Gluten-free, sugar-free, fat-free, organic vegan baked
goods. No, thank you. No thank you to the stuff that precedes
"organic vegan". You will
excuse me while I roll my eyes at you because you do not have Celiac disease
and you are truly to be so damned "healthy" that you think a little
fat and a little sugar are going to make the difference between life and death. Give it a rest. And if you're asking for a nutritional
breakdown, to see if there is any "protein" in your brownie, and how
many calories it contains, why even bother?
My mixing bowl, not wanting to rip off the gay Mr. Biv, are ordered
by size so that they'r identified as Roy V. Gib and can thus enjoy
autonomy. I mix salads in the orange
one, and don't bother transferring it to a plate because the size is perfect
and the color so gorgeous against the salad "fixin's" (the
"G" is missing, hence the apostrophe; I shudder to think anyone would
think I used an apostrophe for a plural) that there's no reason. This makes me inordinately happy. I can't decide if that's a good thing. Or a pathetic one.
I was truly a winner if, when my grandfather served me and
my siblings fruit cup in heavy syrup, my bowl contained the coveted maraschino cherry
half, a morsel whose unadulterated sweetness, as a maraschino cherry in the
wilds of a Philadelphia A&P, was no match for its processed sweetness. I scooped it into my teaspoon, gently tilted the
spoon to admire its round perfection in the spoon's smooth cradle, slurped the
sip of syrup, and left the cherry alone before eating it, a tiny trophy made
even sweeter because I was clearly Poppop's favorite, at least for that night.
We're in the Ford Fairlane, aqua/teal with a big steering
wheel, melting into the red vinyl. These
are the days before air conditioning in cars, before automatic windows, and that
big non-power steering wheel is a pain for my tiny mom to maneuver. We're locked out of the house with nothing
but chocolate milk and Pringles, new from the store. We drink the quickly warming milk from the wax
paper spout and shuffle Pringles into our palms. It's hot and we're tired and our legs are
sticking to the seats, but this is a lunch we can get behind. Yes.
We called her Suzy Cream Cheese. She had a red ponytail and rode a big-girl bike
with a leopard-print banana seat. I was about
four when we left the Philadelphia twin-house that made us neighbors, and
that's all I can remember. That's a lot
more flattering than what I remember about Nathan, standing at the top of the
concrete steps leading up this house, by the screen door, young enough to not
only be without pants but diapers as well, and not old enough to know you just
don't pee in public like that. I wonder
where they are now.
He tells me he still fantasizes about a certain activity we
engaged in when we were a couple. I
raise my eyebrow at the message and say to myself, "Well, duh." He tells me that he regrets that we never got
around to doing another thing we had planned to do. I smirk at the message and say to myself,
"Your loss." I remind him that
he's the one who broke up with me, and that all of that and more could have
been his. It's not my fault he's back to
banging broads with tapioca thighs and gelatinous hips.
I refuse to present myself food as if I'm a disgruntled,
sweaty school lunch lady, plopping a ladleful of slop into a divided tray
reminiscent of a TV dinner. I take great
care in spooning it onto a dish whose colors complement whatever it is I've
made, and then adjusting pieces "just so" to make it pretty, and even
arranging slices of avocado to resemble a pinwheel. I'm not as meticulous or obsessed as, say,
the Japanese, and I would not call it "art", but it makes me happy to
honor the food and myself by making it look lovely.
Most rehearsals, she's shown up late, sashaying through the door,
foil-wrapped falafel in hand, without apology, perhaps because she is chewing
or because she is rude. The first time
it happened, in an effort to try not to hate her for these offenses, I offered
a few words about how delicious falafel is and how I wished I had some, because
I didn't know it was her habit. "Oh,
sorry," she said. The second time
it happened, I raised an eyebrow and motioned with my eyes toward E, across the
room, who smirked at me. Commiseration
quieted my disgust. Temporarily.
Debbie and I are poking around in the shallow woods and
scraggly lots behind the Leo Mall, looking for thrills to top our side-splitting
antic of tossing not-quite-empty hot pink Tab cans into mailboxes, when we stumble
across the carcass of a car charred not quite beyond recognition. Indeed, the aqua/teal paint is still intact
in spots and the word "Fairlane" does an approximation of shining
"My mom used to have this same car," I say. "But we haven't had it for a
My parents have a store in this boring strip mall. I shudder at the realization.
