Thursday, November 12, 2009

Great Pets

Some nights I come home and I look forward to a time when we have no cats.
Or at least cats that shed and shit with less wild abandon than the two we have now do.

Don't get me wrong. I love my cats. They are a fair representation of their owners: aloof assholes and insightful comforters in turns. And my home has always had cats, and sometimes a dog. I like pets but MAN these two are...suffering some sort of moving related trauma that is manifesting itself in the worst possible ways. Or they have simply matured into furry assholes, I'm not really sure.

Beatrice has claimed not only the bathroom but also the living room as her territory. This leaves Jabber stuck in our wee tiny bedroom and the corner of the kitchen where his water bowl sits. He doesn't even like that water bowl. When I get up in the mornings he is sitting beside it, glaring at it with complete contempt. If he could open the fridge and pour himself water from the filter into a proper tea cup he would be happier I think. He is a pris and a puss and easily bullied by Beatrice who has always been a bully, even when she was small enough to fit into my pocket.

It would take a really, really big marsupial to fit her in a pocket now, the fatass. We have taken to calling her Meatloaf behind her back because, from behind her back, she resembles one. But with evil eyes, that are mirrors into an evil soul. If it were up to Queen Bea every piece of paper or clothing that was left draped on a chair or on the floor would belong to her and her alone. The sweater I was wearing that I abandoned on the rocking chair? Hers now. The sports section The Husband is trying to read? Hers now. The desk chair no one has sat on in a half hour? All for Bea to sit on and not for you. She doesn't care what you thought you were doing, all your things are belong to Bea. End of story. It's no wonder that Jabber has created a fortress of solitude within our closet.

It's hard to believe that Bea is now 12 and who the hell knows how old Jabber is. He came to us with his (dumb) name and his age a mystery. We used to think he was really young but we're beginning to suspect he is actually an old man. We could probably take him to a vet but he's not sick, we don't have the money and the anxiety of the car trip and the waiting room would probably kill him no matter what his age.

Eventually, these two shall pass and I will be sad, probably for a long time, but I wont miss the smell of the liter box or being woke in the middle of the night because there's a cat trying to climb across my face and onto my pillow. Nope, wont miss that at all.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Some Things

Riiiiiiiiiight. So about that whole I'm totally going to post more often thing I maybe hinted at a month ago. That didn't happen. But it still could.

But right now I got nothing.

That's not true. I got something. Some things. Little things though, nothing all that earth shattering or transformative.

I have, for instance, that I've been thinking lately that the best way to eat a bagel really is straight out of the oven. Barring getting one from the baker's oven, a frozen bagel defrosted in the toaster oven set to "bake" for about 7 minutes is pretty freakin awesome. Toasting really doesn't do a bagel justice. I had maybe forgotten what a bagel - crusty on the outside and deliciously warm and soft on the inside - can be. But I rediscovered it last week and now I am much more excited about the rest of the bagels we have in the freezer. They aren't New York bagels. They are actually really (really) good bagels from...uhh well its a store in one of the suburbs. I've never been there. But they have a booth at the farmer's market in Daley Plaza on Thursdays. They've got a really good deal. I think it's a bag of four bagels for $1.50. But I don't work in that neighborhood anymore so once we eat our way through the stash in the freezer I'm not sure what we're going to do.

That's the other thing I've got. A new job. It is a very good thing. That is all I will say about that here.

We push our clocks back an hour on Sunday and I'm wondering if, in this age of social networks, I should bother with my annual email. And if I do send the email does that absolve me from having to make it my status for the day on Sunday? Or should I do both? Why do I do this?

I'm a little strange I think sometimes.

