Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Are you with us or against us?

That is the question I need to ask the Westside Aquatic Center.

First it was the hot water heater for the showers (which, as the PP recently noted, is now lying on the grass outside the back door).

Then there was some kind of electrical problem that cancelled practice Monday and Tuesday.

Now there is a mechanical problem, too, related to the motor that turns the pool pump for water circulation. No practice today or tomorrow--MAYbe Friday or Saturday.

Meanwhile there is all this turkey and pie and wine staying the course around my middle.

These desperate times of terror may drive a goddess to actually go (gasp) running!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

If you want to end war and stuff, you've got to sing loud.

It has long been a tradition in my family to listen to "Alice's Restaurant" on Thanksgiving. It all started about 19 Thanksgivings ago (that's 19 years ago on Thanksgiving), when my aunt and uncle were visiting us in Newport News, and together with me, a high school boyfriend, and my parents, we got talking about that song, how it takes place on Thanksgiving, and about how we should listen to it on Thanksgiving. And so we did: some people were sitting in chairs, and others were sprawled on the floor, and we were all full of turkey. Full bellies did not stop the giggling and the singing, though. And given my family's tendency to multiply jokes with repetition, it was not long before "I wanna keeuhl!" became the repeated line around the Parcheesi board.

Now when my family celebrates Thanksgiving it is usually done with another family, who have become like family over the years. This is no ordinary Thanksgiving celebration. Everything starts on Tuesday night with Dungeness crab, brought fresh in suitcases by the family members flying in from San Francisco, who until the wine-buying options in Newport News recently improved, also brought with them several cases of wine. (There was one sad year when all the suitcases made it through except the one with the crab.) Then on Wednesday it is over to my parents' house, where my mother constructs a striper feast. November is prime striper season, as you may know, and there is one person in our clan who used to fish for it all the time before he moved inland to Kentucky. Now we all benefit from his nostalgia, because she has a mighty fine crumb topping that she bakes on it. This year, I understand, there was fish leftover for the first time in my memory. Then Thursday is the turkeystravaganza, usually featuring something like 30 people, all in one dining room. After dinner there is always the mother of all napkin battles, followed by Christmas crackers and everyone wearing paper crowns while reading dumb jokes aloud.

Then we adjourn to the living room to find bits of chair or floor, for the ritual listening. Some people have a hard time keeping from saying the lines along with Arlo. There is significant eye contact when he says, "Let me tell you about the town of Stockbridge, Massachusetts." Then at the end we all rouse ourselves from triptofan dreams to sing along.

In fact last year at the PP's and my wedding, when the DJ was seeming not to show up, we thought perhaps we could have everyone sing something together--something everyone would know the words to. What we came up with was
You can get anything you want
At Alice's Restaurant
You can get anything you want
At Alice's Restaurant
Walk right in it's around the back
Just a half a mile from the railroad track
And you can get anything you want
At Alice's Restaurant.

Can you imagine 100 people standing up at our wedding, singing a bar of "Alice's Restaurant," and sitting down? Friends, it could have been a movement--but the DJ did show up.

But back to Thanksgiving. This year, we had a small group here at our house--myself, the PP, his mother, his sister, a longtime friend of mine from work, her husband, and their bitty baby. We had crab appetizer, a beautiful turkey, cranberries, two kinds of stuffing, mashed potatoes, roasted root vegetables, pumpkin pie, and carrot cake--and wine. But this was not the occasion for Alice's Restaurant.

But fortunately last night we went over to other friends' house, where there was a veritable family and friend posse. They had leftovers and we had leftovers, and bottles of wine were opened for the cause, and together we ate another Thanksgiving dinner that couldn't be beat. Then after pie, we adjourned to a living room, moved parts of wooden train sets aside, and pulled up chairs and floor for the ritual listening. It turns out that someone else there had had this as a family ritual, so she and I were always giggling in advance of the same expected pleasure of a storyline known too well.

Given the situation in Iraq, I don't think we made much progress on ending war and stuff, but it was good to know we had done our part. And even though we were not singing in unison with the crowd in Newport News, I'd like to think we had a bit of a doppler effect massacree going on. With four-part harmony. And feeling.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


No, this is not going to be a "thank goodness nothing new started hurting overnight" post.

But I am thinking about what it is we feel thankful for. I cannot list everything, or you would spend the entire day reading my various thankful blog posts, instead of watching football as you should.

