Friday, June 30, 2006

My stylist? Why, it's Mr. Three! Why do you ask?

We live on a quiet street. It's one-way and it's only one block long. Consequently, when a car goes by, we look up and usually wave or smile.

I was out weeding and playing with Mr. Three today when a white sedan drove by. I looked up with the usual smile and got in response a puzzled, almost hostile expression. "What-ever," I thought with a scowl, and yanked on some sweet woodruff that was snaking around the hydrangea.

Later, I caught my reflection in a front window.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Subaru means "unite"

Picture 055
Originally uploaded by pwilnyc.

When we used to live in Brooklyn, we were quite near a big Hasidic community.

It was really neat. I can't pretend my interest was anything other than ignorant cultural voyeurism, let's just admit that right away. I thought it was wild to see these guys in the big flat round hats and little boys wearing 3-piece suits every day.

And sometimes at the museum where I worked it would seem to be, like, Orthodox Day - huge families piloting double and triple strollers, the moms in wigs and plaid skirts, the squads of kids identically dressed.

As these families became a more familiar sight, I began to notice certain themes. The plaid skirts. Tam o'shanters. If a boy wore glasses, they had gold-colored aviator-style frames. And the family car was almost without exception an 8-year-old Bonneville station wagon. We used to kind of joke that along with dietary restrictions, the book of Leviticus must lay down guidelines for transportation and eyewear.

A few weeks ago I had a few minutes to kill with Barbara, a friend at work. She's Orthodox, or conservative, or observant or whatever. Look, I'm aware that there are varieties of Judaism, just like I'm aware that there are different types of sins in the Catholic church - mortal, venal, original, extra-crispy - hey, I'm on it.

But I'm a second-generation atheist on my father's side and a cultural Presbyterian from my mother. Any religion that involves more ritual than a handshake after the service is a mystery to me. Like, don't ask me to say grace. We never said grace. I'm always thrown when all of a sudden everybody gets quiet and bows their heads. What happened?! Nerve gas? Oh, Christ, they're praying.

You ask me to do it, you are more than likely to get the old "God is great god is good let us thank him for our food." Single syllables and a sight rhyme - nice.

Maybe I could come up with a limerick:

Look at these plates on the table
Left by the Almighty Creator
"How'd He get in?"
Mom asked with a grin,
And Dad said, "Shut up," then he ate her.

Well I could probably do better. Ok, a bottle of aftershave could do better. But look what happened: I start out acknowledging the gift, and in 5 lines it's domestic violence even unto cannibalism. I just don't got the chops for it.

So I get up the nerve and I ask my co-worker, "Say, Barb, you're a Jew..."
"Yes," she says, arching an eyebrow. "I am a Jew."
"Well I have a rather flippant question." And I ask her why every Hasidic family in Brooklyn drove an old Pontiac Bonneville station wagon.

Giving me a lot more credit than I deserve, she considers the question, corrects my pronunciation - twice - and says, "Well, those are big families, and they have huge tuitions to pay. It may be that a used Bonneville wagon is just consistently the best deal they can get on a car that will seat that many people."

Barb is wise, Barb is knowledgeable. Mystery cleared up. She confirms that nowhere in the Torah does Yahweh exhort His chosen people to "Buy American!".

The other day, I picked the Big Man up from camp. He climbed into our AWD Subaru Legacy Outback wagon and said, "Mom, guess what? The car in front of ours was a Subaru too!"

I said, "Isn't that a coincidence. There are a lot of Subarus at this school, aren't there?" As I spoke, another car identical to ours pulled into the pick-up line.

It's odd, but I don't remember reading the page in the overeducated liberal handbook (the New York Times Magazine I guess, or maybe Consumer Reports) that dictates we use a Subaru wagon to bring home the organic milk and hiking sandals, and to ferry our kids to and from Friends School.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Bob's brain

surface tension
Originally uploaded by pwilnyc.

None of the four of us get sick very often. When I get sick, it's generally just a crappy cold. I try to milk it so that I can get a night of two of lying in bed watching TV, but truth be told I'm really not that far under the weather. When the kids get sick, the worst part is the chapped nosies.