I'm making a conscientious effort to invest myself in some sports this year. Honestly I really don't care all that much about any sport. If I could never watch another sporting event ever again I would be OK with that. But I have this husband you see. And also these friends...Many of whom find sports to be an integral part of their lives to some extent or another. So, you know, I do my best to know a little bit about a bunch of stuff - sound bytes from Mike & Mike or something I read somewhere, caught on the news. And I watch the important games - playoffs and bowls (OK, maybe just the Super one.) But they are not making it easy! The sports seasons used to be far more delineated than they are now. This week we have football, baseball, basketball and I'm sure there's a soccer game on somewhere that someone is watching and will be talking about this weekend. It's really making things difficult for me. For example, I knew that tonight would be all about the Hornets game. I was prepared for that. But then, when I mentioned that there's a new South Park on after the game I was told that after the basketball game there's also a freakin' World Series game on! This was never meant to happen. (And also I know it's the Yankees. They have like 26 titles, give me a break already.) You try to be a good wife and show a little interest, you give that inch and they want 120 yards. It's not right. Attention all of you various sports franchise things: Go back to the way it was when I could get at least a week of non-sports related prime time television watching in between seasons.
Is that too much to ask?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Integrity Sauce

For someone who actually likes to cook, living with a professional cook can be frustrating at times. Sure I really appreciate the fact that when The Husband says he's got dinner/breakfast/midnight snack taken care of I know it's going to be damn good. But once in a while I gotta flex my chops in the kitchen. Because while I don't have many, I worked hard for the kitchen skills I do posses. And I can fucking cook, thank you very much.

So last week I made a dinner party. I needed an excuse to have people over to the new place. And, collectively, we needed an event to bring us all together and tip back a few cocktails before the Size 8 show. I decided to challenge myself culinarily (i maybe just made that word up) and promised everyone a homemade Italian feast. I planned on making a sauce with homemade meatballs, and The Husband and I spent a day making Italian sausages to thrown in. And because when I say I'm going to do something I have, on occasion, gone a bit overboard, I busted out the Play-Doh play station looking pasta attachment that came with our KitchenAid to make my own spaghetti.

Way back when I was what we would now classify as a "tween" I stumbled on the pasta press my mom had hidden in a closet full of other stuff that all, in turns, fascinated me. But when I found that I made pasta my project of the moment. It probably didn't last longer than a weekend because it was not easy work but I am at least familiar with the process. I made the dough a few days ahead of time to test the machine and froze it for the time being. On Saturday I gave it a little extra love and started throwing small balls of dough into the machine. Once it got going it was fun singing along to Magnetic Fields songs and rolling out linguine dough.

I made the meatballs from an old, family recipe. Rolling them out and smacking them into shape to the tunes on Pavement's Slanted and Enchanted. I have to say they turned out really well.

I threw the sausages we made previously into a pot to brown.

When they were uniformly crisp and beautiful I traded them out for the meatballs and turned those until they were patched with crunchy spots of crust. After both the meats had been cooked there was all sorts of delicious debris at the bottom of the pot. I threw the herbs in on top of all that to toast and then The Husband advised deglazing the pot with red wine. So I threw a good cup of an open bottle in there and scrapped up all the lovely bits and stirred it all up.

A word about the herbs. For a week The Husband and I had been debating the merits of my planned sauce. A friend of ours who does not eat peppers or onions was joining us and I was, therefore, planning a sauce without onions. To The Husband this idea was sacrilege. How was a sauce a sauce of any merit without onions in it? And what did I mean there weren't any onions in the meatball recipe? I was determined to prove him wrong. This could be good, hell it could be delicious, without any onions. And hell no there aren't any onions in my family meatballs!

The flavor base for the sauce would come from a whole head of roasted garlic and as much basil as our floundering little plant would yield, which turned out to be quite a bit. I harvested some leaves from the oregano plant and threw put that in with a bay leaf. That was pretty much it. It was a smokey sauce with just enough sweet to temper the crushed red pepper in the sausages.

I didn't take any pictures of the pasta because by that time I had an audience of dinner guests and it was cooking faster than I could get it all in the pot. It turned out to be a pretty skimpy batch. For the first time in my life I underestimated how much of something I would need to feed people! But the noodles themselves were light and fluffy. They were without much of a texture, acting more as a blank template for the sauce than as a substantial part of the meal.