Right now I just want to say "Thanks!" to the Yale hospital folks who figured out what was going on in my uncle's heart and got it patched up. It really is remarkable, when you think about it, that doctors can send one of those tiny cameras up an artery from somewhere near where your leg joins your body, and look around inside your heart. THEY CAN LOOK AROUND INSIDE YOUR HEART, WITH A LITTLE CAMERA. Then they can take a little tube, put it inside the part of your heart that is not staying in the position that it should, then send the world's tiniest balloon in pump the tube up to where it should be. Are you pausing with me for reflection?

One of the real highlights of this fall was the phone conversation I had with my uncle, the night after he had this procedure done, a full day after he had gone to the hospital because his pulse would not come down. I can so easily go back to the moment of that conversation, sitting by the little gas fireplace in my study, wanting to physically feel the warmth that I both needed and received from hearing that he was going to be OK. It was one of those magical times when you believe and really do feel that a telephone can make a connection with someone 833 miles away.

So I am thankful for that voice-carrying technology, and for the new technology inside his heart ("a stent in my heart to match the bolt in my wrist," he said). And I am thankful for my uncle, and for the chance to have more conversations like that one.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

London Bridge is falling down.

I am not sure what it is about this time of year, but it brings out my ailments. Last weekend it was a mysterious and previously unsuffered stomach ailment (thank heavens for the PP, willing to venture out to the Kangaroo Mart circa 2 a.m. in search of meds) followed the next day by Super Sinus Headache. What a mostest hostess I made. This weekend it's the one-two punch of the shoulder on my right side and my right calf. And no, this is not the shoulder that bothered me last month, although my massage therapist points out that it continues to be a disaster, just more quietly now. No, this is the other shoulder, which I injured last night--are you ready for this?--erasing a white board. Yes friends, I have reached the point in life where I cannot risk such a task without hurting myself. Then thanks to Jacques Monod sleeping around my legs during the night, and my trying to move around her, I awoke suddenly (c. 3:30 a.m.) with a killer calf cramp. Curses!

But that has not slowed down the Thanksgiving dinner preparations, no no no. I have had the wine purchased for several days now (and not drunk any of it, thank you very much.) I got a fresh free-range drug-free turkey from the poultry students, picking it up on Monday. Trips to the state farmers market and various groceries got all the ingredients I could think of. Those who know me well know that several forgotten items will reveal their identities tomorrow, just in time for Substitutions R Us.

Now's just the cooking. So far the cranberries are done (and the PP found some of the freshest cranberries I have seen this side of a Maine bog at the Marché Frais today), the giblet stock is made, the sausage (fresh Italian variety--yummy) for the stuffing is cooked, the pomegranate seeds are removed from their membrane home (for serving as aperitivo in the prosecco, just to insure that all my guests have to spend half the year in this part of the world), the beautiful bread for the stuffing is drying, and I just remembered I need to get the white wine chillin (like Bob Dylan, natch).

And that is about all that can be done until tomorrow, when I'll chop vegetables to roast with rosemary and olive oil, get the bird ready for its final suntan, peel the potatoes (and not put the peels down the disposal this year) for mashing, and make the stuffing. Other guests are bringing dessert and appetizers, which means that as far as I can tell, things are under control.


All to say, we are well on our way to a Thanksgiving dinner that can't be beat. I hope you are, too. Here are some good reminders from the Gurgling Cod:
The LA Times has a detailed story on the definitively best way to cook a turkey. This bird seems to bring out a lot of this kind of thing, suggesting perhaps that the turkey is not, inherently, delicious. News flash: it does not matter.* Poach the damn thing in Proseco, put it in a hammock lined with George Foreman grills, or go sous vide, as your tradition and preference move you. I said it before, but it bears repeating -- the excellent thing about this holiday, and the reason why today so many of us will be cooling our heels in Mpls, Atlanta, Detroit , Charlotte, Denver, or Pittsburgh airports, pondering the second 20oz draft, while keeping an ear cocked for any information on the status of the flight home -- is that it is about the asses in the seats around the table, not what's on the table. If you are giving thanks for your $15/lb-studied-Sanskrit-at-Wesleyan-heritage-turkey, or that you'll be able to watch the Lions, Cowboys, and the Bayou Classic on a plasma screen TV, you are missing the point. Count yourself blessed for the people at your table, raise a glass to those who are not, and pour out a bottle or two of the nouveau for those irredeemably absent. It is, if you do it correctly, a holiday about hanging out with people you love, eating food, and watching football on television. With attorneys in Santa suits already revving their Harleys for the inevitable toys-for-tots rides that a sheen of altruism on the naked consumerism of the Christmas season, I encourage you to spend this weekend focused on gluttony and sloth, and leave the greed until December.