But when Bob gets sick, he is unconscious. He came home from work today before noon, hit the couch still wearing half his suit, and dropped off the face of the earth. He had been up all night making trips to the bathroom. He's been pretty stressed-out lately, and apparently his brain is attempting to exit his body. Through his ass. Forcing everything in front of it out first.

I can definitely understand his brain's need for a vacation. But I wish I could tell it that the Baltimore City sewer is probably not much more relaxing than the Baltimore City Public School System.

I tend to blame Bob's brain for anything that's wrong with him. It fucked me over once, and I am not forgiving it. Here's how it happened:

June 17, 2002. We had just moved to Baltimore. It was a gorgeous day. Big Man was 9 months old, and I had just that day found the mythical neighborhood playgroup of intelligent funny moms who all had boys his age.

So, all jazzed up from talking to adults, I suggested that we take a little field trip and have dinner out. Gorgeous day (I said that but it's worth repeating). We drove to Annapolis, got a good parking space, and took a table at that big old historic tavern job on the water. Ordered our oyster shots, crab cake sandwich, etc. Baby was happy and quiet. Joy.

I went to the bathroom and just after I came back, Bob starts giggling.
"What?" I ask, smiling, wanting to share the joke.
"My arm is numb." Giggling and shaking his head.
"Your arm is - does it tickle or something? What's so funny?"
"I don't know. My arm is numb. My left arm."
"Well, that's not funny. It's numb?!"
He pokes it and gives it a swing, smiling broadly.
"Bob, seriously! That's very weird. Quit laughing! Did somebody give you drugs or something while I was in the john?"
Shakes head, chuckling.
"And what the fuck, wipe your chin! Is your FACE numb too?"
"Heh heh heh, yeah, it is..." Smears crab cake around chin vaguely.
"Your FACE is numb? Your FACE is numb. Ok. Ok really, you're freaking me out. It's not funny. This is inappropriate euphoria. I'm going to call 9-1-1 in a minute here, quit it!"
He looks contrite, but still smiling impishly.

I get the check, I get our stuff together, I say, "Time to go." He just sits there.
"What is the matter, Bob? Stand UP." He gestures toward the floor, I look under the table and he has removed his left shoe.
"Put your shoe back on." Through gritted teeth.
He shrugs, smiling shyly.
"Do you need... help?" I almost whisper. This is when the first cold chill passes into me - my god, this is my husband, this is Bob and we have a little baby and I'm not working and I'm going to have to put his shoe on his foot for him. What if it were like this?

So I put his shoe on for him, gather the baby and his work bag and my bag and we walk into the bright sunlight. I have the brief thought that the sudden extreme change in light might really fuck him up, like he could fall down and start foaming.

And I don't know what I was thinking, I didn't head us straight back to the car, I walked us around the block. He walked, he skirted obstacles, he looked fine, but I was quizzing him.
"What's today's date?"
Shake of the head.
"Who's your mayor?"
"O'Malley." With an effort. If he had said Guiliani I thought it might have told me something, what I don't know.
"What's the baby's name?"
Nothing. Trying. Shake of the head.
"What Is Your Son's Name?"

I get us to the car. I help him in. I strap the baby in. My plan was to get him to Johns Hopkins, where our friend Jules is an Emergency doc.

I call Jules on my cell phone. She's at work. I tell her husband Leslie what's going on and he tells me to page her, which I am reluctant to do, I didn't want to interrupt her while she was doing her legitimate doctor work. Leslie gets ahold of her and she calls us right back.

Julianna says, "Call 9-1-1 right away. Tell them he has acute onset altered mental status. They will guide you to the nearest hospital. Go there RIGHT AWAY."

She didn't scare me. I knew it, I was there. I had already asked him his Social Security Number, I was thinking that while he still could talk a little I should get that, they would need it at the hospital. He worked hard on it. He told me the first 3 numbers, and the next two are the same as mine, so I said "Just the last part."

He told me, "effluent Venus hunger delta high fishtank bird fever pencil - " until I halted him gently. "Ok. That's fine. You can stop." He looked at me gratefully, and apologetically.

The 9-1-1 guy guided me landmark by landmark, exit by exit, to North Arundel Community Hospital. At one point he said, "You should see a burned-down chicken place on the right," and I said, "Sooner or later, all chicken places become burned-down chicken places, don't they." He said, "Yes ma'am. Now you'll see a Safeway coming up."

