Thursday, July 31, 2008

No title

Toothpaste For Dinner

(I am sorry. I couldn't resist).

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


I love it when you've just spoken about an obscure interesting topic, or were preoccupied with same for awhile, and then you find in the newspaper the next day a comic strip that touches on that exact topic (esp when it reflects a particular thought you had about it).

I love it when a song you haven't heard in 15 years pops into your head and then a few hours later, you're at the drug store, and it starts piping through their speakers.  Or you're at a friend's house, and their brother is sampling it for a mix, or you're at Target or some such, and someone has that album in the baby seat of their cart.

The classic:  I love it when you think of a long-not-thought-of and perhaps unlikely person, and then a while later, the phone rings, and it's them.  I had this happen to me relatively recently:  Since not too long after I left Seattle, a pal named Amy slipped from the currents of my thinking and we fell out of touch.  Four years later, in the late morning, on the bus, I randomly thought of her and remembered bits of conversation with her. I recalled driving her neat little car, having an evening at an outdoor café with her friends, etc.  Then, I carried on with life and work and whatever else I was up to, Amy re-relegated to slipped-from-currents status.  Many hours later, when I got home, there was an email saying I'd been friended at Facebook by Amy H., and would I accept?  I just sat there for a few seconds, unbelieving.  My skin just lit up with chills all over, my eyebrows launched up a lot farther than they are accustomed to being, and I had to scoop my jaw up off of my knees.  The skin was the thing, man.  I've gotten chills before, but never quite like that.

I love Déjà Vu.  One experience in particular sticks with me, as I was not (and remain not) fully convinced it was simply a brain chemistry thing.  It just feels cosmic and too meaningful and meaty for that.  Not long after I came to L.A. the first time, 22 years ago, I walked out of a store and over to catch a bus at Sunset Blvd. and Fairfax Ave.  I was at the South West corner of the intersection, when for some reason I turned around and looked North toward the hillside.  The sensation that came over me was as completely real as it was surreal - I remembered what I was looking at, I remembered seeing this.  I remembered this place perfectly well.  It did not feel like a 'sensation' of memory, it didn't feel like a particularly intense Déjà Vu experience, it felt like "Oh, yeah, of course, this spot." I had never been to this spot in my entire life.

I treasure my sound rationality.  When you ask me what I believe, the word science will be somewhere in the first sentence out of my mouth.  I can't math my way out of a paper bag, but I know damn well what it is and means, and I love its elegance and logic.  I love the law; I love the indisputability of 4-D science and math and the scientific method.  But I also love, even a few degrees more, when that is called into question on some point or other.  Quantum physics and mechanics says nothing if not "all bets are off".  My cosmic coincidences do this too, at least in my own mind.  I am compelled to toy with the mystery and wonder about things greater than our 4-D physical space-time continuum.  I struggle with it, but I love it.  My spiritual growth must necessarily be in concert with the truth as I understand it; I would rather that challenge of making only the leaps of faith I can with the added weight of a physics textbook.

I love magic and happily use that word for the sensation upon experiencing the cosmic coincidences and other inexplicable stuff.  I love using it to describe the certainty of rightness of a fast-friend connection with a brand new person, the recognition that comes with that.  I love using it to describe an instance where 'everything just came together perfectly' out of disorder or confusion, especially when it happens right on time.

I am a believer of sorts, really.  I believe in love and that love trumps everything.  I believe in a greater, all encompassing love that I have for humanity and our history.  I think we're a charming and beautiful lot overall, the human race, and viewing it and being part of it has moved me to every point and subpoint on the emotional spectrum.

My spiritual growth has shifted and grown incrementally over the course of my cognizant life, with few critical spurts here and there, but one thing that has remained constant is my love for and belief in the spectacular power of humanity.  It is transcendent even of its own humbler self, its faulty daily grind from which the elements of that magic are necessarily drawn.  It is remarkable grandeur from rocky, chaotic little details and earnest progress. It is greater exponentially than the sum of its parts.  It's cosmic.

By Catherine

P.S. Thanks for having me, Nina.  ((Hugs))

This is for your own good.

If someone invites you to her country house for the weekend I want you to repeat after to me:


Alternative answer: Nononononononononononono.

And then I want you to do something very difficult: I want you to tell her the truth - that you would rather stay at home in New York, sit around in the sweaty, stinking heat, and chain smoke.

And if she protests, I want you to tell her that you live in New York because you are afraid of the dark and didn't know that people actually lived in houses until you were thirteen.

And then I want you to stay strong, because someone is going to try to convince you that what you need is a delightful weekend away from it all, though you're not even really sure what "it all" is exactly except the very thing that makes you love New York in the first place.

And when you reluctantly agree because you feel that your friends have no one to play with/really want to share their largess with you, I want you to ask how long it will take to get there in your rented Zipcar that costs as much as five or six really nice dinners in your neighborhood.

And when your friends chirp, "It's only two hours!" I want you to ask them how long it really takes, because it sure as shit doesn't take two hours, which you will discover after your ass numbs four hours and two bags of Doritos later.

And I want you to make sure you shower before you go, because it turns out the well "is a little funky" which means that the water smells like the inside of a sow's intestine, and if you liked taking fart showers, you'd bathe in the raw sewage treatment plant just minutes away from your own home. Because that's really and truly how bad it will be as you raise your toothbrush and gag at the overpowering stench of rotten eggs.

And I want you to make sure you tell your hosts how charming and inviting the house is, even though what you're really thinking is where the hell Mrs. Havisham and Jame Gumb are hiding all the outfits they made out of human flesh.

And then, when it's time to leave, when you've paid for breakfast and lunch to thank your adorable hosts, I want you to leave 4.5 hours to get home, because that is how long it takes, even when you drive like Thelma and Louise on the shoulder and across medians and orange cones because your your Zipcar registration is about to get revoked for returning late.

And when you think you are about to die because your boyfriend is driving like the Dukes of Hazard, I want you to avoid screaming "I DON'T WANT TO DIE!", because it turns out that it really pisses him off and the last thing you need is a 45 minute fight about "driving trust" on your hands, which is what you end up having anyway.

And before you go, I want you to make sure you don't inadvertently bring an entire tank of propane gas from your host's grill with you, because you know what? Propane is illegal in New York City and there is no proper way of disposing of it without getting your ass fined or thrown in jail or whatever. And knowing that, I want you to leave it on the street and run.

And also, when you leave the Zipcar garage, I want you to remember to leave the keys in the car, because you are about to take a $15 taxi home with the keys in your pocket, only to realize that you have to go back to the garage and return the effing keys to the parking attendant, who is having a nervous breakdown because of your fuck-up.

Are we clear on this? Any questions?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

And that's how it's done

Yesterday when I said it was a "fun"eral, it was bullshit and bravado. Today, I find out that there will be a modicum of "fun" available to us.

Years ago my mother died of breast cancer, and about a year after her death, my aunt arranged a memorial mass in her name at the church where were grew up, where my sister and I went to Catholic school, our home parish, really. We all showed up for the service, dutifully mournful and heartbroken. We sat down together and waited for the "un"fun to start.

What unfolded next had us giggling and nudging each other all over the pews for the better part of an hour, because as we sat waiting, lots of guys started filing into the church, guys who look like this:

Oh, come on. You know you want a better look at that hat.

So there we all were, mystified as to what all these fuzzy hatted people with their swords are gleaming and shoes all shiny were doing at my mother's memorial mass.

Then we got a hold of a bulletin and realized that there had been a miscommunication between my aunt and the Monsignor. My mother's mass had happened the day before, and we were crashing some kind of... event... for guys in large fuzzy hats.

Well, what could we do? Nothing. We sat through it and had a good laugh and moved on.

This morning, my step mother called and let me know that we should expect a "large presence" of the Knights of Columbus at the funeral - that not only was my dad a member, but an active one and a local officer.

We had no idea. (We being my brother, sister, and I).

