Monday, July 31, 2006

a public house

a public house
Originally uploaded by pwilnyc.

I have no quarrel with our mayor. Well... there's the... and there's HER... but yeah ok fundamentally I have no beef with the guy. He's our neighbor (supposedly) and he has been my husband's boss, and all that.

But driving downtown today I couldn't help noticing the mayor's sort of Irish pub-going reputation sprouting from the facade of City Hall.

Am I the only one to see a resemblance?

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Mr. Three and the Big Man, muses

My sister-in-law Jane insists all the time that she does not take good pictures.

She came for a visit earlier this month, and just the other day mailed me a CD of the photos she took. These are from the altar at the American Visionary Art Museum

My sister-in-law Jane is full of crap. She takes phenomenal pictures.

my new favorite room

Rolling Hills by Behr
Originally uploaded by pwilnyc.

I can't stop looking at the living room.

I painted it this insane green. It was a long, filthy job and I am not a good painter. Every piece of furniture I moved, every painting I took off the wall, released gallons of dust and cat hair that immediately adhered to my sweaty, painty body. In addition, something about the pigments in this paint got into my body and gave me the WEIRDEST taste in my mouth all week.

Now that I am finished, observations:

  • I am a bad painter, but the previous painters were much worse.
  • The green contrasts with the stained wood trim so well you'd think I meant to do that.
  • All our art totally pops against it.
  • It makes our couch look like a car up on blocks.

That so sucks - not only do we not have the money to replace the couch, but also, I have no intention of spending that kind of brick on a piece of furniture that will only get destroyed. We had the couch slipcovered just 3 years ago - green frogs on black (looks better than it sounds).

The sharp new green walls pick up some of the green in the frogs but the black background now looks faded and dusty, and the cushions are all mushy and broken-down. Nuts.

On the up side, do have a look at what I just bought on eBay!

Will it look great in the green room? Will I have to tie the kids up if I want them to not swivel on it 24 hours a day? Am I an idiot to buy furniture that I actually LIKE while my kids are both under the age of 5?

Yes, yes, and YES!! But it was a hundred bucks and it will make me happy.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Beth's house, July 27 2006

When you have kids, the world becomes a Disneyland of peril.

This is hardly an original observation - I challenge anyone to come up with an original observation that is prefaced, "When you have kids..."

Improperly installed carseats, West Nile mosquitos, loose boards on the porch steps, poisonous plants, dogs - all these things can spin visions of woe and hospital visits.

But this:

Beth's house, July 27 2006
Originally uploaded by pwilnyc.

... this is what my cousin Beth, her husband, and their two-month-old baby boy narrowly missed the other night. They were on vacation at the beach, asleep, hours away from their home, when, at 3am this Wednesday, a fire broke out in their garden, spread to the deck, ignited a propane tank, and engulfed both floors of their house in flame. I'm told it's even worse inside.

When we stopped by to survey the damage this afternoon, I went weak in the knees. I'm shaking now. If I had seen the charred crib, I might have lost it entirely.

Check your smoke detectors and move the grill away from the house.

Cousin Beth and beautiful baby cousin on July 4th. They are safe and well, but tireder now.

Nobody writes an insult like this man

It occurs to me that I know a song about Loren's admirer from the Target parking lot. It's called Bicycle Kid and it's by this man, Pat Fish, the Jazz Butcher.

He's a bicycle kid, He's got his Mister T. slippers.
He's a bicycle kid, he's eleven years old.
Dog-faced spawn of a working class Tory,
Bicycle kid never does what he's told.
He's a bicycle kid and he wants to get a crossbow.
Bicycle kid had a rabbit that died:
Evil little fucker put his pet through the window,
The he ran to his mother and he cried, cried, cried.

So cry like an onion bicycle kid,
'Coz I'm gonna get you for the things that you did.

