat them all? A jug of wine, a freaking mountain of butter-saturated bread and thou. As soon as it came to me I knew it had to happen. I don't even eat wheat much anymore, but I'm willing to destroy my health for homemade croissants. Mine aren't bakery-pretty, but they are spectacular. By the time you read this, I might almost be ready to sit up and take soup again.

This sort of thing is not unprecedented around here. Dave has always been a very good cook but one day I asked him what he was making and he said "All the bacon you ever really wanted." And that's what we had. It was a lot of bacon. We were not at all well afterwards.

This is the first year I've made croissants since I started watching the Great British Baking Show, though. So I've seen how puff pastry is supposed to be made, and it's a somewhat delicate and painstaking process that rewards perfectionists and painstakers, none of whom live here. I planned to make them as I always do. I always check the recipe even though I've made them almost a hundred times and there are only four ingredients. ("Oh yeah," I say, when I look them up.) The cookbook springs open to the right page, spang in the middle like the Psalms. It's an old Joy Of Cooking with grease stains and a sprung spine, and it was given to my mother-in-law Murry (yes) in 1948 with the penciled inscription "Good luck, ole pal, love, Helen." This cookbook is so old it has references to the "colored cook."

I'm good at making the dough but I get lazy when it comes to dotting the butter on it and folding it over. You're supposed to whip the butter so it's easy to Dot but I've never bothered. I just put a couple sticks of butter in my bra for a while and it's soft enough when I'm ready to go. Also, as someone who has never given milk, I think it's impressive to pull butter from my bosom.

So while I had the recipe in front of me, I re-checked it, as I had the previous 99 times, and what the hell but I've been doing it wrong all this time. I've always read "dot 1/4 of the butter on l/3 of the rolled-out dough and fold into thirds," and then swing it around east to south (I think north to east works just as well), and do it three more times. And that is what I have always done. It's hard to fit all the butter on a third of the dough after you've folded and rolled it a few times but I do my best. But it doesn't say that. It says to dot 1/4 of the butter on the whole dough layer and fold into thirds. Much easier. It says that plain as day and presumably always has. This is why it's hard to edit your own copy. Once you've read it wrong, it just stays read wrong.

Anyway my way does result in more chunks of butter that want to bust through the layers of dough and leak out, so my croissants are not only packed with butter, they're also swimming in it in the oven, resulting in sautéed butter rolls, which is even better than the professional version. The judges of the Great British Baking Show would demerit me into exile, but I don't care. And if I have a soggy bottom, 'tain't nobody's business but my own.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

See Spot

I'm not sure my eyes are working properly anymore. Of course, they never have. All I have to do is take my glasses off for a moment to realize how lucky I am to be alive now because in another era I would have blundered into a tar pit. I would have been stomped into salsa by a mastodon. I would have died young but at least I would never have seen it coming.

I should have my eyes checked again. But it's been less than a year since the last exam and I can wait. It isn't any one thing, anyway. Seems like I'm always trying to navigate around the smudgy bits and exploring my trifocals for areas of clarity in any given situation. Supposedly I have a cataract that no one is in a hurry to do anything about. I also have enough floaters that in certain lights it's like I'm living in an aquarium, which isn't so bad. The only place it's really annoying is at the piano. I wonder if I can get sheet music the size of the old Dick And Jane book we learned from in first grade. We sat in its shadow. Four kids could make a fort out of that sucker without even using blankets.

I like to think of my eyes as having "let themselves go." That's the expression people use to describe old people who have flat-out given up on trying to be something they're not. I guess it's meant to be derogatory. Seems to me if you're an old woman who rolls out of bed and into a muumuu and scuff slippers, you've got a good grip on things. Mostly no one describes me as having let myself go because it implies I was holding it together before, and there's not a lot of evidence for that. Comfort, Sloth, and I are a mighty team, and Vanity doesn't have a shot against us when we stick together.

Some things I can see more clearly now, in this life pause we've been given. Our isolation is not without its blessings, especially with the stripping-away of diversion and trivial pursuit. So much of what we do is designed to distract us from our eventual, unimportant demise. We acquire mindlessly, we manufacture conflict. We're desperate and diligent in filling up our lives, we feed our rage and our fears. We complain about our busyness and yet we feed that too. We don't like to think about our lifetimes contracting. But there's no getting around that. There's something to be said about knowing what's important, and a lot of unimportant stuff needs to be moved out of the way to see it.