So whomever else shows up at this funeral, we can expect the place to be run half over with the K of C - which we, personally find hilarious (because of their headgear) but also because, well, come on. My mother is laughing her purple pants-suited ass off right now - and the thought that my dad, a guy I thought I knew pretty well - owned a piece of headgear matching the above description?

Well. I. am. speechless.

Have a good Tuesday.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Nina speaks

Thank you to everyone who has guest blogged this week. I appreciate your kind words and your stories and your support more than you will ever know.

What happens next?

The "fun"eral will be this weekend. Emphasis on "fun" because we are going to try to very very hard not to look at this as The End. It so obviously is The End that we can't help but feel foolish, but we, as a family, need a new beginning, an opportunity for all of us to re-examine our lives and solidify the bonds in our family. My step mother has been an absolute wreck for the last week and things are critically shitty fro her right now. My brother and I are doing better than she is, which is nine kinds of ironic, but I expect I'll have the bad manners to complain about that later. No worries, internet. You can count on me to continue to say all manner of things that I should not say.

Starting with this: I am glad it is over. I am glad for him because he was suffering so terribly. And I am glad for me because the his cancer has been the centerpiece of my life for far too long. I need to be myself again.

(I don't know who that is anymore. I'll, uh, let you know when I make progress in that area).

My dad was the greatest blessing of my life. I could say that fifty ways and it would still sound like a blah blah blah, so I won't try to explain that further.

I'll be posting here and there in the next week or so. Anyone who wants to guest post here who does not yet have authority: just let me know. Anyone who has already guest posted who feels like doing it again: go for it.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. You all have been wonderful.

Monday Post, ByJane

So the order of the day is to be funny, crack wise, amuse the crowd so they won't get too totally bummed out by the fact that we're all here because of--hushed tones, Addams Family music--A Death In the Family. And wasn't that a novel by James Agee? Or one of the Agee's. It sticks in my mind, halfway there obviously, as are any number of other works of fiction. My mother gave it to me on my thirteenth birthday, along with five or six other classics that she now considered I was old enough to read. Hah!

Like Nina (or perhaps that should, grammatically speaking, be As with Nina), I am a dropout from a PhD program in literature. We are, Nina and I, what's known as ABDs. All But Dissertation, that is, standing between us and the world calling us Doctor. I gave up the ghost long ago, admitted I would never finish that damn thing and thus condemned myself to, if I choose to teach, a lifetime of Freshman Comp classrooms. If you read Nina regularly, you know that that is somewhere south of purgatory. I don't know if Nina will finish hers. She might get a growth spurt in the fall and just go for it. Or maybe not.

I think statistically there are more of us ABDs than there are PhDs. Those of you who are unfamiliar with the hell that is graduate school may wonder why that is. Why don't we just get on with the fucking thing and finish it (words that I believe my dissertation director, not to mention my department chair, said to me often). Well, here's the truth of it: the easy part of getting a PhD is the course work. It's structured. There are assignments and exams and deadlines that Mommy and Daddy Herr Professors are setting for you. You go through term after term, picking your courses, buying your books, going to your classes, doing your readings, writing your papers, taking your exams and counting just how many credits more you need until you are Done With Your Coursework. And when you have amassed the requisite number of credits, you get shoved into the PhD Exam stage.

It varies from department to department and university to university, but suffice to say, it entails reading EVERYTHING written by and about and even tangentially remotely related to your topic. And then you get to write these horrendous exams written by faculty who are still sulking over (a) their career disappointments, (b) their age, (c) the horrendous exams their profs put them through all those years and years and years ago. Sometimes you're lucky enough to be in a department that has Orals, when those same sulky faculty are now quizzing you face to face about why you didn't put this or that arcane point into your exam answers. Or, as did actually happen to me, one of your examiners will fall asleep while you're responding. Oh, and did I mention that the chair of my committee was certifiable? But even so, the PhD exams are a cakewalk compared to what comes next.

The dissertation. It is not, as many of our relatives think "a really long paper," like maybe forty pages instead of a mere twenty. It is a book length original work of research. See that word 'book'--yep, that's what you're writing, a flippin' book. And for this, you are almost totally on your own. No Mommy and Daddy Herr Professors telling you what to do and when to do it. Just you. Alone. No deadlines, except what you set for yourself. And no one really cares if you keep them. Or not. No one cares about this thing that is taking up your whole life. And no one ever will. The point of it is that you've done it. It's the final hoop you must vault through before you get your degree. I faltered at the last step. I tripped on the final jump. And thus I am, forever and a day, ABD. A vast repository of now-useless knowledge about one minute speck in the world of literature.

This is cross-posted at ByJane.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Introductions are in order

The man you’re about to meet was born in October 1949, “a Cold War kid in McCarthy time,” as Long Island’s own Billy Joel once sang. Of course, he loved the song for that line. He also loved Classical Gas, Nights in White Satin, and soundtracks of every description. (When the first Michael Keaton Batman film was released, he didn’t buy the Prince soundtrack, but the Elfman score.)

Had he been a piano man he would have written differently, of course, about the things that stirred him. High on the list would have been the sense of wonder – that life was an adventure waiting to be lived. He also had a sentimental streak and would sing along to Harry Chapin (it was always funny to hear his deep speaking voice give way to his falsetto singing). He devoured fantasy and science fiction, mostly through visual means: movies and comics. He was an artist himself:

Insane Criminal Punching 1, Spider-Sense 0

He had hoped to be able to work in the comics industry, but never broke in. When he drew that for a local comic shop’s newsletter, it was early 1980, and he was a married man with a 7-year old: me. His adventure was trying to save up enough to move us out of my grandmother’s house and into a home of our own, and to that end he drove a delivery truck all over Long Island, New York City, and into New Jersey. He would then work nights as a pack-out clerk at Pathmark. Mom worked as a bookkeeper to handle everyday bills.

This didn’t leave a lot of spare time for traditional family activity, so he made do. During the summer he would take me along on his delivery runs, sort of a prototype take-your-kid-to-work-day. In those days nobody worried enough to tell Dad to stop bringing me, and I enjoyed it enough to want to help bring in the smaller boxes whenever Dad made a stop. Then we’d head over to White Castle and compete to see who could down a burger in the fewest bites.

It was about that time that I first remember learning that Dad was, in fact, my stepfather: he’d married Mom before I was two and promptly adopted me, my sire ceding his parental rights to concentrate on the family he was starting with his second wife. That was just things. It was factual, sort of a family trivia question: “Despite being the eldest son, it is his younger brother who is ‘Junior,’ and not this obscure blogger.” Otherwise it was unimportant; certainly it made no difference to him that I ever saw, or in how he treated my brother and sister when they arrived.

We did get that home he’d helped to scrimp and save for: a handyman’s special that was only livable after months of hard work – none of it contracted. My father was incredibly handy. I think that house alone forestalled the eventual demise of Rickel’s Home Center for a year. He rebuilt walls, worked on the roof, did shingling, and worked nights anyway, though he cut back on the day job. No more truck trips to the City from our Suffolk County home.

Another of my Dad's dreams came true when my parents opened a screen-printing shop. For a few years my father was as happy as I can remember. He didn’t need to work nights anymore. He was finally using his artwork and creativity every day. Unfortunately business dried up and the shop failed after a couple of years; without complaint, Dad went right back to the daily grind (and sometimes nightly as well), even as we moved off Long Island and down to New Jersey. He still had his own home and family, above all else.

He taught me chess. He taught me to catch and throw. Better, he taught me about forgiveness and responsibility. He’d promised to take me to see Raiders of the Lost Ark when it debuted, as long as I did well on my weekly progress report at school. We were rated from 0-4 in five categories.

I got a six - total. Dad shook his head, signed the report, and put it back in my bookbag. (Mom always signed the 19s and 20s; Dad got called in if I dropped to 12 or so.) Then he said, “Well – get your coat.” I lost other privileges, but we got to see the movie, father and son.