I'll be feeling grateful for my family and friends who can be here and also for those of you who are too far away to break bread together. To you, I raise a glass to say (with feeling), Come on in it's around the back, just a half a mile from the railroad track....

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Friday, November 17, 2006

Friday Random 10: My friends have passed out on the landing (good night).

This afternoon estaminet makes an appearance here in the upstate. How cool is that?

The plan for tonight is to hit the town in search of a Dinner of Many Places--perhaps crab nachos here and a fancy drink there, more to eat somewhere else, and maybe a pastry somewhere or the other.

Tomorrow afternoon we have other plans, which means we'll need to hit the grocery in search of such items as pimento cheese spread, cheetohs, ice cream, and perhaps beer from some local spot.

While I wait for her to drive six and a half hours or so, I have plenty of time for this. Apparently my music device is excited, too, because random track 10 even came from one of estaminet's own mixes.

Have a great weekend, everybody--and Go Blue!

1. "Your Dictionary," XTC (Homespun)
2. "Suits Are Picking Up the Bill," Squirrel Nut Zippers (Perennial Favorites)
3. "Zydeco Homebrew" (Louisiana Cajun Classics)
4. "Wish You Were Her," Billy Bragg (Don't Try This At Home)
5. "I Wanna Be Your Lover," Prince (The Hits and B-sides, disc 2)
6. "The Boxer," Simon and Garfunkel (Bridge Over Troubled Water)
7. "Bathtime in Clerkenwell," The Real Tuesday Weld (I, Lucifer)
8. "Le cose in comune," Daniele Silvestri (Italian Cafe)
9. "Sueno," Gipsy Kings (Allegro)
10. "Chocolate," Snow Patrol (How to Get the Most Out of Your Mixmaster)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Court's in session (now here comes the judge).

OK, OK, no more politics: I am afraid that if I write another political post, Joe will taunt me a second time. (Go, Joe, by the way, kicking butt in the 50 fly!)

Take a moment today and wish NCMarcus a bon anniversaire: even though it is many years ago now that we would always celebrate together, and even though birthday cards do not seem to be something I am capable of getting into the mail, I always think of her mid-November, of chocolate bricks and somewhat less successful chocolate mousse, of swingset conversations and beachwalks, of rose crusades, of too much Depeche Mode, of too many black turtlenecks. Now she's a mom too, and with a new idea of what a birthday means. So I, too, thank her mother for the work of bringing her into this world, and even though I know that was a huge labor for her, November 15 is still for me and always a celebration of Maman Marcus herself.

Now, the news.

You will be pleased to know that although my plea of guilty was accepted today in court, I got off without a fine. I hardly had to explain a thing, which is a shame, because I had a D.A. MacCoy-style argument planned, to explain to the jury why condemning me to punishment beyond what I have already endured would not serve American justice or make the city safe. Might have worked, too, except that there was no jury. The judge seemed to understand, though, that I neither meant to do it nor planned to do it again.

All in all, it was not much of a Law & Order scene. No blond assistant DAs, no inspiring oratory, no tricky message at the end. The main message seemed to be that if you can get off work to get to court and explain your sad self, then the system will not punish you as it would if, say, you might lose your job for missing work. The courtroom of our fair city was not as glamorous either: the dark wood paneling surrounding the judge's dais was diminished a bit by the flush fluorescent lighting and old-school ceiling panels.

I am curious, though: the judge suggested defensive driving classes as a way of getting rid of the points on my license. Maybe I did not make my situation clear to him: it was in trying to remain aware of the jackass behind me who was driving like, well, a jackass, that I did not see the light change. I am curious to see whether this kind of matter might be covered in the class: which parts of driving is it that I am supposed to be defensive about? More than likely, in being a Hermione-like too-many-questions-asking presence in the classroom, I'll just force the teacher to flunk me for spite.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Well, I'll be.

It's only too bad the whole thing didn't last long enough for estaminet's friends to get the t-shirts printed. But maybe that's a small price. (I still want one, though.)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Uh, is that IRAQ-Contra?