What we need to do is let ourselves go. We're the ones in our way. Every best joy is simple. We all need things for simple survival, and we should do our best to see that everyone gets them, because right now the winners and losers are determined by a game of dice. But we don't need much--not nearly as much as we imagine. Rejoice in good food. Rejoice in food at all. Go outside. Stay inside. Play music. Play at all. Make art. Make out. Make up. Everything is bigger than we are, and that is the biggest comfort and joy of all.

I rejoice in weak eyes that can still see, and I rejoice in you, and in everything that still wings and still slithers and still sprouts on a still-green earth. And I'll fight for all of these tomorrow, but today I'll let my thankfulness for it all roll through me. Gratitude is another word for peace.

That much is clear.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Rodent On The Lam

You never know what's in store: you could get hit by a bus at any time. That's what people say. I don't know why being hit by a bus is such a thing, or why people are always getting thrown under one. It's evocative. And yet very few of us know anyone who's been hit by a bus. I do: that's how my uncle died. But he wasn't normal.

The thing is, whereas it is sort of true that you could get hit by a bus at any time, given adequate exposure, it is equally true that your life could get suddenly brighter at any time too.

Just the other day a huge happiness landed in our kitchen. Right out of nowhere. Dave was sweeping the floor and rather than sliding a chair aside he actually tilted it up. And what was under that chair but Tater's missing hamster!
Tater has been missing her hamster for at least three years. Dave saw it in a store window and brought it home for her. She likes to bat around little stuffed things and in some cases she likes to disembowel them with her rear feet. It's not unusual for us to come upon a tragic scene of shredded Poly-Fil stuffing and torn plush. I usually sew them back up again because we're not made of money.

(Yeah, it's a little like a young girl being surgically stitched to be re-sold as virgins. I simply have a problem looking at stuffed animals as passive constructions of lint. No. People think I, as a grown-up human, am way too invested in seeing after Pootie's needs and desires, too. But they're wrong. They don't know our history. It's thick.)

Anyway, Tater's hamster is special. We thought she didn't much like it at first. She ignored it. Until the day Dave took off and Tater didn't realize I was in the house and she set up a low, mournful yowling completely unrelated to her regular voice, and I saw her transporting the hamster into a different room and setting it down. After that we noticed that the hamster was never in the same place it had been when we left the house. She'll take it upstairs. Downstairs. If we catch her in the act she'll drop it and give it a few pretend-bats, but there isn't a mark on it. She protects it. It's her baby.

[By the way, yes, it has a tail, and is not really a hamster as much as it's a gerbil, but "hamster" is a funnier word and more fun to say, and that's that. Rules are different in a logophile's house.]

So we don't necessarily find the hamster when we come home, but happen upon it later. And that's why it took us a few weeks to realize we hadn't seen it in a while. 

I have been devastated on Tater's behalf. She loved that hamster. I've been shaking my head in sorrow over it for three years. And now it's back! We tossed it toward her and she put it between her paws and under her chin until we made too much of a fuss, and then she pretended to bat it around for a couple seconds. Later it showed up in another room, set neatly upright.

And Tater, who is somewhere around fourteen and has been slowing down, is a new cat. Lunging at squirrels on the other side of the window. Chittering at finches. Conducting spontaneous crazy-cat exercises at warp speed just because. Exuberating. Ain't nothing in the house safe from her excess of joy now, except for the hamster. He's spotless. And looking pretty bright in the buttons, too.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Hold On, Sparky

Well gosh, I'm getting into the rhythm of this business of seducing literary agents. My synopsis is getting tighter. My bio hints at genius with a disarming whiff of humor. I've even found "comparable novels" to throw in because they like that sort of thing. "Jeeves and Wooster meet The Goldfinch on The Road," I begin. Irresistible.

But I make mistakes. One of my favorite mistakes is sending out a query letter from my regular email address rather than the address I use just for writing-related things. I like to keep those accounts separate. Also, my regular account is "Pootie." Some of your more easily affronted recipient mailboxes will send that sucker straight to the spam folder. If I accidentally send a query letter from Pootie and don't hear back, I don't know if it's a normal non-response or if the agent never got my letter.

My perfect letter.

This wasn't a problem on my desktop computer, Old Sludgy. If I wanted to send something from my writing account, I had to ask my computer to flip all the way over to that account. It can't even hear Pootie from there. But on my laptop, my two email accounts are right there together, side by each. And when I send a letter, I have to check which account I'm sending it from. So I do. Usually.