Bicyle kid - extortion in the playground.
What does he do with all the money he made?
Bicyle kid in Kentucky Fried Chicken
And the WHAM-BAM-RAMBO machine arcade.
He's a bicycle kid, and his mother's on Valium.
He's a bicycle kid, and his dad's on the lump.
He's a bicycle kid, and his tea's in the micro.
He's a bicycle kid and he's on the dump.


Bicycle kid shitting in a greenhouse.
Bicycle kid down at the aquadrome.
Bicycle kid in trouble with a policeman.
Bicycle kid "he's a good boy at home".
Bicycle kid grow up and get an Escort.
Bicycle kid grow up and get worse.
Bicycle kid forget to use a condom.
Bicycle kid! It's evolution in reverse!

I mean: "Dog faced spawn of a working class Tory," dag, that's 4 insults in 8 words! Ok, 3. Bob points out that "working class" is hardly an insult.

I have a story. Pat Fish was the finger of poetic justice for me one time back in the late '80's (1990, I am corrected by a bigger fan). Here's how it happened.

I was already a Jazz Butcher devotee the first time I saw his band, The Jazz Butcher Conspiracy, live, at Max's On Broadway in Baltimore. I went to the show alone, nursed one beer so I wouldn't be drunk and stupid, approached the band afterwards... and, predictably, said something completely useless.

But as luck would have it I was wearing my Bettie Page-printed stretch pants and a ruffled tux shirt under my biker jacket (actually no luck involved, I always dressed like that back then) and wouldn't you know it, my outfit invited comment.

Turns out Pat lived nearby Alan Moore, the comic book writer and known headcase (current novel, an erotic tale featuring Dorothy Gale, Wendy Darling and Alice), and we ended up talking about comics and Augustin Pinochet. Was a nice conversation, 45 minutes or so.

Alan Moore, comic author and headcase

The next week the Conspiracy played the 9:30 Club in Washington. I wasn't going to go, but then the beloved bouncer at the 8x10 died and all my friends were embarking on a huge boozy (and probably cokey) wake - the kind of party I can happily skip.

So I drove to D.C., wearing the harlequin-printed stretch pants this time, and a jeans jacket with lace sleeves over my tux shirt. What a fashion icon I was.

As I made my way through the club, I heard my name called. I turned and there stood Jeff, the brother of an old ex-boyfriend, Mr. Back Hair. Back Hair had dumped me a couple years prior. I wouldn't have minded, but he did it in an unnecessarily mean and acrimonious way, threatening to throw me out of the car on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

I said hi to Jeff, expressed surprise at seeing him there. The Jazz Butcher was a bit obscure - I had turned Back Hair into a fan, but I wouldn't have expected his brother to be one too. As we spoke, Jeff kept cutting his eyes to his left, where a very puffy guy was standing. After a minute or so, I became aware that Puffy Man was in fact Back Hair, who had previously been a little overweight, but this guy, I was alarmed he might actually pop. "Oh!" I say, "[Back Hair]! My gosh how have you been?"

In the space of 3 minutes I learn that Back Hair is pulling down 100K a year, I learn that he is driving a Miata, brews his own beer, lives in a swanky condo, throws bitchin parties, etc. I confess that I am working a shitty office job writing software documentation and living with my parents. But I don't care, because Back Hair looks like he has been drinking down what's left in the deep fryer at the end of the night. Every night. I guess to chase down that homebrew. I shake his hand and his fingers actually squish.

The lights dim, and, inspired by his grotesque bragging, and still pissed about that episode on the PA Pike, I suggest, "Hey let's get right down in front!"

The band comes out and bursts into Roadrunner. Doug(?) the bass player sees me, gives me an enthusiastic wave. At the first break Pat steps over to our side of the stage, "Hey! [Librarian]! I didn't think you were going to come tonight! Good to see you!" Plays a song in my direction later in the set.

I didn't even bother to look at Howard. See ya, squishy.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

My iPod seems to think I'd be happier in Jackson Heights

zinnia macro
Originally uploaded by pwilnyc.