He called ahead to the hospital, so I drove straight into the ambulance bay. I got out, got the baby out, we all walked into the E.R. Bob carrying his briefcase. The nurses craned around us looking for the patient.

I told them, "This is him," and when the nurse tried to get him to sit on a gurney, Bob kept stepping around following her. It was almost funny, like Harpo Marx. He looked so NORMAL.

I was a little worried that when they assessed him, he would be normal, and only I would know that something TRULY REALLY BADLY FUCKED UP had just happened.

He got a CAT scan immediately. No clot, nothing. A doc asked him his name and stuff, he did ok. I was despairing.
Then the guy held up a pencil and said, "What is this?"
Bob shook his head amusedly, like he didn't understand the question.
"What do you call this?"
He said, "You mean what is the name of that?"
"That's right. What do you call this thing?"
Bob said, "Well that is an arble flarble natchitochez. Is that what you're asking?"
The doc said, "Yes that'll do."

He was admitted, of course. I called everyone I knew, I needed help with the baby. Good friends with small children of their own leaped to help, came to the hospital, took care of baby Big Man, stayed as long as I needed that night. Jules and Les showed up and Bob looked at them with a friendly smile. "Hi! What are you guys doing here?" Didn't know their names, was pretty sure they were friends of mine somehow. Guess he forgot the funny monologue he did into the video camera at their wedding.

In the night sometime I took the baby home and we slept in the big bed together. Did I cry then? I think I was too terrified to cry. I'm crying now though.

The first day he was in the hospital he slept almost all day. His brother Joe came up from Virginia. Mom had the baby. I was shell-shocked, vibrating with dread.

The second day he was better. I saw The Scramble for Africa by Thomas Pakenham, a classic on African history, 738 pages, at the hospital's book sale, and bought it as a joke - ha ha, while you're on your back a little light reading.

I started negotiating with insurance. He had just started his job with Baltimore City and wasn't on their health plan yet. And as it turned out, his health benefits from his previous employer, New York City, ended the day before his brain crapped out. I had to COBRA the previous coverage, but nobody would give me the form - it had to be done in person. Or it had to be done by him and only him. Several 45-minute cell phone conversations over the course of several days. Me faking weeping into the phone, "My husband CAN'T talk to you himself - he is LYING in a HOSPITAL BED!" Eventually we got all the bills anyway. Over a hundred grand, and I had to force the insurance company to pay them one by one. Took years.

Bob was in the hospital two weeks. TWO WEEKS. They gave him an MRI, an MRA, EKG's, an EEG, an echocardiogram, tests for Lyme disease, blood sugar, a PET scan, Christ knows what. I drove like a very careful maniac back and forth from the hospital to my mother's house, to my house. Picking up the baby, dropping him off. 45 minutes between each of these places. I would try not to speculate, and then I would force myself to speculate. I would think up things to test him on: the names of his 9 siblings, the countries of Africa, multiplication, current events. I would pound the wheel with my fist. "God Damn It You Will Be FINE."

My cell phone in my lap all the way. Back then my ringtone was Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor, so every time it rang it was like I had Dracula riding shotgun.

Bob's sister Mary is a physician, so she was my main family contact. She relayed information back to the other 8 kids and to his mom and aunts.

Bob's cousins helped out with the baby - while he was at their house, he learned to walk.

Jules came to North Arundel Hospital I don't know how many times to talk to the doctors and to check on us. She showed up wearing scrubs after her long shifts at Hopkins. I understand medical jargon pretty well, but the information that she could get as a doctor wasn't even on offer to me.

Various theories - a siezure. Not a stroke. Lyme disease. Meningitis. Migraine. Eventually he was sent home. He was sent home wearing a dozen electrodes glued to his head so that the neurologist could get a "walking EEG" - a sample of his normal brain functions over a 24-hour period.

I took him back to the hospital to have the electrodes taken off, and when I left the room he said to the EEG technician, "Um, my arm is numb."

They left the electrodes on to record whatever was going on and then wheeled him back to the emergency room. When I saw him and he told me what happened I said, "Ha. Funny." When I realized he wasn't joking I - well, I became angry.