But then there's that time I've got a letter in draft form and I hold onto it for four days, rereading every morning and making tweaks and improvements, and making sure I've spelled the agent's name right, and then I get to thinking "Is 'tight synopsis' a medical condition?" and accidentally hit SEND and whoosh there it goes and instantly--I mean instantly--I realize I've sent it from Pootie.

So I slow down. A bit. I write my letters, and I keep them in the Drafts folder, and have days to make sure they're going to be sent from the right account, and then I open one up, change one word, and click off to send it back to Drafts, and whoosh--off it goes, because I hit the little airplane instead of the little red dot. Was it okay? Did I copy and paste from another letter and forget to replace the other agent's name? Whatever happened to having your own secretary?
Clearly, this has gotten into the same territory as walking down a flight of stairs. I never used to think about that but things have changed. And now I square up at the top of the stairs and grab the bannister. How is it I can take such care with a letter and then screw it up at the very end? The problem, when you're old, is that your muscles went to crap and your memory is even crappier and your muscle memory is all you've got left. You're going to hit that button and it's just a dang miracle you're not also waiting to hear the "ding" and carriage return.

I need some kind of reminder. Some kind of hold-your-horses step. A virtual bannister to square up at. A big warning note on the wall, a post-it on the computer, a device. Something like Groucho Marx's duck that comes down from the rafters with the secret word. If I could only hook up my email program to a lowerable duck that says HOLD ON, SPARKY, I'll be all set.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Trouble In The Trouser Zone


In these tumultuous times, as a lame-duck president still walks free among us, it's good to remember that any prick can be busted.
Medically speaking, this is known as Aubergine Sign. It's not so much a sign as a honkin' billboard. You're not liable to miss it.
Let's back up. The "meatus" is the hole at the bottom of the penis, or top (depending); it's the drain hole, or nozzle (depending). And basically, if you're a boy and you discover you have a vegetablus next to your meatus, you should already be at the doctor's. You probably are.
The vegetable in question is an eggplant. If your penis looks like a stalk of Brussels sprouts, you're dealing with an STD situation. If it looks swollen and purple and, in other words, a whole lot like an eggplant, you've broken your dick.
A boner contains no actual bone. If yours does, you might be a chimpanzee. What breaks when you break your boner is the Tunica Albuginea. This is the envelope that protects the three standard penis tubes. One of the tubes, the Corpus Spongiosum, shelters the wee-wee channel. The other two, the Corpora Carnosum, form the erector set. Tunica Albuginea is from the Latin for White Coat, which is who you should see if you bust it. Which, sometimes, is an audible event. Oh, snap!

How do you break the boner blanket? It's not easy. Basically, you're doing it wrong. Usually it involves some sort of rotational force on the penis during intercourse or masturbation. The medical article I consulted used the phrase "over-enthusiastic sex." (It was written by a man. His name is Randy.) The injury results in swelling that quickly outstrips its desirability, followed by internal bleeding, causing the massive purple hematoma. There's usually no shortage of available blood in the region at the time. In some areas of the Middle East, the injury is more common, due to a cultural practice called "tagaandan." Don't bother looking it up. It's not in the Kama Sutra. It's the practice of shoving your erect penis down so it doesn't embarrass you in mixed company. No word how to protect your dignity when you're screaming like a girl. Really, some countries should just get bigger pants.

One of the other relatively common injuries seen in the ER involves items stuck in the rectum. There is a protocol of bedside manner recommended in these cases in which a number of questions are asked of the patient, but not including "Did you shove something up your rectum?" Evidently a lot of the afflicted present complaining of constipation, or bloating, or back pain. I'm not sure why. This is no time to be coy. It's not like the doctor isn't going to figure it out during the extraction process ("coming clean"). But perhaps the root cause of discomfort does come as a surprise to the patient, who might not have been in a position to visually observe the goings-on, might not have been entirely sober at the time, and hasn't yet noticed anything missing from his cupboard.

Or Habitrail.

Both conditions merit a trip to the doctor. In the case of Eggplant Dick, be sure to snap a photo in the early, pre-purple stages. You might find someone you want to send it to later.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Marching Ass To War!

Don't celebrate just yet.

We have been the victims of an intricate and ingenious plot, and as a consumer of the social media, I have done the research.