Not to say that he was lax when it came to us misbehaving. It was a bad idea to be ill-mannered, or lippy with my elders - and "Heaven help you if you ever bring a cop to my door." Most kids blow off that sort of thing as they go stupid in puberty, but this all sank in because of something that happened when I was fifteen. My father decided that a largish tree had to come down in our yard to keep from damaging the garage. At the last moment, something happened and the tree did not come down alongside the house, as he hoped, but across and into the neighbor’s yard – the neighbors we’d never gotten along with from the day we arrived in New Jersey the year before. From the other side of their crushed fence floated the lament – “Oh, that’s just GREAT, sir.”

Dad had a pretty good temper when he needed it, but all he said was, “I’m sorry. I'll make it right.” And after getting the tree sawed into hunks and out of the way, he paid for the replacement.

We played board games and watched the new Star Trek and I got to be his main assistant as he installed the above-ground pool we got when I was in high school. As I got older and it became obvious that I enjoyed writing, he talked about doing an independent comic – my words appearing over his artwork – but I should finish college first, just in case. In the meantime, I worked after school, biking miles each way since we had exactly one car, always in use. My folks felt that it was good for me to learn to budget in the time for the trip, to take it on myself to get to and from the job, unless it was raining.

During this time, my relationship with Dad really began to change. Without losing any of the respect I had for him, I began to gain a different status, a friendship of fellow adults.

The summer before I turned 19, I was a sophomore, and a bunch of us planned a summer trip to Cape Hatteras. My parents had meant to take a family vacation instead, something we’d never been able to do before. In the end they chose to put it off to the next summer. They were glad I had good friends, and though they were hesitant about this newfangled churchgoing thing I was going for, well, it seemed good for me. (They were all such nice kids!) When I got back a month before school, Dad and I argued about faith and God and whether the Mets were ever going to get back to the Series. We played Axis and Allies until he had to leave for the night shift, and then picked up when he got home. Right after his 42nd birthday, he got a full checkup. The doctor noticed that there were little, faint little lines across his lungs. Dad had been a smoker since he was 16, but he promptly began to work his way out of his pack-a-day habit.

After got home from college we planned to pick right up again: planning for Christmas while arguing some more about God and faith before he went to work. We were amazed the next night when he came back only a couple of hours later, ill enough to vomit in the front yard after pulling up. Dad was never sick. He was certainly never sick enough to actually miss work. He worked through a kidney stone; he only missed a week after his hernia operation. Mom suggested that he go to the hospital, but Dad called it a bad flu and just needed some rest.

It was, in fact, the warning sign for an impending heart attack. Later they told us that it had been so massive that being in the hospital when it happened wouldn’t have made a difference. At the time we didn’t know what it was. He hadn’t complained of the classic chest, arm, or jaw pain, nor did he look clammy or short of breath. When I heard my mother cry for help and ran into the bedroom, I thought that it was a seizure of some sort, until I heard his last breath rattle through him.

For the record – even if you know what you’re doing, CPR does not work on waterbeds.

The church was packed for the funeral. There were people he knew from every job he’d had for twenty years and two states, and clients he’d printed t-shirts for, and neighborhood friends that we hadn’t seen since we’d moved to Jersey. The neighbors with the crushed fence were there – they became friends afterward, leading Dad to joke once that he should have dropped a tree on them the first day. He touched hundreds of people without ever having a byline in a comic or a business empire or a line of action figures. Sixteen and one-half years later, my brother and sister, adults themselves, are getting along with careers and lives of their own. Mom is doing well too.

When I was a boy, I thought that Nights in White Satin was a song about medieval soldiers writing love notes to their fair maidens back home. By the time I was old enough to know better, I’d already inherited his taste for sweeping musical epics, and soundtracks, and some Billy Joel thrown in. I also inherited the joy of imagination, the sense of wonder, and the love of adventure. I even turned out to be a sap who sings along to the radio, though my voice is a baritone. (And Kate, I also like to sing the backup harmonies.) Someday I hope that I prove as dedicated to my family as he was to all of us. And I like to think that I write the kinds of stories that my father would have loved to read.

One of his arguments with me about God was that Heaven couldn’t obey the second law of thermodynamics. What kept it going? It is the same thing that always kept him going – love. It’s what keeps us going now that he’s passed on to where all loves are made perfect. Of course, we normally think this about our loved ones, but for weeks after he died I had dreadful nightmares about him: all darkness, with only the small red glow of the end of his cigarette, and his voice saying, “OK, I’m going to go die now. Have a good night.” And always that last breath. Then I had one last dream – only this one picked up where all the others left off. He went off to die, but woke up the next day (and why not? It was his house); and when I came out of my room and saw him, it wasn’t a surprise, except that he had a Bible. “You know, Mike,” he said, “I think I’m beginning to understand this stuff.”

Since he was the kind of guy who went out of his way to help new folks find their way around, I have no doubt that he’s now introducing himself to Nina’s Dad, showing him around - and wondering if the Mets will ever get back to the Series.

Introductions here take longer than there, which is why this couldn't be something like Avitable’s splendid post-it below. I would prefer not to tie up so much of someone else’s space. The problem is, when someone lives life right they take up a space that can never be filled, no matter how long we type. I miss him as much as ever. That's not something wrong with me.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Gone fishing

Hey there - it's LAS over at This Too Shall Pass - guest posting for Nina. It feels like it's going to be one of those long nights, so I figured I would post over here since I already posted over there.

So, anyway, there is this partner at my firm who puts "gone fishing" on his out-of-office reply when he's out. Nothing else - simply "gone fishing." I don't know why, but I love that. It makes me think he might be one of the few of us who doesn't religiously check email and voice mail and in fact work while on vacation, and probably isn't bothered in the least about it. Maybe he has mastered the ability to check-out completely. I want to be like that. My out-of-office reply might as well say, "I'm currently out of the office, but rest assured, I am working anyway, so feel free to send me anything and request it immediately, I'll do it, even if it means I have to stay up all night." I'm serious.

I personally have had to take a medical leave of absence in order to accomplish checking-out of work completely, though I prefer to call it a "holiday" like my European colleagues. I'm on holiday folks - from right now until I'm not sure when. I don't want it to seem like this is an extended vacation, it is a medical leave of absence, and it is necessary. This is what happened: I got sober, 4 months later I moved to Chicago for a job, three weeks later was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer (on my 29th birthday), my boyfriend of three months in early sobriety moved to be with me, we got married the day I started chemo drugs (stupid, stupid), he refused to get a job, I worked 50 hours a week through cancer treatment which took seven months, while paying all of his bills including his child support, I kicked him out finally, survived breast cancer, had my one year AA anniversary two days later and then divorced him. I did that all in fifteen months and worked through the whole thing full-time with but a few days off. I even offered to come back to work the day after I had my surgery. (Yes, the people I work for think I am crazy). I emerged on the other side still standing and seemingly unaffected. Until it hit me.

Now a year and a half after officially surviving cancer - I found myself thinking oh, shit that really happened, and I need to stop pretending that it didn't, and I better find a way to deal with it cause the fear and anxiety is preventing me from living my life and enjoying it, and work isn't distracting me anymore. I don't enjoy my life at all (well until recently) and I have a nice life when I manage to remember that (which isn't nearly often enough - I frequently suffer from a complete and total loss of perspective). On top of not being able to handle it all anymore, I'm bipolar, but was not medicated, and totally lost whatever control I thought I had over that all at the same time. I nearly ended up in the psych ward, and quite possibly should have.

Hence, I am on holiday. Everyone but me thinks I deserve this holiday. I am working on getting over that. This holiday is all about me. Me doing nice things for me. Me doing whatever I want. Me not feeling guilty about it. Me trying to feel like I deserve it. I deserve it, don't I? The goal is to move the fuck on from what happened to me, to get over it, all of it - my issues about my mother, my horrible childhood, everything. I need to move the fuck on people and get on with my life. It's all weighing me down. Figure out what I want, what I like to do, what I am all about, cause I have no clue. I started by buying a nice camera. I've always wanted one. I feel like I am on a new journey to a new life, life is good and it's all going to be okay.