In hindsight, and as mentioned by a few of the guests, it was probably not the best idea to fill everyone with pasta no matter how light it was and then troop us all off to catch a bus and see a show. But there was coffee and dessert (monkey bread is from the devil) and more coffee. When we arrived at the theater there was a bar in the lobby so we had another drink. We were in fine spirits when we sat down to watch the show. In such fine spirits, in fact, that after the show we all decided to go out and get another drink at a familiar bar in our new neighborhood. After the first beer the day's work in the kitchen started catching up with me but I hung in for another round before we left the party peoples and made our way back to the house.

I have to say I am so excited about how that all went: the new place, the back porch, the food the company, that I'm going to have to do it again soon. Or, um, as soon as I can. Which might not be until November now that I've seen what October is going to look like but eventually at some point I'll be busting out the pasta maker again and reinterpreting the meaning of integrity with some sort of tasty, delicious sauce. Maybe next time I'll do it without the garlic.
Ha. Not likely.

Monday, September 21, 2009

In The Past Week

we learned:

5:00am is just too early, even for an early riser like me.

The Chicago Avenue bus is the devil's playground and should not be counted upon as a timely method of transportation to anywhere.

Tomato sauce can have integrity, even if it doesn't have onions in it.

That we are secretly excited about fall because there will finally be new things to watch on TV. Who knows if any of it will be good but at least it will be new.

It is possible that we watch too much TV.

I REALLY need this elliptical machine to get out of my house.

Locatelli Pecorino Romano cheese is the scent of my childhood.

And its sheep's milk, who knew?

There is such a thing as trying to read too many books at one time.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Morning Becomes Electronic

I beat the sun up by about an hour and a half today. I am sitting here, drinking my first cup of coffee in the dim of table lamps instead of the overheads because The Husband will sleep for another two hours before his alarm clock goes off. It's really hard to get your coffee the right color when you make it in the dark.

Obviously I have interrupted something in the cats' busy schedule, Beatrice is looking at me like I am a some sort of invader. Jabber is aloof, as he has been since we moved in, but seems grateful to have me stand near him while he eats. I suspect I am running interference for him.
Beatrice is sudden very interested in me, the computer, my fingers on the keyboard...oh, no it's just that I am sitting in her chair.

The plus side to getting up this early is that I get to watch the Angel reruns turnover from series finale to series opener on TNT, like some backwards calendar page. I try to watch the news but increasingly I find very little newsworthiness to the stories they cover. (This just in: Korean woman hit by rock flung by zoo elephant!) I prefer reruns at this time of day, I can catch up on the news online later, when the world starts making more sense.

I usually spend my first few hours of the day sitting quietly, sipping coffee and eating breakfast. I don't talk much until The Husband gets up. And then sometimes I talk too much, forgetting that he hasn't been awake all that long. Occasionally the cats and I will converse or I'll make a glib comment directed at Matt Lauer but my brain is like a pile of wet timber this early in the day, it takes a lot of kindling and a few good match strikes to get it going. Trying to shake off lingering dream images and anxieties I brought home with me last night...which will just be piled on by new ones if I bring them back to work with me and eventually I will just collapse under the weight of them all. So I don't know if this morning writing thing is going to work out yet. We'll see. Let me practice thinking in sentances for a while.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Lord of the (Fruit) Flies

So we moved, which you may or may not have heard. The apartment is nice enough, it has a big living room and a big kitchen. It also has a back porch and a front stoop which I haven't had since living in Queens. The windows look brand new and that will be handy come winter. I don't think we'll have to worry about putting plastic up insulation on these windows. But the bedrooms are like coffins, really big coffins but non-the-less I have had a difficult time sleeping here. Over four years of sleeping in a big, open space and now I sleep against a wall my ass practically hangs out of a window. Said window being only three feet away from our neighbors' window so yeah, I'm a little self conscious about that. Have you ever tried being self conscious in your sleep? It totally wrecks havoc on the REM cycle.

And I'm beginning to get the feeling that this apartment doesn't want us here. Nothing as dramatic as disembodied voices from the fireplace (we don't have one of those anyway) or invisible midnight marching bands but still, something is not quite right.

First of all, the day were moved in the movers were three hours late, not too big a deal if you are planning to start at noon and don't actually begin until 3pm but we were supposed to start at 5pm. They didn't get to our old place until eight. We weren't done getting stuff into this place until 11pm.