He was getting a headache, and the longer we waited in the emergency room the worse it got. Eventually they gave him Demerol for the pain, and sent us home.

45 minutes later, I had to support him as we walked into the house. This couldn't be right, his feet were floppy and he could barely speak. I called the neurologist who said, "Come back." Fuck, why not.

Back at the hospital, we sat in the E.R. waiting room. Friday night and the place was packed. Joe arrived and waited with us. Bob could barely sit up. We got him a wheelchair. He got cold - a reaction to the Demerol. I got him a blanket. He kept shivering; I piled on more blankets. HOURS passed. He would occasionally just say, "Shit." As if he'd forgotten something. I would ask, "What is it?" and he would murmur, "Hurts."

Finally. He is given a morphine drip for the pain. We have this great nurse from Nigeria, and I test Bob's brain by quizzing him again as the morphine begins to bring him back.
"What's the capital of Nigeria?"
"Lagos," Bob sighs.
"I'm afraid not," the Nigerian guy says, but before he can get the words out Bob raises a weak hand.
"The administrative capital... was moved to Abuja... but most people... still live in Lagos."
I guess I've never been prouder of him, the big geek.

Someone decides that the only test not yet done is a lumbar puncture - a spinal tap. They bring in a huge shining needle and Bob bends over the bed clutching a pillow. I hold his hand, and tell him I don't mind, it's only fair because he had to watch my epidural. Oh, that needle went in far. But I saw the clear fluid filling up the chamber and I knew that was good.

His spinal tap had an elevated white blood cell count - a sign of infection. My doctor friends all said, "Ah, meningitis." Meningitis can cause seizures, so it was already a possible diagnosis. Meningitis is a virus that you can get from contaminated food - food like the crap you get in the filthy delis around City Hall if you're overworked and only have 20 minutes to pick up lunch. You get meningitis from some asshole who didn't wash his hands and then you get over it, like a cold. Meningitis was my favorite fecal-oral virus that spring.

The neurologist brings in an infectious disease guy. He says, "But this is a healthy man. Look at him, he does not have meningitis." When pressed, he says, "It would be very unusual for this man to have meningitis."

I nearly screamed. I believe I said (or maybe I've said it in my head so many times since then that I think I said it), "This is a healthy 37-year-old man who forgot how to speak one day. We are IN! the REALM! of the UNUSUAL!" Spitting the words. I practically begged him to tell me it was a virus and that it was over.

Another day or so in the hospital, and Bob finishes The Scramble for Africa.

We go home.


This rain.

Every time I turn around I see Hannibal crossing the frickin Alps in microminiature. Dense crooked columns of ants skirting the throw rug and scaling the kitchen chair.

I have discovered that Fantastik acts as a potent ant neurotoxin - I hope it doesn't have the same cumulative effect on me and Mr. Three, who has been a real help due to his closer proximity to the floor. "Mom! Mom! Over here! More ants!" Thanks, son.

I have removed everything possibly foodlike to the refrigerator. I have cleaned everything cleanable - even places that don't usually (ever) get attention have been spritzed with Fantastik and wiped when I find ants on them. Undersides of chairs, the like.

So they're not coming in looking for eats. They want my house.

Their homes have been flooded and they're looking to colonize. And yeah that's a word we use with ants, ants live in a colony, but I hadn't really thought about it. Now, with these little fuckers moving in, their militaristic mindless relentlessness, their willingness to keep coming even in places I've zapped repeatedly...

Well my mind just leaps to - ok I read a lot of science fiction in my formative years and sometimes it comes back to haunt me, usually when I have to think about economics, or if I'm face to face with the insect world. So as I squirt these little automata with my magic poison, I see android armies crumpling in their tracks. When I see them back again I envision wave after wave of terraformers fleeing their ruined planet.

Jesus fucking hippity-hop CHRIST they are getting on my nerves.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

A devil named Margret

This is the funniest goddamn thing I've seen in a while.

Well except for that joke: If Advil is the trade name for Ibuprofen, what compound is Viagra the trade name of? Ibepokin.

gu-huh, gu-huh, gu-huh

It was inevitable

weird light
Originally uploaded by pwilnyc.