Lifted from The Minor Fall, The Major Lift. Put your iPod on super-shuffle and see how it answers these questions.

How does the world see you?
Dance for Me, Queen Latifah

Will I have a happy life?
16 Shells from a Thirty-Ought Six, Tom Waits (I shit you not - ow!)

What do my friends really think of me?
It's oh so quiet, Bjork. I guess they don't.

Do people secretly lust after me?
No 1 Panjabi, DJLadla. I'm taking that as a yes.

How can I make myself happy?
Little Mascara, The Replacements. Ga-yeesh.

What should I do with my life?
Baro, Habib Koite and Bamada. The little white oracle, it speaks obscurely. And in Bambara.

Will I ever have children?
Sanana na hey, some Punjabi DJ. Downloaded off of Napster for our wedding music back in the day.

What is some good advice for me?
Dancing with tears in my eyes, X. Thanks.
Got to be among the most regrettable band names now that technology has changed everything. Searching on this band's name, or on The The, you just don't get anything. That's so punk.

How will I be remembered?
Rah-Keet, Kalyanji-Anandji. Well if they're not thinking of me now, I guess wordless Bollywood electronica is all I'm getting after I'm gone. Fine.

What is my signature dancing song?
My Heart Belongs to Daddy, Anita O'Day. Oh now that's just creepy.

What do I think my current theme song is?
Ground Hog, Pete Seeger. hee. Love that groundhog stewed and fried.

What does everyone else think my current theme song is?
I like to do it, K.C. & the Sunshine Band. Again, thanks.

What song will play at my funeral?
Pagem, Marceneiro. Portuguese fado, it is good funeral music actually.

What type of men do you like?
Nach Giddeh-ch, Bal-e. This obscure subcontinental disco stuff is getting a little ridiculous. Of course, as I write this I'm wearing one of my prized possessions: a tattered t-shirt announcing the 50th anniversary of India's independence - in Malayalam.

What is my day going to be like?
Miss Dog Miss Me, David Greenberger and 3-Legged Orchestra

And the song that comes on after this silly exercise would have been PERFECT for any of these topics: Bet Your Bottom Dollar on Me by the Swanky Modes (Sam Moore and Junior Walker), from the Tapeheads soundtrack.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Flip for Mr. Three!

Originally uploaded by pwilnyc.

Got a new little virtual flipbook for ya. Set the Delay to 1 and enjoy the mercurial Mr. Three.

View slideshow

little green dribbles

Started painting the living room. Rolling Hills by Behr.

behr rolling hills

It's kind of an extreme color, warranting an extended decision period. Two years ago I taped the paint chip on the wall so that we could consider and deliberate, and yesterday I cracked the can. What's the point? I should realize - I never change my mind. The passage of time serves only as rationalization.

It looks delectable. As I finished up yesterday the evening sun was streaming in the front door and onto the new green wall. Big Man climbed up on the back of the couch and watched himself living the music. I think it's Zola, from the Tsotsi soundtrack.

This is for Jaime: I got home late last night and had to park at the way end of the driveway, meaning I had to get out of the car basically IN the front garden. Mint and sage up to my knees. Then I realized I had to move the car. Waded thru the herbage again, got back into the car. Felt something scratchy on my thigh.

Because the dome light was on, I got a pretty good look at the grasshopper that I freed from high under my skirt. It racketed around inside the car, banking off the dash, my face, the windshield. I calmly opened the door and let him out, and enjoyed a moment picturing how Jaime would have reacted. Much flailing, perhaps a stroke.

This is for Loren. I've always had this craven need for people to like my children. I reason that if my boys are polite and personable, the teachers and counselors in their lives will go out of their way to help them get what they need. To that end, my two kids say please and thank you and introduce themselves and excuse themselves from the table to an almost neurotic extent (my neurosis, let's be clear).