We got our stuff in without too much damage but we discovered that the bathroom sink drained really slowly. In the book of rules our landlord gave us (so not kidding, it looked like the booklet I got in the dorms at college) they said "let us know if there's something wrong, we'd rather take care of a problem while it's small then let it build up into something bigger." So, I emailed them. They sent someone over a couple of days later without ever replying to my email. But the sink was fixed so yay! Right?

Wrong. They just broke it in a different way so now the u-pipe leaked. I called to let them know and someone came back, and now we have a slow draining bathroom sink again...Which is better than a leaking sink but hundreds of thousands of homes across America have sinks that drain properly AND are leak free. Apparently this is not going to be one of those households.

Then we discovered the fruit flies.

I eat fruit, I am not ashamed to admit it. I like bananas and apples and all sorts of berries. I eat grapefruit and really like those crazy asian pear things. Most of my fruit I leave out in our fruit bowl. What? Bananas go brown in the fridge!

I don't know where fruit flies come from but one morning we woke up and discovered a swarm of them living around our sink and nestled into the stuff we store onto of the cabinets. I know they're harmless but they are GROSS and I have no desire to battle my way through them to make my morning coffee. Once we realized the cats weren't going to help we started chasing the flies around the kitchen trying to smoosh them in our hands. Deceptively hearty those little boogers. They only have a lifespan of, like, three days but they are impossible to crush! Like adamantium I tell you!

When that plan failed, my The Husband, started talking about importing spiders from the yard. Nuh-uh. No way. We've already got a daddy long legs living in one of the bedrooms and I've spied at least one other lounging webside in a corner near the kitchen ceiling. I do not need any more spiders than that living inside the house with me. As it is those two were hardly doing anything to quell the problem, what do I want with their lazy, outdoor cousins? For-get-it.

I did a little research on the ol' interwebs and discovered a page of possible home remedies. All non-lethal to other members of the household, all DIY and all sounded promising. I mean, why would the internets lie to me? So we chopped up a banana, put the pieces in a couple of deep take-out containers and sealed the tops with plastic wrap. Then I poked wee, tiny holes in the plastic wrap and we put them near the kitchen sink. OK so maybe the holes were too small because we watched those traps for hours and while the flies would land on top of the container and walk around on top of the plastic wrap they never actually went INTO the containers. Make the holes bigger he says, so I do. Then, of course the flies can get out. Fail. I poured myself a glass of wine and then poured the flies some and walked away from the kitchen.

The next morning we had a few flies, not nearly as many as we had hoped but any progress is good progress. For three days we put up with the smell of rotting banana and watched closely to make sure we were still luring them in. This morning we had two take out containers of stinky fruit and angry flies. They seem to be gone, for now, but I guess it will never be safe to leave fruit out in the summer here...? Are they hitching rides home with us from the market? Do I need to start thinking about fruit fly larvae when I eat a fruit salad? On second thought, don't answer that, I probably don't want to know.

Oh and then the fridge broke down on Saturday night. We didn't even realize it until The Husband went in for a beer and it came out warm and frothed over when he opened the bottle.

Well, maybe we put too much stuff in the freezer. Maybe we need to clear space around that compressor doohickey that makes the cold. Nope. Maybe we shifted the temperature dial when we were putting away groceries? Nope, in fact that thing doesn't move at all, perpetually set at level 4. Well, maaaaybe we accidentally left the door open, we'll close it and see what happens in an hour. Bupkiss. On Sunday morning I woke up from a dream of premature burial punctuated by a neighbor's phone call and the fridge stunk of the 1/2 gallon of milk that was going bad. Oh, and all of the fruit we moved in there to keep it safe from the (fucking) fruit flies. The irony, it was too much for me. I had a small, but meaningful, breakdown that sent The Husband scurrying towards KMart to buy a cooler, and ice, and milk. And if he had come home with a new wife I really would not have been surprised but he obviously loves me because he came home and made breakfast instead.

Do you see what I'm saying though? There's something off here and I don't know what it is. Maybe it's jinxed, or I am. Maybe I am blowing all of these little things out of proportion and I should just take a pill and relax. Or maybe, in 349 I am moving us the hell out of here.