On the agenda is a spa vacation to Miraval spa resort (for 8 days!!!) where I am going to jump off the 35 ft poll and leave it all behind (in theory anyway), as well as a couple of trips home to Michigan, and maybe one more trip to an undecided location. I intend to thoroughly enjoy every last little second of this entire holiday. Anyway, I am planning to post over on my blog every day, or as often as possible about what I am up to, so check back.

Also, a special thanks to Nina (I love you, you are awesome) who has helped me more than she knows with all of the things that I've been dealing with. I'm not sure where I would be right now if it weren't for her help. She has talked me through a lot of stuff and made me realize that I needed to be on medication and get some help - which I have a hard time asking for, but which quite possibly has saved my life. And the meds are working! I always thought that no one would show up for me in a crisis (after all, no one really did when I had breast cancer, not even my parents) - but it turns out I am wrong, people do show up to help you. And I am grateful to her for that. Stop for a second okay - and think about who you are grateful for today.

Have a great night!

What's In Your Bowl?

(Nods to Kate P for letting me copy her title.)

Nina, if I could be there with you right now, I'd plop you down with your drink of choice and your favorite movie, while I make you this soup. It's hardly original, although this is MY version of it, and it does provide warmth and comfort. I could have fancied up my post with a step by step pictorial, but that's just not my style. Here goes:

"Just Dammit" Chicken Soup

· 1 whole (3-4 pounds) chicken, cooked, deboned, and chopped into ½ inch pieces
· 2 cups sliced celery stalks
· 2 cups sliced carrots
· 1 cup chopped yellow onion
· 1 Tablespoon olive oil
· 2 Tablespoons minced garlic cloves
· 48 oz. carton Swanson® chicken broth (or whatever broth you like)
· 2 Tablespoons fresh thyme
· 2 Tablespoons fresh rosemary
· 1 Tablespoon lemon zest, plus several slices of lemon
· 1/2 cup dry sherry wine
· A few flakes of ground red pepper
· Salt and freshly ground pepper
· Cooked wide egg noodles
· Chopped fresh parsley

Clean the chicken and set aside giblets and neck. (These items may be boiled up separately to make a delicious treat for Cathead or any other furry 4-legged creatures who happen to be in residence.) Salt the entire chicken inside and out liberally with kosher or coarse salt. Let chicken stand for 35 minutes. While it stands, we can sit at the table and chop the vegetables and herbs.

Wash salt from chicken and place in a medium to large stockpot. Cover chicken 4 or 5 quarts of cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then immediately reduce the heat to simmer. Simmer for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, occasionally skimming the foam from the top.

Remove the chicken to a large platter when it is still firm and not falling apart. Debone chicken and chop meat into ½ inch pieces.

In the bottom of a large pot cook the celery, carrots, and onions in 1 Tablespoon olive oil until soft and beginning to brown. Add the garlic and cook for 5 minutes.

Pour the chicken stock into the pot. Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes.

Add the cooked chicken pieces to the pot. Add the thyme, rosemary, lemon zest, lemon slices, sherry, and red pepper to the pot. Cover and cook for at least 15 to 20 minutes more. Season generously with salt and pepper. Serve hot soup over noodles with a garnish of chopped parsley. Never add the noodles to the soup because this results in mushy noodles. I guess if you’re into mushy noodles, you can add them to the soup, but I wouldn’t advise it. Nobody likes a mushy noodle -- just ask the makers of Viagra.

-- Guest post by LizB of Mermaid Musings

Friday, July 25, 2008

What's in Your Tumbler?

Hi to all the ReaderBlogReaders and newcomers from guest post-er Kate P. There are some thoughtful (and creative!) guest posts below, and I hope this one—one of a few thoughts I’d been brewing since Nina asked for guest posts—is of the same caliber.

There are several common motifs or themes that come up often here on this fine blog. Lately two that have been coming up often are prayer and booze, especially as many of us have been praying for Nina’s dad and those who love him and/or raising a glass to the same effect. I was one of the “and” people—praying and drinking. And drinking one cocktail, or a variation thereof, in particular. It doesn’t have a name* but I kind of started from this recipe and ran with it. (As an aside, I used to have a really hard time liking the creator of the recipe. She looks like a Barbie doll, and all that processed food and ready-made stuff she would use to make recipes weirded me out. Then I watched the “chefography” they did of her and it impressed me. She didn’t have it easy in life, and she has an inventive mind. I kind of respect her now. . . but I still have a hard time calling her a chef.)

So, here’s what I do. I don’t measure when it comes to mixing drinks for myself; I count or eyeball it. Is that weird? Or just dumb? Those of you with actual bartending skills might have a better idea of how much of each.

2-3 ice cubes
Peach nectar (count to three)
Pineapple juice (count to three)
Citrus rum—I did follow Sandra’s advice and use Bacardi Limon (splash, or if it was a bad day at work, double splash)
Ginger ale (top off the glass)
Stir, raise your glass to some good thoughts for Nina and her family, and drink.

Place half a canned peach at the bottom of the glass before adding ice. Or instead of ice, use frozen sliced peaches.
Ginger ale too sweet? Try plain seltzer or lemon-lime seltzer.
Don’t want booze? Squeeze in a little lemon juice, or swap out half the ginger ale for lemon-lime seltzer.

I will be having variation #3 tonight, as I took a bunch of Advil today. . . and I still hurt. Gonna offer the whole thing up. This time last week I’d just been through my great-uncle’s funeral, and he and my cousins are on my mind. I’ll be raising the glass to them as well.

*Feel free to suggest a name in the combox. The crazier the better—my family laughs just as hard as it cries when these times come around.

Love and Hope and Sex and Dreams

Hi, all, Maggie here posting for our delicious Nina in her regrettable absence.

Looks like we've already covered life, death, marriage and stick figures. (My figure being far from stick-like, I'm particularly glad that Avi has that one covered.) I also found it interesting that Julie met her ex-husband in Ireland, because that's where I was when my grandmother died. See, everything is connected, there is only one theme, and that theme is BLOGGING!

(as Hemingway rolls over in his grave...)

Julie's post really moved me, because I'm in a bit of a mid-life crisis at the moment. 37, unwed, really wanting baby badly, ridiculously single, fabulous boyfriend who loves me but whom I don't want to marry, surrounded by couples, flying solo.

I had a great time with the boy last weekend. Truly fabulous. He's a smart, creative interesting darling who worships the ground I walk on. And maybe I don't deserve him, so I've been beating myself up all week. Julie's words of encouragement couldn't have come sooner.

You know what should have come sooner? My egg. You betcha, I had another insemination last Friday. Went straight from stirrups to airport to Seattle, do not pass go. Earlier in the week would have been nice, but the egg is on its own schedule, unfortunately. My Ob/Gyn thought it was hysterical that I inseminated with Donor 11241 right before I was seeing the BF and could have gotten it for free... and that brings us right back to Julie's Do Not Settle mandate.

See, everything *is* circular. And the circle might just be one of Nina's magnificent breasts. I mean, last year this gorgeous woman somehow found my blog, started commenting, was all supportive and enthused about my impregnation efforts, brought me other supportive readers through the sheer force of her enthusiasm ... and then made me mittens to boot! Now here we all are, strangers bound by our love for that blonde goddess, finding support in each other as we pitch in to keep her boat afloat in her absence. What a beautiful, close-knit bunch on a circular needle.

Just a note


A post-it note from Avitable.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Guest blogging is hard.

I am P of red mitten fame. Nina waved some sticks in the air a few months ago, and then, all of a sudden, there was a beautiful pair of red mittens waiting for me in a bush in the middle of Manhattan. That means I am a special person touched by the love of Nina. Sure, there are other “special” people, like Woodrow, who received a pair of socks from Nina and now thinks he’s “special” and “good at making jerky” or whatever - but let’s remember who got mittens first.