Melanie could pass for either a boy or girl. She's about my age, 8, and her cool sandy
blonde shag haircut gives her a vaguely Keith Partridge vibe. She wears a puka shell necklace. If she doesn't smoke cigarettes, she at least
looks like the kind of kid who would. I
spend a great deal of time in awe of her lack of guilt as she deftly pries hood
ornaments off the fancier cars in the neighborhood. I don't know what I secretly covet more: the Mercedes-Benz emblem pocketed in her
corduroys or Melanie herself. (Alas, she
digs my brother.)
My Sunday morning mission is to find a recipe my sister and
I have been mentioning to each other for quite some time. I don't remember what it's called since it's
been at least 35 years since I made it or ate it. She thinks it's Better Crocker, I think it's
a Pillsbury Bake-Off winner, and we're not sure if it's cornbread-based or
Poppin' Fresh biscuit-based. I opt for
the latter of both and am finally rewarded with the elusive recipe. Still, 20% of my brain is haunted by the
notion that it's cornbread and that my search isn't over.
Ninety percent of the email he sends me contains a link to a
Groupon or some other kind of "deal", mostly for vegan restaurants or
a great grocery store called Westerly Market on Eighth Avenue, where we first
met face to face after being Facebook "friends" (acquaintances) for a
while. Any time he invites me to dinner,
he tells me he has a coupon. I have not accepted any of his invitations
beyond Westerly Market, because that sort of conspicuous thriftiness is an enormous
turnoff. I joke with my best friend that
this dusty schlub's favorite sexual positions is 34-1/2.
Such a treat to be in a car on a weekday, even if it's just
to Costco. I'm acting like a dog going for
an R-I-D-E and almost sprout a tail just so I can chase it with glee.
Although I tell him he's certainly welcome to avail himself
of my Vitamix anytime he wants a smoothie, the way he's been doing on those
days he doesn't mind the 20-block distance separating our apartments, he says it's
"time to bite the Nutri-Bullet" since his product of that name bit
We giggle over that more than we probably should.
I suppose I could have dashed over to the assisted living
place up the street and asked someone at the front desk to help unzip the back
of the dress, since I was having no success in doing it myself despite
practically dislocating my arms, but that would have been bizarre. Instead I chose a reasonable alternative, to cut
myself out of the dress, which began to feel exactly like I imagine a straightjacket
would feel and caused me to panic. It's sad,
but it will be refashioned into a cute bag by my friend Zoe in Houston. Viva upcycling!
Something as minor as having a new "granny cart"
to take to the laundromat makes it so much less of a chore and a lot more
fun. Or maybe not even fun since the
activity is doing laundry and there's really nothing thrilling about being at
the laundromat. Indeed, the fun itself
is in admiring the fresh apple/lime green color of the cart and how happy it
looks going for a nice little jaunt in the sunshine, all parts intact, the light
green and white laundry bag inside, itself feeling young and new again thanks
to the freewheelin' new cart.
While the band is busy butchering one of the bar mitzvah
boy's favorite songs, my date and I leave the room and go out into the lobby
with overly-iced glasses of Diet Coke. I
nudge him with my elbow and show him the big cloth napkin I've hidden under his
suit jacket, which I'd conveniently offered to hold for him. He takes the napkin and unfolds it to reveal half
of the enormous apple strudel we'd both admired.
"And where's your piece?" he says.
We laugh like hyenas and run out to the car to cram it in
Your Croatian boyfriend has been talking to me about his
mother's cooking for the duration of your extended trip to the bathroom. He's been telling me about a kind of cake
that she makes for the holidays, maybe a strudel sort of thing, maybe a cookie
or a pie, I really don't know, because by the time he got around to that, I was
already stuffed with descriptions of stews and wasn't listening. So, no, I wasn't flirting with him while you
were powdering your ass or whatever the hell took you so long. Stop croat-ing problems where none exist.
Today my grandfather would have been either 105 or 106 years
old. I wonder what he would have been
like, with 22 more years of living?
Would he have been 20% more ridiculous?
Would he have shrunk in height to below 5 feet? Would he still be making those teary,
sentimental toasts at family gatherings?
Would he still be taking each of my hands and making me slap myself in
the face as I groaned and said, "No, no, no!" and wondered why the
hell he did that and why was it so funny?
Oy. I miss that magnificent madman.
"Something's lost and can't be found. Please St. Anthony, come around." How many times did I say this aloud over the
past few days, through tears, at the suggestion of my friend D, even though she
knows I'm not a God/prayer/religious person?
How much did I feel like a schizophrenic,
mumbling to myself in the park and up Broadway?
"You have to believe it," D said.
So I had a sort of "faith" in, well, I don't know
what. But I did.
My prayers were answered, and today was rewarded with the
return of the priceless lost "thing".