"Mommy, what are dose?"
"Well, those are breasts."

"Oh. Bress."
"Do they help you breathe?"

"Yes. Yes, they help me breathe."

"I only have little bress. They help me breathe a little."
"Ok sweetie."

Civil engineer

Civil engineer
Originally uploaded by pwilnyc.

He's walking us through the stages of the water-treatment process that he built out of Play Doh. Apparently the water changes colors as various types of pollutants and particulates are removed from the stream, and then it, um, goes into the pig's ass.

Once upon a time in the kitchen

Originally uploaded by pwilnyc.

Originally uploaded by pwilnyc.

El Mariachi
Originally uploaded by pwilnyc.

All three of these bloodthirsty motherfuckers caught one today. The plant is only 2 inches tall!

Monday, June 26, 2006

the tube

atmospheric tube
Originally uploaded by pwilnyc.

My son's pool float. It's like the Giant Microbes plush toys, only plastic. And wet. And not friendly.

View slideshow

More rain, or: Trying to keep from swearing in front of the kids

More rain
Originally uploaded by pwilnyc.

It's really quite a bit of rain. Torrents interspersed with drizzles, then little bits of blazing sun that lase the moisture from the sidewalks into steam that seeps up into the air.

I don't mind it, it's good for the plants, except the humidity is - insert whatever cliche you've read about high humidity here - and the kids are stir-crazy, and the flies, and the ants, and the microflora.

For example, the bread I bought Friday has mold on it. For example, the cat food spilled on the basement floor this morning has mold on it. It's kind of cool looking so I almost took a picture, but it's also gross and besides then I'd feel obligated to clean it up.

However, there have been setbacks in the ongoing battle with my involuntary locutions.

Today, getting the kids, the dry cleaning in its clingy bag, my keys, my bag, etc back into the car, my wallet dropped into the filthy creek rushing through the gutter.
Winner: me. "OH! Dag! Nabbit! Rats! MRRUH!"

Yesterday, getting the kids, the swim bag, the hand-me-downs, the shoes, etc back into the car after a visit to the cousins, we realized we'd left the windows down for 6 hours, with a 45 minute drive ahead of us.
Winner: the rain. "Ohhhh, SHIT."

Sunday, June 25, 2006

My god, that's a weird building

The Baltimore Sun this morning had a gigantic, angling-for-a-Pulitzer article this morning on the neighborhood around the American Brewery. It's a great article. The reporter, Eric Siegel, has been working on it for more than a year. He explains the cyclic nature of neighborhood decay and neglect with good, simple clarity, and doesn't ever stoop to blame. The photos are very good too.

When my husband worked for the city housing dept., he was the czar of abandoned properties, and the American Brewery is a big one. He was involved in trying to tempt investment in it, and it's a tempting building - there's nothing else like it. So we ended up driving by it a lot, showing people this architectural confection smack in the middle of one of the most smacked-down neighborhoods in Baltimore.

The neighborhoods we take people - even urban design professionals and veteran social-justice types - they're appalled.

Usually, when we park opposite the building and ogle its 5-storied insanity from inside the car, I will mention, "I've been inside that thing actually." But the building itself is conversation enough, and I don't go into detail.

So here's the detail. I'm a little fuzzy, it's been a while.

Hot spring day, moving into summer. Probably June, what do I know. Before 1991 but after 1988. Paul Flinton and I were at Sisson's chatting with our friend the bartender, Scott Carberry I'm pretty sure. We weren't drinking, I think we just went in to say hi. I don't know why I was hanging out with Paul - he was one of my boyfriend's best friends and a good guy but I can't say we would have sought each other out for company. Anyway, we were talking to Scotty about buildings and neighborhoods I guess and Scott mentioned the American Brewery. We'd never heard of it. He explained where it was and told us it was un-miss-able: "It looks like the Addams Family's house on acid."

Paul and I looked at each other, hopped off our bar stools and headed out.

After tacking around in the WORST neighborhood either of us had ever seen, we caught a glimpse of what had to be it. We couldn't believe we'd never heard of this apparition, it truly was the most haunted-house looking thing ever to be built of bricks and mortar.