Forget about me and Woodrow and the mittens. You're here because of Nina and her beloved dad, whom you've never met but care for in the way that the interweb allows you to care for people you’ve never met. And now that you're here, you're stuck with the most tasteless, lowbrow and completely inappropriate post in all of blogdom - the product of a long night of drinking warm gin out of the cat bowl.

I started this post thinking I was going to write something funny - something about the time my left boob popped out at a bar mitvah in front of the rabbi and his wife. Ha-ha-ha! Right? Boob story! Funny! But something was on my mind and it wouldn't go away - and that something was the hilarious, knee-slapping topic of death.

I read a passage by Ann Lamott this morning about a conversation she had with her dying friend. Her friend was at a low ebb emotionally, and asked Lamott to remind her of the "silver lining." Lamott promptly replied, "You're not going to have to ever see any more naked pregnant pictures of Demi Moore." And that pretty much restored her friend's spirits for the rest of the day. As it would.

My mother’s side of the family knows a thing or two about death. They should because they're Greek. Like Jews and Italians, Greeks have cornered the market on death and mourning. The theatrics that go on at Greek funerals – the rending of hair, the beating of breasts, the wailing, sobbing and keening to and fro - is rivaled only by Hindu brides throwing themselves on the burning funeral pyres of their husbands. My father’s Anglo-Saxon family, in contrast, refuses to acknowledge death as anything but a minor nuisance. When my grandfather died and my dad had to clear out his garage, he came across a Maxwell House coffee can with a piece of yellow masking tape across it. On the masking tape was written, “Uncle Dan.”

“But what did you do with Great Uncle Dan?” I asked my dad.

“I dumped him the garden and drove home.”

Well of course you did!

For most of the Greeks I know, much of the drama goes on for the benefit of others - it's important to show an abundance of grief in public. What happens in those private moments with friends and family is another story altogether. That's when the mask of tragedy falls off and the knee-slapping begins.

Take the death of my Uncle Paul, for example. He survived polio, fought valiantly against cancer for 15 years, and finally died surrounded by his family. Everyone was devastated – Uncle Paul was funny beyond measure, he was loving and kind and a wonderful father. He was also an enormous man, tall and – I’m just going to come out and say it - fat. We’re talking fatty-tat-tat-won't-fit-in-a-coffin-fat. His fatness was due in part to his polio which limited his mobility, and also due to his extreme gluttony. His children and wife decided (against Greek tradition) to cremate him. Instead of a wake, there was a memorial service at which everyone engaged in the usual mourning exercises outlined above. But when we got back to the house, we all went uncharacteristically quiet.

“When is the cremation?” asked one of my aunts, breaking the silence.


“What exactly happens when they cremate a body?” someone whispered.

“They put the body in an oven and bake it at a really high temperature,” said someone else, who was obviously an expert on cremation.

More silence, more quiet contemplation.

“Jesus!” my aunt exclaimed, as though the full magnitude of her brother’s death had just dawned on her. “I hope they have a pan big enough for all of his drippings.”

Everyone in the room howled. It was tasteless and lowbrow and completely inappropriate. And it was exactly what we needed.

And Then I Go and Spoil it All By Saying Something Stupid Like I Love You

This is Julie, guest posting for Nina today.

I met my first husband in Ireland. We were part of a group of people on a trip run by his aunt. I had grown up across the street from his grandmother, but had never met him.

At the airport prior to leaving I was reading a book when he was introduced to me. I think I grunted a hello and went back to reading my book. I was unimpressed.

We flew to Shannon airport, and when we all got off the plane it became very apparent to me that he and his cousin and I were the only people on this trip that were under the age of 60. I decided to change my tune, because I knew I would need conversation and drinking buddies.

We began to hang out, skipping the places where the "old folks" went, and heading off ourselves to pubs in the area for music, poker, and drinking. I began to think he was rather attractive. I think I had 10 days of beer goggling to help me along with that.

One night I went back to his room with him. We did not have sex, but we ended up sleeping together until the TV came on by itself at 6am. I sneaked back to my room and was greeted by his cousin accusing me of fooling around with him. I denied it, but she never believed me.

We made promises to call and to write to each other, as he lived 400 miles away. When we got home that last night we called each other immediately. Thus began the relationship.

He would drive up to NJ from NC every other weekend. The first weekend he came up we rented a hotel room and did in fact have sex. It was only meh, but I didn't know any better. WE continued to rent hotel rooms until he asked me to move down to NC with him. I didn't hesitate, as I was living with my mother at the time and desperately wanted out of her house.

I packed up all of my belongings, including the cats, and drove down to be with him. He had made several trips up with his hatchback prior to this to get most of my bigger stuff. We moved into a new apartment, and things were good. He was a paramedic, so I wouldn't see him for 24 hours at a time, and that was fine by me. I like my space. We made a home for ourselves, and I enjoyed it. I liked being part of a couple.

Then, one night, about 6 months later, after my still not having found a job down here, he sat me down on the sofa and said the immortal words, "Julie, I have to tell you something. I love you, but I'm not IN love with you anymore."

I had nothing to say to that. Nothing at all.

I moved myself out to the sofa, because I had nowhere to go. I had moved my entire life to be with him, and having no job I couldn't even get myself an apartment. Moving back home was out of the question, as I was 24 years old and couldn't bear the thought of my mother telling me I Told You So. So I stayed.

2 months after this he got on one knee, held out a ring, and asked me to marry him. For some reason I accepted. To this day I believe the reason I accepted was because I was whoring myself for medical insurance. I still had no job.

We eloped. 

I never told anyone that I married someone who wasn't in love with me. I still don't know why he even asked me to marry him. The marriage lasted 4 years, until one day I realized that I wasn't in love with him either, and when I asked for the divorce, he sat there stunned. He said, "Don't you love me anymore?"

I told him that wasn't the point. I told him that wasn't enough.

It isn't enough. Never settle. Never decide that you can't find anything real or better. 

Now that I think about it, I also believe that I married him for his family. Because I WAS in love with them.

Have a great Thursday everyone. I'm going to spend mine emailing with the man I AM in love with.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

honeymoon, 1967

My parents are together again. Thank you for all your support, prayers, and kindness. I think no matter what we all wanted for him, he is in good company.

Guest Posting for the masses

I am leaving tomorrow for SC.. It is unclear whether my dad will make it through the night. Fuck. Etc. I sent many of you an admin invitation. Until I get back, the blog is free and open for whomever wants to post whatever - whenever. If you are on the list of invitees, it doesn't mean you have to post a bunch. If you are not, it doesn't mean I don't love you. If just means I need someone, anyone else to sail this boat for a while and I was sobbing a whole bunch and overlooked you.

Blogging is one of the best things that has ever happened to me and that's saying a lot - if you consider my luck in the parent department. I might have said before and I am sure I will say it again, but I love you all dearly.

I'll be back when I can be back.


Change of plans:

Tomorrow, I fly to SC. And on Friday when I was originally supposed to come back to New York and fly to Africa, I am going to stay in SC and not fly to Africa. I am going to stay at my dad's for a while and then when it feels right for all concerned, I'll come back to NY.

I don't regret missing my trip to Africa or the money I will have lost. I do regret letting my friends down and that once again, the four of us will have planned a trip and not all made it. However, my step mother needs help taking care of my dad and I think I need more than the twelve hour visit I had alloted to say goodbye to him.

So that's the change of plan.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Back at work

I have moved the two feet between my bed and my desk and I am now back at work. See how easy that was? I still haven't gotten out of my pajamas, but don't judge me for that - but you could judge me for posting a picture of my dad which he did not authorize me to post and then furthering my crime my posting a picture of me on my 30th birthday. Why did I do that? I wasn't even drunk.

I guess it meant what it says: better times.

Thank you to everyone who offered to guest post. I will take you up on it - probably very soon.