I don't know. I guess we'll see how long it takes for the fruit flies to come back.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Turd Fairy

After the first snows melt away in this magical city of Chicago The Turd Fairy comes out at night and sprinkles piles of doggie poo over all of the sidewalks and grass patches for all of the little girls and boys to find.

It's very exciting to go outside that morning and discover what wonders await. You never know where you're going to find a pile! It's like the Easter Bunny's retarded, shit flinging, simian cousin has been parading around outside of your house while you slept.

Truly a magical time.

Yay thaw.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

167th Street

Growing up in Queens, on 167th Street, we were surrounded by Jews. My family was one of the few Gentiles on the block. There were three other goy families on our street: my babysitter Josette's family, the family with the twin teenage boys and the Greeks down at the other end with their three kids, everyone else was mostly Jewish and mostly old.

Next door though was my very best friend, Effa, and her family. They were Conservative and her parents let me call them Ema and Abba. Effa was a very elegant little girl who had no problem allowing her mother to set her hair in curls or dress her in frilly dresses while I wouldn't even sit still long enough to get a brush through my short hair. I joined ballet with Effa and promptly dropped out of class when the embarrassment of my uncoordinated prancing outweighed the thrill of the tutus. Effa continued and I think she became a professional dancer after she and her mom moved to Israel. She was allergic to, like, everything and she was far too delicate to be playing with someone like me but we forged a friendship despite these differences. We were the same age, too old to play with her brother and the other boys on the street but never really accepted by the other little girl on the block our age. To her we were "weird." I was weird because I was half Greek but barely Catholic and Effa was weird because of her Jewishness and her allergies. Together we found ways to keep ourselves occupied though, they usually involved intricate kidnap plots perpetrated against our favorite dolls. We learned to roller skate together, like we were in a three-legged race. She wore one skate, I wore the other and we pushed ourselves holding on to each others hip. Sometimes we would just spin on their tire swing until at least one of us was reeling and throwing up.

On the other side our neighbors were The Weismans. They had two grown daughters and a grape arbor in their backyard. Marty took great pleasure in teasing me mercilessly. I always took him very seriously when he pretended to forget my name, or played "gotchya" with my nose. His wife made dolls and in the odd moments of being inside their house collecting for UNICEF, Rosh Hashanah parties or washing off grapes, I remember it being a very unsettling place with all of those doll eyes starring at me. But they were a sweet couple and as I grew older it was much more endearing to hear Marty yelling "Hey Dolly!" at me as I passed his house. I think they ended up moving in with one of their daughters. I don't remember anymore.

Next door to The Weismans were the old ladies' houses. Faye was pretty hip for a sixty year old and she always threw great parties that everyone was invited to. On the other side of her house were Sylvia and her mother. I can't remember her name anymore but I remember that the mother fell down and broke her hip around the same time that the Life-Call system became popular. We were generally good kids but for a really long time we would crack ourselves up whispering "I've fallen and I can't get up" every time we rode our bikes past their house. And we went by there a lot on our bikes. Sylvia had a great, sloping driveway that allowed us to burn rubber off of our tires, screeching to a stop before slamming against the garage door. Of course sometimes we would totally bite it and scrape ourselves up. So every time she saw us coming, Sylvia would come out onto her porch and try to shoo us off. It never worked.

Across the street, in the little blue house, were Arthur and his wife Betsy. They had a coy pond where our cat liked to go fishing in good weather. Sometimes we would come home and find a fish flopping around on the welcome mat. It would be my job to scoop it up into one of the aquarium bowls left over from my failed attempts at goldfish ownership and bring it back to Arthur's house. He hated our cat. He would always tell my mom she should "do something" about her. To that end mom tried to ground the cat a couple of times. Ever try and ground a cat? It doesn't work, they'll just pee on your sofa. I remember when Betsy started wandering around the neighborhood not knowing which one was her house. It was very confusing for the kids on the block. We wanted to laugh because it seemed like it should be funny, like it should be a joke. But it wasn't. Once she wandered off pretty well and Arthur had us all out looking for her and the cops ended up bringing her back from a few blocks away. I don't think she lived very long after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and Arthur didn't live very long after she passed. It's probably better that way, they loved each other a lot.