We parked, we looked for a way in. It was abandoned and fenced off even then, but we easily got thru the fence. Paul had a moment of fairly sensible trepidation. "Are you sure you want to do this?" Of course I was sure, why on earth not? "Um, because I don't know if I could defend you."

Defend me? I actually had to ask him what the fuck he was talking about. After all, I didn't think I could 'defend' him either. I just always forget that as a female, I have extra vulnerabilities. He was thinking about junkie rapists hiding in the building - I was thinking about giant rats. It was dear of him, and kind of naive. Junkies aren't necessarily rapists - junkies are necessarily thieves.

But we went in and he needn't have worried. We saw nothing alive in that space. No rats, no pigeons, no dogs, no fucking spiders or flies. That creeped me out a lot. There was pigeon shit, and there was one instance of human shit, but other than that the place was sterile. If a crumbling filthy building can be called sterile, I mean I wouldn't want an episiotomy there, but I'm just saying the buglessness was weird.

The building itself was amazing. One wing had wooden floors and we couldn't walk there, you could see sunlight through the cracks between the boards. The other wing had concrete floors and was sound as a dollar. The stairs were fine, the windows were big and it was such a bright day that it wasn't even dark in there. Must have been a nice place to work.

We kept climbing, and every floor was wonderful. We found graffitti that girls had left - I envisioned gangs of tough, feral girls having their meetings and rituals in this Victorian Mad Max cave, like a sorority but with cheaper liquor, and knives. The views kept getting better. The brewing machines, which were multistory iron and steel colossi, were fascinating - industrial, complex, Giger-esque, sort of organic looking.

Which was why, when we climbed a last iron stairway into the cupola and saw two old-fashioned push buttons, size of quarters and made of Bakelite, a white one labeled "ON" and a black one labeled "OFF," and Paul said, "Go ahead," I said "Nuh-uh. You." I saw the brewing machine shuddering to life, tearing free of its brick housing and lurching down Gay Street toward the harbor like a clanky Godzilla. Paul laughed and said, "No fucking way!" and we marveled at the 360-degree view and Paul took a bunch of pictures that turned out pretty cool, and we made our way down out of the cool sunny dust-moted building and back into the stinking hot Baltimore day.

It felt like hours had passed, but when we got back to Sisson's, laughing with adrenaline, Scotty's shift wasn't over yet and we told him the whole story. Maybe Scotty remembers.


There's a giant battle raging over at dooce - and the statement was made that there's no such thing as a right to wear clogs.

Ehh, it's summer, there's not that much to get worked up about.

I will concede that clogs are kind of stylistically null, and I'll admit that I wear clogs only because I'm a librarian and I'm on my feet all the damn time, and I'm a mom and I need footwear that I can shove onto my feet without using my hands.

But I bought my husband a pair of those dang foam clogs that seem to have spread like a rogue linguistic meme, and I was happy to find them. The unlucky fellow has the toenail fungus, and he's self-conscious about it. So he ends up wearing sneakers with socks all summer and he's hot and uncomfortable, and the swim bag coming back from the pool has his gross socks in it.

He looks a little like a male nurse in them, but that beats the poindexter swim-trunks-and-shoes look and it sure as hell beats the rabid yeti feet that I usually can't see because by the time his socks are off my glasses are off too.

the end

He's three

Originally uploaded by pwilnyc.

Recently potty trained. Unable to pronounce initial "s" ('That tupid bug tung me!' 'The ghosts came from the pooky woods!'). Generally happy and affectionate. The softest, most perfect skin.

Likes funk music.


Has a head like a cannonball.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

chili, for Jedi Appliance Guy

my old chili recipe
Originally uploaded by pwilnyc.

It's kind of a long story, why I owe this guy my prize-winning chili recipe, but suffice to say my Kenmore range works again, and I heartily recommend the altruistic human beings at The Samurai Appliance Repair Forums if you want to try to fix your faulty major appliance by yourself.

fixing the range

Herewith, chili.

About a pound of stew meat. Preferably a mixture of beef and lamb, but just beef is ok too.

Some oil in bottom of a good-sized stock pot. Let it heat up, then add the meat, to brown.

As it is browning, toss in about 2T of chili powder.

Once the meat is decently brown, pull it out.