The other day Loren met up with a child whose parents are obviously much more relaxed about this sort of thing. Coming out of Target, a TWELVE-YEAR-OLD boy pointed at her, yelling "FUPA! FUPA!" Were Loren not in her twenties and thus sometimes exposed to the Howard Sterns of this world, she'd have smiled and waved and yelled back, "FUPA to you too, young fella! Hi!" That's probably what I would have done. However, Loren, being down with the lingo and whatnot, was mortally humiliated and appalled, as 'FUPA' apparently means "Fat Upper Pussy Area."

Twelve years old this little fucker was. Loren checked and it turns out 'FUPA' is a unisex term. I don't want to go into it further. Just need to say that Loren? Not in possession of any body part (or fraction thereof) that can be called fat.

The Urban Dictionary is a worldwide slang wiki, and the examples are hilarious. However, I'm going to be my sniffy self and register my continued objection to 'urban' as a euphemism for 'black'. 'Urban fiction' my bony white ass.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

weed growing through fungus

weed growing through a shelf fungus
Originally uploaded by pwilnyc.

My stellar husband has taken the children to Artscape (oh how I do not enjoy Artscape - love this year's 5-years-too-late Boogie Nights logo) and I am not due at work for another hour and a half.

An hour and a half in the house by myself! I cranked up the South African hip-hop, I read half of Wired (has Wired gotten kind of not-so-informative, or is it just that I read boingboing now?), and I've got the deep conditioner on my hair.

So now I guess there's nothing left to do but marvel at the situation. Oh! Or I could eat Cheez-Its!

Is that it? I have time to kill and all I can muster is a halfhearted snack food ambition? In fact, I keep thinking about the basket of clean laundry waiting to be folded, but I have been resisting. Such was not Bob's intention when he gifted me with this free time. Why oh WHY do I not have all 7 seasons of Buffy on DVD? One or two of those and I would really begin to feel like my old self again.

I got a glimmer of that feeling earlier this week. Our pool is so safe and supervised that I felt ok reading my book there. I didn't read quickly, as I was kid-checking at least once per page. And I felt kind of self-conscious. The other moms weren't reading, they were all being social. I felt like I really ought to strike up a conversation, make new friends, etc. I talk at the pool, I talk to the moms I recognize from the library, but I don't go out of my way, and on the whole, I'd rather be reading my book.

Antisocial Librarian at the pool. Photo by Auntie Jane.
Originally uploaded by pwilnyc.

I was telling Bob about it later and it occurred to me, "I'd rather be reading my book"? Since when do I feel bad about that? That's the subtitle of my whole life. Until I had kids, it's what you would know me for. That and beer, often together. Let's get back to all that, shall we?

So let me tell you:
The Best American Nonrequired Reading
- Edited by Dave Eggers, selected by the high school students of the 826 Valencia project
Julie and Julia - Underemployed girl decides to cook the entirety of Mastering the Art of French Cooking
Sightseeing - Short stories by Rattawut Lapcharoensap. He's Thai, the stories were phenomenal.
The Watsons go to Birmingham - 1963 - Baltimore's Book for summer of 2006. For kids, but funny and well written.
Nature Noir - Non-fiction, a park ranger working in a park that's a political football
I hate myself and want to die - The 53 most depressing songs you'll ever hear, taken apart and examined like a clock radio that will never work again

and what I want to read:
Cross Country - by the guy who wrote Rats and that book about the Meadowlands
The Devil's Picnic - forbidden foods
Under African Skies - contemporary short stories by African authors
Beasts of no nation - Fiction. Child soldiers in Uganda.

You know when I'll know I really have my life back? When I can do the Sunday NY Times crossword puzzle in a bar on a Sunday afternoon with my husband. Who's up for babysitting?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

"My name is Landis, and I write a lot of songs about booty"

I just found a place you can hear our friends the All Mighty Senators for your own self. Seriously, take a minute. Ignore the mosquito sound you hear at first.