OK, after a bit more reflection, I wonder what we gain from having Robert Gates instead. Are we expected simply to celebrate the exit of Rumsfeld (as I did) without considering who enters? Or is this the Bush administration's attempt to prepare itself for Ortega's victory?

Look at the time....

Is it too much to hope that this is just the beginning?

Tester, we love you.


Now come on, Webb.


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Must I paint you a picture?

My new mix and my election mix from 2004 (sadly appropriate this year too) are up at Art of the Mix.

An Open Letter to the readers of xtcian

Dear Readers of xtcian,

I don't understand why, but for some reason the comment I am trying to leave this rainy election day morning keeps getting rejected for "questionable content."

Ian had written a post about today's election, about trying to deal with one's anger about one's nation's direction, about what it means to hope that perhaps this election might bring change. He closed by saying, "And in the community spirit, I'd like to leave the comments open to everyone who would like to add One Thing to Consider when voting in today's election. It can be anything. Simply write down the one element you would like every fellow voter to know before they pull the lever. It's your last little whisper in the ear before the curtain closes."

Here is what I tried to write:
If like me, you live in a state where there is a so-called marriage amendment on the ballot, please think twice (or even three times) before you vote in favor of writing bigotry into your state's constitution.

Not that racy, is it? Or even particularly witty. When I first got the questionable content error message, I even tried taking out "bigotry" and putting in "unfair discrimination." But the message came up again. I cannot figure out what the content in question is, but consider me pre-empted.

So instead I'll point you to the Gurgling Cod's very good arguments against our state's question #1.

Thanks, and happy voting,

Monday, November 06, 2006

Lucky me.

Don't you wish you were me? Well, OK, not usually, but today you do. Do you know why? Because tonight I have time to cook a nice dinner for the PP and myself, and I get to listen to a brand new mix while I'm doing it. How lovely it is to come home from the grocery, having gotten everything I need, only to find a CD-containing-padded-envelope in my mailbox! Simply delicious listening, coming my way now. NOW don't you wish you were me?

An Open Letter to The Cats.

Dear Cats (that means you):

Since this is fall break, and that means I get to work at home (at my very own desk), and get some extra sleep, and maybe even read some things for fun--for three entire days--we need to set a few ground rules.

I understand that the desk is popular space, and that the two of you have arranged shifts so that we do not both of you up here at the same time, with all the hissing and growling that ensues. I appreciate that. But here are a few additional requests:
1. No biting on the desk. This is my space, and you are welcome to visit it, but you are not welcome to bite me when I do not clear my arms from in front of the computer keyboard, or when I try to type instead of petting you.
2. Be careful with the tail wagging. There are some important things on the desk that I would prefer you did not knock over. Similarly, please refrain from batting pens and paperclips onto the floor.
3. That is my water. I know it looks fresh and tasty, but if you get your pointy little head stuck in the glass, don't come crying to me.

1. Pillows are for human heads, and you should not walk around on them while the PP and I are trying to sleep.
2. You weigh approximately 10 pounds, and that means you should not extend your body to fill up 2/3 of the bed.
3. The alarm clock is your signal that you can start meowing to wake us up. No food is going into your bowl before the alarm clock goes off. Really.

1. If I am sitting on the couch and reading, you are welcome to join me, but please do not position your body between my face and the book.
2. If I get up from my spot on the couch and you promptly claim it, I am allowed to pick you up and move you when I come back. No crying.
3. Please see rule 3 in category #1 above: it also applies to drinks on the coffee table. You should not look surprised when you find that what is in that glass is bubbly water or beer.

Thank you for your kind attention and compliance. I believe that now we can all get along much more easily.

Yours sincerely,

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Everything in Winston-Salem is against the law....

Today it is Winston-Salem, so it must be Thursday. I have committed to way too much travel this month: 2 weeks ago to Tulsa, now to Winston-Salem, next week to Charlotte. Luckily neither today's nor next week's trip requires the quart-sized ziploc bag. But I do have a bit of driving ahead of myself. Just call me the low-paid daddy singing the high-price blues.

But won't you join me please in welcoming the arrival of Fall Break? Hooray, Fall Break.

Hope you enjoy the upcoming weekend. I know I will, because after I get back from giving my lecture, the PP are declaring a moratorium against answering the phone, checking e-mail, grading papers, doing house-related projects, and overexerting ourselves generally.