It's been a sting operation all along, folks, and we Biden voters have fallen for it hook, line, and thinker. Everything that has happened has all been part of the Plan. To wit:

President Trump made a deal with the Kodak company to add a non-radioactive isotope watermark to each ballot that cannot be replicated. It will be very easy to separate illegitimate votes, and the criminals will be exposed and brought before a military tribunal. Then, ideally, they will be lined up and shot. [Advance ticket sales begin Thursday, and a lucky few who contribute to the RNC in six figures will be entered into a lottery for a chance to mow down suspected Democrats from a skybox.]

Illegitimate voters would include the dead, and the thousands upon thousands of voters who moved to a different house at some point, plus the millions of duplicate ballots that have been dumped into the system by the Democrat Cabal, whose voters are all in on the scheme, thanks to the instructions from the brain chips Bill Gates installed via vaccination.

In Arizona, election officials are known to have passed out Sharpies instead of ballpoints, which invalidates the ballots. Sharpies are to be used only by the Executive Branch for bill-signing, personal notes, and weather maps. Arizona election officials insist they have provided only allowable writing implements, a flat lie that is belied by the steep rise in the graph of number of tweets about Sharpiegate (zero to 350,000 in 24 hours).
A sophisticated Plan has been in the works for three years, and the faithful are implored to worry not, and trust that in the next few days the Plan will continue to play out--that everything that has happened has been flawlessly executed, and they will soon see the results clearly. The godly Trump forces have, in fact, lured the enemy "countless times into traps when they thought we were losing," and inasmuch as the President just lost big--or so it seems--imagine how big the trap must be! Hee hee! It's all part of the Art of War. In fact the midterms, when the R's lost the House but kept the Senate, were part of the Plan also; they needed the Senate, but in the House they exposed the crimes of the enemy through impeachment and the withholding of pandemic relief. Not that we need pandemic relief because we've rounded the corner, but still.
Lizard people may also be involved. Reptilian humanoids among us originally came from the constellation Draco. They can be identified by, among other things, smiles that display the bottom teeth. That's why the face masks. Inasmuch as Draco is composed of stars as much as 330 light-years apart, a mighty vast territory, we can see just how huge and devilish an enterprise this has been. They have been manipulating the human DNA for much of history, which also explains how humans have reptilian genetics within their brains. Up till now that has been a mystery, inasmuch as we were originally created in God's image on the morning of the sixth day.

Anyway reptilian humanoids bent on world domination have infiltrated the Deep State and should be suspected of massive vote manipulation if only to distract us from their pizza-fueled child sex orgies.

But never fear. All this was foreseen. The ongoing flow of prayers has activated God's mighty army, which has descended upon our great nation in spectacular force.

Well, Democrats, this would be worrisome indeed, but we too must keep the faith! We have our own sting operation involving radioactive isotope watermarks on Republican ballots, which should bear fruit in the form of two-headed babies and Satanic birthmarks twenty or so years down the line. At that point we can easily round up the perpetrators of the climate disaster, and guilty parties will be marched before a tribunal of achingly earnest liberals who will scold them with really big words and wagging fingers.

Meanwhile, it is uncertain if God's mighty army is in the form of the fat dudes in flag underpants and military gear, but they will prove to be no match to the lurching army of zombies we have recruited to pump up the vote tally.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

I Wasn't Going Anywhere Anyway

Let me tell you the sort of thing that you could appropriately do all day when there's a dangerous pandemic and your state is on fire.

Say you have a quilt top. You've pieced it together, you've ordered the backing material online from China because you can't go to a fabric store anymore in case it's sneezy in there, you've got your batting, and you're all ready to make a fabric sandwich. You have a decent-size table you can lay  your backing fabric on. It's not quite as big as your quilt, so it hangs off the sides. You carefully smooth out your fabric, you carefully smooth out your batting on top of it, and then you ever so carefully settle your quilt top over the whole schmear and prepare to safety-pin it together so you can stitch it down.

That's one safety pin every four inches, radiating out from the center, smoothing all the while. Stab pin through to the table, laboriously wriggle pin back up, coax pin closed with a fingernail, repeat.

Four episodes of a Netflix series later, you have pinned everything you can reach and you've carefully tugged it to one side to get the parts that were hanging over. Then the other side. Then the third side. Then

When you come to, and when whoever was screaming has let up, you realize that the backing material is about an inch shy of being enough on the fourth side. Not because there wasn't enough material. Because your Depression-era parents have inflicted a legacy of thrift on you and you were trying not to waste the extra fabric.