And when I said I would be proud of Big Man growing up to be a seven-foot black man wearing a Stetson, I was talking about this seven-foot black man:

Bob kept telling me, "You know, you keep saying Landis is so tall, but really he's pretty much normal size." Then at the show Tuesday, he admitted, "Ok maybe it's the hat, but yeah you're right, that's one tall guy." Everybody looks bigger standing behind a drum set.

They're on iTunes, and here, or on Amazon.

Now, they say they've been around since 1986, and that's a long time, right, but I remember a letter (remember letters? his was on yellow legal paper and he had GREAT handwriting) that my high school friend Billy wrote me in college saying, "My god come back home right now, I just heard this band and they are like nothing I've ever heard." Had to have been 1983, my first year, because Billy wasn't writing me by my second.

So I have been going to see this band since the mid 80's, but with a big gap - I moved to NYC in 1995, then had kids, so all told I missed live music for about 11 years (except for getting yelled at by that dick John Lurie at the Knitting Factory, but then who hasn't).

And after not having seen these guys for a decade, I got greeted after the show like no time had passed. I was really touched. Although judging from the crowd at the 8x10, I may be one of the few familiar old faces. Lotsa young kids, it made me smile.

The youngest fans would be my boys, who sing the words and have Senators dance parties in the living room. If we're bored waiting in line we do call and response: "Do you got the soul?" I ask, and they say, "You know that's right!"

Actually they like me to ask, "Do you got the mustard?" Mystifying. The little one doesn't even LIKE mustard.

So, will I be at the 8x10 next Tuesday night for the Booty Ball? Dyno-mite!

Keeping cool

Here are a couple little videos. Just the kids and me hanging out at the pool eating snowballs.

See it larger.

See it larger.

All my friends with older kids say there's only a short window of time between the day they learn how to talk and the day they stop talking to us at all.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Four tickets to Paradise

on the train
Originally uploaded by pwilnyc.

This is on the Strasburg Rail Road in Lancaster County, PA. You think he's having a little fun? My god, they both smiled so hard and so long I thought their faces would crack in half.

I think they're at some kind of turning point in their relationship with each other. For like two years now, if I turn my back for more than 5 minutes, some kind of altercation will occur and Three will be shrieking. I can time it - during my shower, by the time I'm conditioning, he's on his way up the stairs, "He hurted me!"

I have to yell for Big Man to come and be accounted for, he usually gets a time out, Three keeps hollering, "Get outa dat showa NOW!"... it's almost not worth being clean.

But last night at dinner Mr. Three announced, "You know, my buller is my best buddy." And this morning while they were getting dressed, they sat next to each other on the bottom bunk and played I Spy, taking turns and cheering when each other guessed right.

Mr. Three says "I pie..." of course. I'll be kind of sad when he starts pronouncing those initial S's.

That camp is Worth Every Dime

Big Man Is Wearing a Snake
Originally uploaded by pwilnyc.

Hey, it's been ages since I posted a picture of the howling cuteness of my boys! How'd that happen?

Here is the Big Man at his expensive camp, wearing a really large snake around his neck. He is framed by fangs because they made foam frames for their pictures. Glued that priceless photo into the foam with hot glue. Dag, man, I would have hung that baby on the wall! Do you SEE the size of that snake?

In the tub last night when I told him that Daddy and I are going to see the Senators, he started singing "Giant Steps," getting all the words, including the tough part: "I got the tape in my pocket, I pop it and lock it, I take giant steps." If he grows up to be a seven-foot black man wearing a Stetson and a jumpsuit, I will totally go to all his shows!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

When you're walking downtown to hang at the club, you take GIANT STEPS

The All Mighty Senators are playing Tuesdays at the 8x10 (10 E Cross St, Baltimore), in July and August, starting TOOOO-NITE!!!! YEAH!

booty fresh

My kids love the sweet soul funk that the Senators put out - Mr. Three particularly lovesBooty Fresh (his interpretation, above), while the Big Man can't decide between Giant Steps or Flex and Release. They would blow up the club with their fancy dance moves - but they can't go.