Drop in 2 onions, diced. Also a few whole fresh or frozen small peppers, Thai or Serrano or in a pinch Jalapeno (minced). Let this cook at a moderately high heat until you see some brown around the edges of a few pieces of onion.

Turn the heat to medium and add, say, 5 cloves of garlic, chopped. Don't let the garlic brown.
Toss in a scant handful of cornmeal, mix it with the onions and garlic, and let it cook a couple minutes, scraping it around with a wooden spoon.

Add the meat back in and about half a beer. Stir. Then add 2 28-oz cans of tomatos, crushed with your hands. Stir.

This is the first time to season. I add enough additional chili powder to make it look the right color to me. I also add
1t ground cumin
1t cayenne pepper
molasses or brown sugar, about a quarter cup
1/4 cup white vinegar (or juice from a jar of pickled peppers)
1 T instant coffee or grounds
Taste and adjust

Partially cover and let cook for a couple hours.

About 45 minutes before dinner, throw in:
1 can black beans
1 can kidney beans
1 can Mitchell's white corn. If you can't get white corn, don't bother. Yellow corn in chili looks a lot like poo.

Taste and adjust. This is the moment to dose it with hot sauce to bring it to the heat you like.

I like it with rice.

Friday, June 23, 2006

sea of peas

sea of peas
Originally uploaded by pwilnyc.

This is a fun thing around our house: the two boys and I pick the ripe peas from our garden, then we sit down in the back yard and have a "Pea Party." I zip open the pods and we tell stories about the pea people that are inside. They are usually brothers, and their names are like Peter Paul Patrick Pedro Pavel and, I don't know, Grak. Various adventures befall each pea brother until he meets his grisly end between the gnashing teeth of a small child.

The kids love the peas and they love the stories and I am completely in love with the fact that my children eat peas enthusiastically.

These peas are variety 'Lincoln' from Pinetree Garden Seeds. Planted directly in the garden by small children in earliest March. Soaked in water for 24 hours before planting, soil amended with ash from the fireplace. They have been very abundant, very very sweet, and were ready to pick by late May. Supposed to keep setting pods thru July - we shall see.

Also, they freeze beautifully I just found out.

UPDATE: July 7. The peas are done. We had a ton of rain and that might be what finished them, but now the vines are brown and dead and I ripped them out to make more room for the cucumbers, which love all this rain and are going crazy.

You know that Journey song?

"Don't STOP!"
"Hold on to that FEE-LI-I-ING-ING-ING"

It sucks, right?

So I'm sitting at a red light today, and that song starts coming at me, 50 decibels, 50-cent-type decibels and I look around me, like what mentard listens to JOURNEY at an insane car volume - doesn't he figure he's going to get pulled out of his car and beaten and jeered at?

And he comes to a stop behind me, a huge shiny red Dodge Ram pickup truck, and in my rearview I can see that he's a dead ringer for Terry "The Toad" from American Graffitti. Haven't seen that in a long time, we ought to rent it. Mackenzie Phillips before she got all DJ-from-Full-House.

I'm STARING at this guy, and he is ROCKIN out. I mean Oh yeah drummin on the steering wheel (does that song even HAVE drums?) DIGGIN on Steve Perry, who we had a bet at my old work and it turns out he's like half Korean.

And the guy sees me watching him in the rearview and leans out his window a little and checks himself out in his side mirror. Then he lights a cigarette, I swear it must have been his first. He looked very young and he did it kind of wrong.

The light turns green, he turns right at the next corner. In the truck bed I saw two lawn mowers. Guy still mows lawns and he's into Journey? What sick old man turned him onto that?

Dancing fools

This beat is, this beat is, this beat is Techno-tronic...

See it bigger on YouTube.

[animal noise]

Well I read about finslippy's immensely justified meltdown when her babysitter hit her boy this morning while I was handing out Thomas the Tank Engine knockoffs to toddlers in the kids section at the library. (Well I mean, the babysitter and the kid weren't there in the kids section, I was reading... you get it.) And I kind of thought to myself, "Gosh if she'd asked me I could have told her: never hire old babysitters, they were not raised on Marlo Thomas and Sesame Street and do not know what from what."