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Way back when

Much better times, my dad:

and me:

Thanks for sticking my by me. I am going to be okay, and in the longest run my dad will be okay, too.

I'll be fun again soon. I promise.

Short List

Here's what is on my mind:

1) My dad is home in hospice care. He sleeps 23 hours a day and there is 24 hour nursing help in the house. My step mother is so distraught that she has gotten out of bed even less than he has. My brother flew down there today, comes back Tuesday, and then I go. It is generally agreed that these are "goodbye" visits.

2) I have about 30 papers to grade and they need to be posted by tomorrow. I could not care less. My students are ignorant, irresponsible and with a few exceptions, ineducable. But I have to grade their shit about "How being a teenageder mom is difficultest than just being a single." It's my job and that's that.

3) I am expected by all and every person in my family to return from SC and the last visit I am likely to ever have with my dad - and board a flight for Africa and climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and go on safari and laze about Zanzibar as if no one is 97% likely to be dead by the time I get back - least of all the person I love most in the world.

4) No one - and I mean NO ONE - in my circle of online or real-life friends is happy right now. Lisa at Clusterfook is getting beat all up by cancer. LAS has issues she has not authorized me to disclose, but they suck. Last time I checked in with Julie, she'd lost a car. Cath at SeventhNotebook is in a low spot, Bibi just ended it with her boyfriend. Sri is so anxious about her boyfriend that she isn't even finding it fun to have one.

5) And I have about 9000 things to do before I supposedly leave on this trip and every single one of those chores I know full well to be futile since if my dad's condition is not greatly improved, in, say, three days time? I don't care who I piss off. I won't be able to make myself get on that plane next weekend.

How am I dealing with all this? How might I be coping?

Well, I'll tell you. I spent all day in bed yesterday watching season 4 of The Sopranos. Today I am making good progress on season 5. Tomorrow I will face the music with my job. And pack for both trips, knowing I'd really not have to make either one.

Oh look! Tony Soprano is about the kick someone's teeth out! So... very... interesting!

I gotta go. Compelling shit going on here.


Friday, July 18, 2008


I climbed today. I didn't do all that well. I am tired and wrung out - no one, not even my aunt who tells all, will tell me what my dad's prognosis is. I wish I could just kick my own plug out of the wall and have what the Warcraft players call a super-power. Mine, if I could have it, would be "Feel No Pain."

Talk to you next time.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Should I make that a dos?

I went to the bus depot today to pick up my ring. I discovered that in the 24 hours since I had dropped my ring into the change collector on bus #5193, I had become known as the Ring Girl around the break room of the depot. I walked in and heard someone say "It's her! Ring Girl!" And then someone else said, "Really? Is that her?" And then "Oh yeah, it's her, alright." And then supervisor said, "I am glad you came back. You have no idea what we had to do to get your... rings... (dramatic pause dramatic pause, dramatic pause).... back."

"Rings?" I asked.

"Rings," he said.

I thought it best not to seek further clarification. The dispatcher brought me back to lost and found and everyone in the break room stared at me with bemused _________, as I, Ring Girl, waited for the dispatcher to unearth my.... rings.... from the safe.

The first one was my diamond band. Exactly as I had hoped.

The second one was my sapphire-diamond band. The one I thought was back home in my jewelry box.

"I am guessing this one is yours, too, right?"

I had a mild stroke-like sensation as I realized how BOTH* of these items had fallen into the change collector. It happened because I was wearing the diamond band that day - but last WEEK - as in on the same day I had been wearing this particular pair of climbing pants AND also been wearing the sapphire diamond band that I had later zipped into the pocket of the pants so I could climb - which is where I later put the change that I needed on that other day - namely, Tuesday, on my way to climb.

Are you getting this?

Here is what you just learned about me, in case it's not clear.

I wore the zip pocket climbing pants a week ago, zipped an expensive piece of jewelry into the pocket, and then tossed that pair of climbing pants on the floor and left them there for an entire week before reapplying them to my body, adding change to that pocket for the bus, boarding the bus and then UNKNOWINGLY throwing my sapphire-diamond ring to the change collector at the same time as by magical coincidence the diamond ring I was KNOWINGLY wearing slipped off my finger and into the collector.

I am either the unluckiest bitch who ever rode the bus or the luckiest. I just can't tell.

What I can tell you is that, in the words of the great Cormac McCarthy, there is no definition of a fool that I do not meet.

Thank you for reading.

* The first age-appropriate Christian male human being who knows from whence the title of this post comes will be permitted to meet me in real life and also marry me because one thing I found out in the last twenty four hours is that my dad is "sad" that I am not married and that he would "feel so much better" if I settled down. I do not wish for him to be sad or displeased. So who wants to marry me? Anybody? Hm?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Misty water colored narrow escapes

On my way to the gym last night, I boarded the 42 bus and pulled the $2 in quarters out of my pocket, and as I dropped the coins into the collector, I watched the diamond ring on my right hand slip right off my finger and into the change collector and down into the box. The one you can't get into unless you have an MTA supervisor, a specialized mechanic and a security guard all in attendance.


So I rode the bus all the way to the bus depot at 42nd and 11th and gathered up these people and said, "Hi! I dropped my jewelry into the change box. Please, I beg you, get it out."

Except they couldn't do it because they needed one more specialized security person in attendance and he was not scheduled to be there until 8pm.

So what did I do?

I left my jewelry on the bus, gave my phone number to the supervisor, and said, "Give me a call if you can make this work."

Then I went climbing.

At 11:30pm, a mechanic called and told me he had my ring and that it was in the safe at the depot.

Can I believe this? Can you? I'll let you know what happens when I go to pick it up.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

It just went by

Yesterday, that is. There were many phone conversations and much drama brokering and a lot of tears and wringing of useless hands and we are all still... here.

Did you know that the human brain is numb? That it cannot feel pain? That a person can be wide awake during brain surgery because hey -when a person is cutting around in your brain, it does not hurt in the least? Do I need to point out the kind of pain that no medical intervention can dull is a produced in the one organ of the body with... no ability to feel?

(You are supposed to be laughing right now. If you are not, please begin).

Wander over there to the right side-bar and start following me on Twitter if you want moment to moment updates on the BSMP (Big Scary Medical Problems) of my dad. I am not going to post about them anymore because I just don't want to and at least in THIS tiny little vaporous non-entity, I get my way.

Moving on then: Last night I did stairs (am I even going to Africa???) and then I went to the gym and climbed. The first route I finished was a VO bouldering route called "Call the doctor" and the second route I finished was a 5.5 top-rope route called "Use the other foot" - I am not kidding.

Lately, I feel really extra double sure that God invented sarcasm and uses it liberally for his own amusement. I became even more sure of it when I went to the bar after climbing and the bartender comped us shots of his own creation - shots he calls "Legless Irishman" and the fortune cookie I opened - much, much later in the evening, read "No one progresses while standing still."

Ahem, God? I realize you are in charge of everything, including funny. But no one I know is laughing.


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sin of weak

Me. Weak posts. Weak ideas. Weak quads. Weak abs.

Weak fantasies about crawling out to the prairie and living under a rock somewhere. Even the rusty trailer home seems like too much hassle.

If you want a smallish dose of Catholicness today, read this article in the Times. I was shocked, shocked I tell you, that the article actually mentions one of my ex-boyfriends by name. Yes, one of my ex-make-out friends is named in this article and I am shocked, I tell you, shocked, that in a former life I was the sort of person who would date this person - and that this person would find me spiritually or in any other way... attractive. (We are still friends. He thinks it's hilarious that we made it past date two, also).

I do not even know how to feel about that.

I know how to feel about other things, one of which is that my dad's leg amputation surgery seemed like it went well but is now not going very well. The stump is not healing, and we have no other cards to play.

But you know what else? We have been optionless before this - more than once.

So we wait. (I am going to think real hard rather than praying, since that approach seems to get better results for me. If you, on other hand, find yourself light on subject matter for intercessory praying (or thinking real hard) then please and thank you.