It's not so bad, really. All that is required is to undo all the safety pins, poink poink poink, all 276 of them, and start over, wondering what Sisyphus would have accomplished during a plague.

We all know that Sisyphus guy. The guy who claims he's working, but he never gets anything done. What the hell got him into that fix, anyway?

You hear things. There are an awful lot of stories, but in the case of Sisyphus most of them involve him going to hell.

He was the king of Corinth, and he was a smartypants. Gods do not like that in a man. First time he died and went to Hades, he wrapped Thanatos (a.k.a. Death) up in chains and prevented him from making people die. And that did not go over well with Ares, the god of war, who was no longer having any fun setting people against each other if they just zipped back up like a Whack-A-Mole set. Ares intervened on Thanatos' behalf and everyone got a do-over.

Second time Sisy died and went to Hades, he was all "been there, beat that." He was an old hand at this. He'd told his wife not to offer any of the usual sacrifices and tributes to the underworld upon his death, and so he had a little leverage. The soft spot was Persephone, Hades' wife. He persuaded her that if he could just go back to life, he could tell his wife to pay up. But of course once he was topside again he just skated on the deal and lived to be a very old man, because Thanatos did not care to see him again anytime soon.

There is no record of how his wife felt about him continuing to pop back to life every time she figured she could move on.

But eventually he died again, and this time the big guy Zeus checked hiim in and had the neat notion that if Sisyphus was so eager to remain alive, he should at least push that boulder up the hill for all eternity and see how he likes them apples. Which is a very familiar scenario to most of us, only in this case there was no prospect for retirement.

It was probably his wife's idea. She was probably up there sticking pins in a little Sisyphus doll. Over and over again.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Just Another Wednesday

This post is set to go off at 3am the day after the election. I have every expectation that it will. I'll be asleep but it will happen anyway. There's always something technical that might gum up the works, but new days in general have a way of showing up on schedule. It's something you can count on.

I don't know what will have transpired last night. It's possible nobody knows for sure, even now. This is normal. It's important to know what you don't know. It's one of the hallmarks of a thoughtful mind. The cocksure are always missing something. The cocksure know everything all along, but it doesn't make them right.

I think most of us voters are driven by fear. It's a powerful motivator. The main difference between the two major American factions is what we fear. The faction I don't tend to vote with is afraid of a lot of things. In my view, most of those things don't exist. They are phantoms produced in the Devil's workshop to divert us from what we really should fear, to harvest our votes for the purpose of further siphoning off our wealth. Thus, the desperate refugee from violence is transformed into a murderous threat. Thus, a righteous movement of patriots marching for justice is transformed into roving bands of thugs. Thus, an attempt to claw back a share of our stolen treasure for the common good is transformed into the Socialist bogeyman, out to pick our pockets. These are the fictions manufactured by the real thieves. The fat cats. The wicked and criminally negligent destroyers of our future.

This faction has been conditioned to be afraid of The Other, and The Other has been defined so broadly it even includes me. A small, mouthy, entirely harmless human, still I am declared an enemy. I have repeatedly been declared an enemy by the president of the United States. I, and a solid majority of my fellow citizens, have been deemed unworthy of protection or even consideration. United we used to stand, but divided we elect Republicans. We're divided. Have we done it again?

I fear that our trust in our civilizing institutions, from the courts to the press, has been so degraded that we will crumble into gang warfare, featuring executions in the street and terrorist acts from all corners, with the heavily armed right-wing players the more dangerous by far.

What I fear more than anything is that we will miss our last chance to pull out of the death-spiral that is our devotion to fossil fuels. We may well have missed it already; we've wasted four precious years on top of another twenty years purchased by the Koch brothers, which they've blown on toys and party favors for their friends. Cheap energy has turned us into stumbling drunks, with decision-making abilities to match.

No matter what kind of world I've woken up to today, my path is clear. I must try hard to live up to my ideals to push my party where it needs to go, and resist the other party with all I can muster, and work for justice always, and do it peacefully. I once thought my political counterparts' brains had been scooped out and replaced by pudding. Of late I realize that pudding has been packed with nails and shards of glass. But I must remember to be kind. Kindness moves more hearts than belligerence. It's not easy. It will take stamina. But if we didn't have stamina, we'd be long gone by now.

I know we can't fight terror with terror. Not if we want to prevail.