The best day of my life.
The best day of my life. The best
day of my life. The best day of my
life. The best day of my life. The best day of my life. The best day of my life. The best day of my life. The best day of my life. The best day of my life. The best day of my life. The best day of my life. Maybe one day I'll reveal why. But for now all you need to know is that yesterday
was the best day of my life. I love you,
I can find nothing online about the early 1998 death of one
of my favorite ex-beaus. I have myself
about 1 percent convinced that he never really left this world, that his mother
and sister faked his death so he could escape the abuses I'd learned his father
had heaped on the family. I like to tell
myself that as much as they know I loved him and that his mom wished we would
one day be married, she loved him even more and couldn't trust even me with the
reality that he was safe in New Zealand, herding sheep.
Alan and Marnie are the last to remove their shoes at the
picnic. Marnie claims a toenail fungus
and we all quietly cringe. Alan removes
his shoes with a conspicuous "Ahhh" and flexes his toes beneath his
"Nothin' like it!" he says.
"You're hardly barefoot in the park, Robert
Redford," I say.
His left big toe pokes through. It looks exactly like Marnie, down to the
squinty eyes, freckles, puffy lips, and unruly hair.
"What the fuck?" someone says.
"Whoops," Alan says.
"He's got nine more just like it," Marnie says,
and goes back to her ginger ale.
The day-long low level hum of anxiety rages into full buzz
as the hour approaches when I have to remove the plastic bag from the
refrigerator, the bottle from the bag, unscrew the lid, insert the syringe into
the lid, forget (again) how to work the plunger to collect the dose, and then
approach the cat who needs the medication, talk to her in a voice that I can't
even kid myself into believing is soothing, put the syringe near her tiny black
lips, or at least try to, and hope at least part of it makes it beyond them.
Is it irony that my older cat won't let me take a nap? That no matter how much I pat the sofa by my
side, no matter how much lyrical cajoling, she's the one thing standing,
literally, between me and my ability to catch if not 40 winks at least 20 or
even ten? Besides, she's the one who
kept me awake, so shouldn't she be doing her damndest to make it up to me by
letting me sink into the sofa for a siesta?
Maybe she didn't like my joke about not bothering to change into the
He's on his way over to help with Shana's subcutaneous
fluids and antibiotic (translation:
he'll do it all and I'll stand in the bathroom, inert and confused). He texts again, asking if we should order in
Indian food. I reply with a resounding
affirmative. Who cares if I just had it
two days ago, my usual Friday night fare?
Who cares if two days ago I ate too much and said, "Never
again"? Tonight he insists on four
orders of naan to go with the rest of the table-crammed feast and I don't
protest. Shana whispers, "He's a
Oh, cats. That thing you guys did where you were both
walking all over the bed, taking turns at the foot, on either side, one of you
walking over my head, jumping off and back up, and confusing tired little ol'
me as to who was who? It would have been cute if it hadn't been at 2:15 a.m.
and I'd been able to fall back asleep. But no.
Now, at 9:45 a.m., I've already been up for 7-1/2 hours, and I feel like
something the cat dragged in. Or
on. Or over. Or on top of.
No thank mew.
The two wide sandal straps are the same color as but even
shinier than a freshly minted penny, and the platforms are brilliant
white. She's walking south on Fifth
Avenue, looking at her feet. She doesn't
trust herself not to step in sputum or some other disgrace that would sully
their newness, she has not yet mastered the foot placement necessary to walk
like an old pro, and she can't decide if these shoes are as stupid as she fears
they must be. She's trying to convince
herself they're awesome, though, because it's too late now to take them back.
I was "bad" enough with one cat, but now that I
have two, I'm sinking into nauseating Cat Mommy Mode. I'm talking in MewSpeak, having three-way
conversations with different voices, complete with questions and answers. Squabbles, debates, and really bad
songs. When I'm out and about with less
fuzzy friends, those who stupidly walk on two legs, I find myself daydreaming
about being back home with eight paws, four ears, two noses, and three green
My only saving grace is that the term "Cat Mommy"
makes me want to claw someone's eyes out and hiss like there's no tomeowrrow.
So involved was I in singing a new song to my new cat that praised
her Belly of Surprises, the Notch of Noir ("Black if you don't speak
French") on one paw, and the cotton paws that informed the surname I gave
her, that I neglected to include in her list of physical charms her enormous
right green eye, in all its sparkling magnificence. I'd focused on the cotton paws and not the readily
apparent focal point. But whatever. The song is a work in progress and will
evolve for years to come, much to my delight and her chagrin.