Also across the street were Lou and Hannah. Lou was the "hey you kids, get off my lawn" guy and Hannah looked like Mrs. Claus, which is sort of ironic for a Jewish lady. Lou was great, possibly my favorite of all the old folks on the block. He would keep any ball that landed on his yard and yell at any kid who dared climb onto his porch for any reason but he was always good to me. He's the one who convinced my dad to take the training wheels off my bike the day after I got it and even though he always looked gruff and angry he always had a smile for me. Their son was an artist, just like my parents, and he turned out to be gay. I remember it was a big to-do and Lou wanted to disown him or something drastic. But my parents, who were friendly with the son, went over and talked to him and Hannah and then everything was OK. I don't know what they said, they probably don't remember anymore either. Whatever it was it was a good thing they said it because I think their son ended up dying of AIDS but at least they had all reconciled before that happened.

And that's how it goes, you know? People get old, move in with their kids or just up and die. We went from Purim parties to Quincerias pretty quickly on 167th Street. Jessica and her family moved in where my babysitter once lived. Her mother had plucked out all of her eyebrows and eyelashes and penciled them on every day. They also had a parrot, who sounded just like Jessica's mom and it would confuse their chihuahua when it called to him.

Effa's family moved out and a Chinese family moved in. They had a daughter named San San who was a little younger than me but was still more fun that the other kids on the block because I got to be The Boss of our games. She died too, got hit by a car. I got to go to her funeral and eat breakfast in Chinatown, which was weird because it was fish. So was the funeral...weird that is, not made of fish. That was after her brother came over from China to live with them. Siu Hang. He didn't speak English when he got here and I taught him a bunch of stupid jokes and made him play house with me and San San. Eventually the Greek boy from down the block took pity on him and started including him in their games. But you had to be good at baseball to hang with that family so sometimes it was just easier to play with me. I don't think any of us did a lot of playing together after San San died though.

That was totally our Stand By Me moment on 167th Street, the end of innocence and the beginnings of adolescence for those of us kids left on the block. Junior High, new school, divorce, the 90s. It was a weird time and I haven't really thought about it in a while. In fact, I'm not sure how I remembered all of the names I mentioned here, it's been that long since I thought about them. My mom sold that house when I left for college so I haven't been back in over 10 years. But I had a dream about Marty Weisman the other night. He was standing in front of his house on a bright, summer day. He was smoking a cigar and smiling. He called me Dolly.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


Up here in the ceaseless, arctic tundra that is Chicago my mind has been on slow-drip for months. I feel like that should mean only the finest thoughts are distilled. But, at the end of the day it's viscous sap that refuses to be decanted.

Do you have any idea how long it just took me to put those three sentences together?

Oh forget it. I'm going to bed.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Year of the Ox

I suppose I should have some uniquely profound observations to start off the new year but I don't. I am, instead of pontificating, wallowing in a day long Bones marathon on TNT. Not really conducive to deep thoughts.

Neither is this headache. I don't really know where it came from. We were home fairly early and I didn't drink all that much. It might be a food those happen? There was a lot of food at that party. There is always a lot of food at our parties. I think we are beginning to reach the tipping point where our parties are more food than booze. I'm OK with that. Does that make me old or fat? Or both? I can hear my elliptical machine laugh at that question. It knows the answer.

I was excited about the prospect of 2009 being nice and calm but it's not turning out that way. It is, in fact, shaping up to be a more hectic year than last. But I think it's going to turn out to be a good thing, this consistent busyness. I'm good with projects and deadlines and I haven't really had any since the theater closed its doors. I should probably thank my girlfriends for getting married and pregnant just so I have a bunch of stuff to do this year. But this is also the year I'm supposed to quit smoking, lose 10 pounds, move to a new, well, apartment at least and decide if I'm going to go back to school. So, you see, hectic.

I spent most of today in bed, watching TV. I guess it's time to get up and get going. How's that for profound?