Saturday, July 12, 2008


If you want to put them together, check out 1-10 and 11-20.

21) I never thought it would be easier to think of never statements rather than always statements. Just goes to show I am a negative as I always suspected.

22) I once broke into a church. Oh darn. Make that twice. I did it once in college, which I really can't explain except my friends were really high and they wanted to do something bad. Well, we did it and it was bad. We didn't get caught. The second time I broke into a church it was technically a lock in. My former boyfriend and I were at a party on the roof of the church and gosh, then things got confusing. We had too much to drink and go the bright idea to walk down the back steps which lead not into the street but directly behind the altar. Once we figured out where we were it was all kinds of pretty and dark with only a few banks of candles to light the place. Then we realized we were locked in. Try fighting with your boyfriend in a darkened church and really not wanting to be heard. (Much better not to fight). We found our way out to the side doors by the light of my cell phone and then figured out how to unbolt the door. We didn't get caught, but we did leave a bona-fide cathedral unlocked all night. (Go ahead and notice how terrible a thing that is).

23) I re-confirmed yesterday what everyone around here already knows: I hate raw onions. I really, really hate them. Some of them accidentally made it onto my sandwich yesterday and I had to throw the entire thing out because it was onioned by association and entirely inedible.

24) I really do love plain non-fat yogurt with wheat germ and almonds. I know you all don't get that, well, I understand. You never did understand why I don't like bacon, either.

25) I haven't heard from my dad or anyone in contact with him in three days now. Yo ho ho.

26) It seems cruel that I have to do stair workouts when it's so pretty outside. But I have to. There is no way around it if I want to have a shred of a chance at summiting Kilimanjaro. In 2.5 weeks. Damn...

27) I got my eyes tested yesterday and discovered that my vision is significantly improved in both eyes. The doctor could not not explain this, but did ask me if I had been tested for diabetes. "Why, yes," I said. "Last week." Only I never did hear back from that blood test. I'll call on Monday.

28) I used to be so fastidious about my hair that I'd get it cut once a month. Last few years, I have made it into the hair place twice a year, tops. I am just guessing, but does this mean I have let myself go? Or just that I don't really care how long my hair gets anymore? Let's go with that: my hair is almost down to my waist and I just don't care.

29) Back in a former obsession, I did the Ashtanga primary series six days a week. I was made of metal. (And boobs, but whatever). I miss it sometimes but it is hard to picture going back to it now. Perhaps I should. Perhaps.

30) I need some guest bloggers for July 27 - August 1st. Comment if you'd like to help me out. If I get more than six volunteers, I will pull names out of hats.

Happy Saturday.

Friday, July 11, 2008


About a year ago, my dad and my nephew built this toy boat out of foam core.

I haven't heard from my dad in a few days, but my nephew (3.75 years of age, thank you very much) called to tell me he would like to have a trip to see Pop and Gram soon.

Uh, yeah. Wouldn't we all.

More to say when I have more news.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


I leave for Tanzania in two and a half weeks. I haven't got much in the way of training done lately and I feel thick and ordinary. Which, of course, I am.

You might have caught that little whiff of pancreas worry on Monday. I haven't heard back from the doctor and I haven't thought much about it since. I assume she'll let me know if something looks not right in the blood work. Right?

Whatever. I do have to go get one more vial full of germs shoved into my arm before I leave; if there's evidence you've been hanging around in east Africa, you can't get back into the special happy place called the United States without evidence that you're immune to yellow fever. I need to get on it. Blech.

Wouldn't it be nice if my blog lost its medical theme, even for just a day?

Yeah, I think so too. Tomorrow I'll get back on the 100 things business and try not to mention anything medical or even medicinal.

Happy and excellent Thursday to you.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Yo ho ho

Dear Reader,

I admit it. I am a sorry ass feeling sorry for myself lump of sorriness.


The surgery went fine. The doctor was able to save most of his thigh. My dad reportedly said, "Yo ho ho," when he woke up this morning and then requested a parrot and an eye patch. It's, uh, probably because of the drugs that he is so cheerful, but probably also because he is out of pain for the first time in about two years.

Thank you again for all the lovely emails and comments and sweetness. I appreciate it a whole real lot and I promise I will try to not to be so dramatic and scary next time I am having an episode.



Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Is it in there?

Ahab in this story, is, of course, my dad, who will be dismasted this afternoon after a long battle with bad-knee-o-fuckitallity.

Anyone who has the sack to call me a great white anything had better step the f*** off. I have been too emotionally challenged for the last two years to put down the whiskey and the cheese. Get your head in the right place pretty quickly or I'll bite your leg off, too.

And if you are noticing that the analogy - or wait? Is this an allusion? Anyway if you are noticing that it's not me and my dad engaged in a great moral battle with each other, neither of us sure who is the force for good or evil - if you are noticing that, I commend you for paying attention in whatever class made you pretend to read Melville. (I know you just read the Cliff Notes; that doesn't make you a bad person; I never finished Ulysses because so many allusions are... never mind).

The problem, of course, is the problem of evil. Evil, of course, is the special flavor in the air that occurs (naturally) because we live in an (un)natural world, a fallen world, a world where it is possible for things to go so very wrong but also a world where even smart people can get confused about the wrongness and come to believe for some illogical reason that being big and white and filled with rage has something to do with a brave man on a boat who has no leg because she (the big white one) just ate it. And that maybe she did that because there were some bad time with a harpoon that she thinks was somehow about her.

Do you see how gravely and deeply this doesn't work?

Where is the connection between my dad's problems and mine? Where does one person's leukemia lead to one person's whiskey saturation and the other person's knee-fuckitallity form a causal relationship with the great big terrible anger of the cheese-eating white one flipping around in the ocean yelling at the sharks because she is so angry?

This is the problem with me and my dad. I didn't give him cancer and he sure as shit didn't buy me the whiskey. I didn't bite off his leg and he definitely didn't follow me around the ocean in a great sulfurous bark trying to impale me with a harpoon barbed with misery. It only feels that way because my dad and I have a symbiotic thing - a thing of emotional interdependence that usually happens between mothers and their children and between spouses and their spouses. (Stop trying to remember the name of the German what's his name who said all daughters are creepy in love with their fathers. I have never tried to shield you from the fact that I suffer from exactly that psychological error).

But back to the problem of evil. The evil presents itself and does its finest work when a good thing - loving someone else a whole lot- causes suffering so great that one's logical faculties are impaired such that in the story, Ahab and the great white ungrateful spoiled fat daughter are actually out to destroy each other, when in fact the evil is doing the job of destroying both and meantime damaging the love of one for the other pretty successfully too. Ahab loses. The angry white one loses. Evil wins.

I know there is some stuff in the bible about how we should love God (lots of people have assured me that it says that in the bible and I totally believe them) but is there a bit in there where it says you are allowed to have hatred for the devil? Like really serious inky black violent blood thirsty hatred? Is it in there?

Thank you for all the comments and emails and prayers and drinking binges you have all offered up for my dad and for me. When this period of literary mis-allusion passes, I'll let you know what news I have and I'll try to do it without writing a scary post. (I just said I would try - not succeed. Stop looking at me like that).

Monday, July 7, 2008


When my brother calls and the news is not good, I know because before he says, "Hi Nina," he does this intake of breath - a long inhale - a sucking in of air so as to have the power so say whatever it is that sucks in one breath.

So when I got home from the doctor today after getting typhoid, tetanus, Hep A, and Hep B vaccinations (a comedy of needle fun I'll explain on some other sunny day) and reclined on the couch with a bottle of water and a handful of new prescriptions for God knows what all anti-malarial, altitude sickness prophylactics and the odd benzodiazepine refill... and the phone rang... and I heard the sound...

Let's just say I am so accustomed to it that it has become almost boring. I say "almost" because it's a lot like being forced to watch a puppy being kicked to death every single day for two years; it remains colorful and filled with the usual screeching, clawing, horror and existential flora (and fauna) but it lacks that special tang of all-new flavor one gets, you know, the first time one is forced to watch the kicking of the puppies.