So about an hour later, I get a call from camp. Boy1 started day camp (really only half day camp) this week and it was the first time he has ever been dropped off, anywhere. He was real busted up about it:

Off to camp for the first time

I barely got him to hold still while I clicked the shutter on this huge milestone in my life - the moment I drive away without my oldest son. Still choked up about it.

Today was the next milestone: I work all day, so the babysitter had to pick him up when camp was over at noon. We have been preparing for this all week. I emailed her detailed instructions. I showed her how to put the carseats in her car. We peered at a map together. I gave her the documentation. I prepared Boy1. I prepared Boy1's counselors.

And then they call me at 12:30 "Nobody came to pick up your kid."

I won't torture myself with images of all those little guys sitting on the grass getting picked up one by one until there's only Boy1 left. I am pretty sure that he was thrilled, he loves camp very very much.

But I will not call that stupid bitch again.
Stem cells are Jesus.

Well, ain't that something.

I'm so smart.

Originally uploaded by pwilnyc.

Eating our Mighty Bites in the kitchen yesterday morning, NPR's long-suffering correspondent Don Gonyea ("traveling with the President," he groans) checks in with a report on George Bush's visit to Hungary. Boy1, who is 4 1/2 and parsing information at the speed of light, says "It sounds like the President is the hungriest guy in town today!"

Thursday, June 22, 2006

DPW truck

DPW truck
Originally uploaded by pwilnyc.

This is where I live. The city of Baltimore, it has never done anything particulary nice for me. But it's been the setting for so much bravado, so much derring-do. I climbed the Lord Baltimore Hotel, I explored the wreckage of the McCormick building down on the Harbor where a parking lot is now. It was 3 inches deep in concrete dust mixed with cinnamon.

I ran a business, I inadvertently threatened a cop with a baseball bat, I dialed 9-1-1 I don't know how many times, and at various times I seem to have known almost everybody.

It's hot here, it's muggy, it's poor, the schools are pretty bad, and parts of it are almost deserted.
But today I saw a yellow truck with the weird seal and the big smile peering out, and ok I love this town.

UPDATE: I have thought a little about the Seal and here is what I see: a phallus (a duh), elevated but strapped all around, surmounted by G. Washington in - excuse me - a toga. And with a yonic entrance slit below, allowing what to creep in? tolerance? corruption? a parade of gummi bears in drag?
all right. I've been working up to this for some time now.

I'm 40. I have two boys, one just turned 3 and one is going on 5.

I quit my job and left New York City 5 years ago - I used to really work, you know, 60 hours a week, even when I was pregnant - but since then I've worked at home, or not at all, or part time. And I've felt really fortunate about that, except when the miniblinds don't fucking work, or when it's 90+ degrees, and this is Baltimore kids, it's June 22 and it hit 100 today, thanks... yes that's just what I needed when Boy1 threw 10 fits and I had 3 loads of laundry to fold and dinner to think about... um. Better end that sentence.
Nuts to that whole paragraph actually.

So lately, with some turmoil in the husband's job, I've been looking pretty seriously at full time jobs. Boy1 goes to K in the fall, and Boy2 won't be happy at home with just me (trust me, I'm boring) so he'll find a pre-K one hopes. And I've started taking pictures again. I started posting them on Flickr. And while captioning those pictures, I've remembered the whole thing about words.

Not just the words you use when you have 2 kids under 5. "Good job!" "That's right!" "You know, you're very observant! Do you know what 'observant' means?" Oh god, I am supportive.

But words like 'fume' and 'bloat' and 'assheadedness'.

So I should probably have a blog.

I do read a lot of blogs. Big fan of gofugyourself, but who isn't. forksplit, I love that chick. finslippy and amalah and dooce, oh, the potty training comments alone made me feel so much better.

And I am a librarian, there's no mistaking. I spend a lot of time recommending books, and I'm tired of saying the same things over and over. "You're 13? a boy? You thought Harry Potter sucked? You have to read Historical Fiction this summer? Read Gary Paulsen!" Yes, ok, Gary Paulsen is what that boy needs - but there are hundreds of those boys, why the fuck isn't there a thing parents can look at that categorizes a child by age, gender, harry potter +/-?

So I guess what I'll do is do book reviews. Kid anecdotes. Photo captions. I don't know what I'll do, but I think I better do something.