Today, the sound meant that my brother was about to tell me that my dad's leg needs to be amputated, which my brother did tell me - after he made the sound and before he started to hyperventilate a little bit and say a lot of words that (if we are to believe what the good Sisters of Perpetual Agony say) guarantee us a spot in the roiling lake of fire kept hot just for us bad people. But like puppy kicking, those words have lost that special tang, too. They are hardly worth saying anymore, which should make you wonder why we bother. (Not wonder whether we do, but why. Because do we? Definitely).

The surgery will take place tomorrow afternoon. By the end of the week, my dad should be out of the hospital entirely and if we are extra lucky I should have the results of the pancreatic enzyme test my doctor ran today to determine whether the thing we were calling an ulcer is in fact not an ulcer and is really a pancreas problem of one of two kinds: pancreatitis (which is unpleasant but mostly just bullshit) or pancreatic cancer (which is unpleasant and entirely bullshit and would mean I would have an expiration date closer to that of the kicked puppy and for sure on the close side of my dad's).

Until tomorrow,

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Sin of the week, 7/6/08 - or 311

Last night about 7 o'clock, I heard a sound outside I had never heard before. I looked out the window and saw that in the playground below, someone had left a cocker spaniel - just put it into the fenced area, closed the door and left. The dog was crying so pitifully that it was drowning out the sound of season 3 episode 5 of the Sopranos, which I am sad to say I have recently started watching and even sadder to say that I can't stop watching because I am hopelessly addicted.

But we can talk about that later.

Someone abandoned a dog in the playground below my window. I considered going downstairs and bringing it water. Or some cat food, since I keep that around. But I didn't. Instead I called 311, New York City's idea of what to do if "there is no emergency - except that I am seriously annoyed and I complain about it."

You know what the "operator" said when I asked for the number to the ASPCA? She said the ASPCA is only open Monday through Friday from 9-5. Then she started giggling and said, "Why don't you just adopt the dog? He's a spaniel, right? Those are nice."

Tee hee hee.

I called my aunt this morning, who was in the Mexican restaurant across the street from the hospital. She has been spending about twelve hours a day at the hospital with my dad because my step mother had left Charlotte and gone back home of Friday and wouldn't be back until Monday. My dad, meantime, has stopped eating, has only been sleeping three hours a night, and only gets out of bed when the therapist makes him get out of bed. When I asked her whether it was time for me to come and say goodbye, she said "probably some time this week, but I won't know for sure until I talk to the doctor tomorrow. Of course, Erica will be back tomorrow and he usually perks up when she is around. I just can't tell yet. But I'll call you tomorrow."

I am not sure what the point of this post is except... I do.

I have been aware that my general life performance, sometimes measured in MELP, has been poor for some time. It's not like I haven't tried.

But I have definitely failed. My dad's illness and issues related to it have had the effect of total life paralysis. I have accomplished nothing in the last two years because everything I do or think of doing has a rider attached to it, the header of which is: "If dad dies this will go down like 'this' - but if he doesn't, it will go down in 'this' other way." This rider causes a total lack of focus - one that has the effect of wiping my hard drive of anything except the rider.

So I order all six seasons of the Sopranos and for hours on end, I watch people shoot each other because that is good and distracting and if I do enough of it, then sun goes down and then it rises again and I have accomplished nothing for yet another day - except that it's one more day knocked off the rest of my life that I am not really living while I wait for the whole fucking world to end.

Does anyone have a solution to this? It is not a rhetorical question, either. I need an answer. I've lost two years of my life doing nothing but reading the rider and doing... nothing.

(You're right - I could have adopted that cocker spaniel but I am not sure that's the right kind of something. Thanks for noticing that yet again, I did nothing).

Friday, July 4, 2008

Try this

Want to make me furious and ill-mannered?

Call me up at 3pm on the 4th of July and say,

"HI! Remember how you said we could watch the fireworks at your place? And how we said we would rather go out instead? Yeah! That conversation we had back in May... that's the one!"


"So yeah, anyway we changed our minds. We think we'll be over at about 8:30. See you soon!"

Fuck. Me.

See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Do what you do (just do it at 3)

Or if you live out west, at 2 or at noon.

Remember how over the weekend I guest posted for Lisa at Clusterfook, and in that guest post, I asked all of you to pray even if you are not a praying type? And then as if I were a professional extortionist, I shook you all down for $5 to help Lisa keep her household running during her cancer treatments?

Lisa is having her CT scan this afternoon at 3pm to see if they chemo she had last week did any good shrinking those tumors. Since her procedure is at 3pm, I hereby re-request prayers, good thoughts, waves of light - whatever you are into - and if you are not into any of those things, drinking. Either pray for Lisa, or have a glass of something tasty at 3pm (juice boxes count) in honor of Lisa.

I'll post more stuff later, when I am finished dreaming up my "always" list.


Nina (I still don't know how my dad is).

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Never, or 11-20

Today, the next installment of 100 things - all of them containing the word "never."

11) I will never understand why to sell 25 little pills (which, by the way, are inexplicably shaped like teeth) the man in the suit says that all this packaging is necessary:

12) I will never understand why I have never seen a rainbow outside my window in six years - and then last week I say THREE. Here is the latest:

13) I will never understand why people feel the need to shower more than once a day. Seriously. I get that there is possible gym sweat or work sweat - but sweat is pretty clean and... is it just me? Does no one else understand how bad soap and water is for your hair and skin? It's bad. The irrational thing we all do (I am probably just speaking for women here) is scrub ourselves and then dry off and smear moisturizer onto ourselves to replace what we just stripped out of our skin. And we do this... why? I get the part about not smelling bad - truly, but I hate showering. I hate it. It does terrible things to my skin and hair and if it were not for the sake of cleanliness being next to Godliness, I wouldn't do it but once a week. And that's no lie.

14) I will never do drugs. Ever. Again. I smoked a little something a few times when I was in college. I inhaled. It was awful. My heart started beating like a jackhammer and I thought everyone was trying to kill me. I totally don't get drugs. Not fun at all.

15) I will never ride a mountain bike again. Here is why:

OK, perhaps the pictures do not convey a proper sense of how much that s-curve fracture hurt. Nor do the pictures convey the debilitating effect of not being able to straighten my left arm for almost six months. The only thing that got me back to straight was rock climbing - and hanging off that arm. No more mountain biking for me. Ever.

16) I will never understand why No Country for Old Men won a bunch of awards. It was the most boring movie I have ever seen in my life. The book, however, was great.

17) I will never smoke another cigarette. Yeah, I have smoked a few, here or there, when I was drunk or dating a smoker. Never again. Too many people I love have died of cancer and I am not done losing people yet.

18) I will never try to come up with ten "nevers" all in one sitting. This is turning out to be too many. This is exhausting.

19) I will never understand why the good Lord made a little bit of chubbiness so unappealing to the male creature. I like having a some hips. My boobs are ok with me. Why is six feet tall and made with pipe cleaners the standard of beauty in our culture again? I get why the pipe cleaner creatures are attractive but seriously - is that ALL that is attractive? Might a girl have some more boob and butt than that and still be beautiful? FEH! I say yes.

20) I will never change my mind about bananas. I do not like them. I would go so far as to say I would never eat them again, but they are plentiful in a certain place where I was recently banished (Cuba) by Woodrow for the merest hint of a suggestion that maybe guns in the hands of women who were angry at their boyfriends because of lap dances at boobie bars were a bad idea. Woodrow promptly called me "commie" and shipped me off to Cuba -- for trying to protect a guy from his psychotic gun-toting girlfriend because she found out about the lap dance. And what could be more American than a guy's right to pay a stupid but attractive young woman to rub her boobs all over his face and maybe smoosh her pelvis around all over his pelvis? In a bar?

(I think we all know the answer to that).

Have an good Tuesday.