We don't have cable and I don't miss it

Ok the two boys are happily watching PBS Kids. I hear a familiar voice. Accustomed as I am to checking in on Sesame Street only to find Kofi Annan singing the alphabet with the muppets (seriously, check this out, the list of people who have visited Sesame Street is like an encyclopedia of the twentieth century), I crane to see who's serenading Elmo this time (Edie Falco? Venus Williams? Lil' Kim?), and it turns out to be a PBS Kids station break. Kids running around a park and what I heard was We're Going to be Friends by the White Stripes. Totally appropriate, but still, wow.

Celia Cruz singing Put Down the Duckie with Ernie, now that I wish I'd seen. I'll have to settle for Carol Burnett and her nose. Others to look for on YouTube - Johnny Cash, Stevie Wonder, Natalie Portman.

One hundred degrees

One hundred degrees
Originally uploaded by pwilnyc.

Was I driving in Death Valley? Brisbane? The Sahara? Borneo?
No, I was pulling onto our street, in beautiful balmy Baltimore. Needless to say, we went immediately to the pool and stayed there.

oldest horoscope of the world

Yet another Internet horoscope personality quiz I couldn't quite resist. From France! Based on time of birth and ... extinct reptiles! I'm a Scorpio! Year of the Snake! And an Archaeopteryx! High five!

Although I'm a little uneasy about the 'data processing specialist' recommendation. I've done a lot of data processing in my time.

Sorry about my lack of html skills messing up the sidebar.

The oldest horoscope of the world

Discover your prehistoric future

Archéoptéryx: you were born between 4 p.m. and 18 hours

Clever, inventive, you announce new times. Your contribution considerable, but is not always well included/understood, which passes by achievements of alleviating appearance of which you can be the first not to immediately measure the long-term range and repercussions.

It seems that nothing exists that you do not need to modify it, and the reasons are numerous in you who combine interdependent individualism with an unquestionable taste for the mental gymnastics and impassioned curiosity. Very early, you are interested in the world which surrounds you and seek to know it thoroughly.

In love, it is the spirit of collaboration which creates bonds. One often sees you sharing with your partner a profession or ambitious joint projects, with the image of two scientists leaning on the same microscope. These bonds are durable and founded on the mutual respect.

Professions: engineer, researcher, technician, builder, doctor, midwife, male nurse, data processing specialist.

conclusion to return to the list of the signs

Monday, July 17, 2006

Love at first sight

Love at first sight
Originally uploaded by pwilnyc.

Ok, that's a little raunchy... but I was so excited! Our first cucumber from our garden! I bent over to pick it and the sprinkler got me smack in the ass.
One hundred degrees today, yep. Hot like the inside of an elephant's intestine. So getting hit by the sprinkler was far from the least pleasant thing that happened to me today.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

a freaky respect to the kumquats of Herve Villechaize

hide and seek
Originally uploaded by pwilnyc.

If you say to me, "I think Do-it-yourself Mad Libs sound stupid and unfun!" I will say to you, "You are wrong!"

You print out the words to Seasons in the Sun or a recipe for Waldorf salad, or, whatever, Lincoln's second inaugural speech, and solicit random words to replace key words in the text. So you get:

When in the land of flatulent raindrops it becomes handy for 678 people to accelerate the crumbly bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the bats of the earth, the separate and equal prestidigitation to which the Post-It notes of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a freaky respect to the kumquats of Herve Villechaize requires that they should declare the cappucinos which impel them to the separation.*
Trick is to get the right number of replaced words.

In other Things I Really Wish Would Happen, I wish there was a spelling bee for grownups in this town. They have one in Brooklyn, and now one in Seattle, and I keep pressuring the library to do one as a fundraiser - cash bar! prizes! public humiliation! I would win! - but so far no bites.

Also, the new book I hate myself and want to die had me cackling away for twenty minutes. How much do you despise Total Eclipse of the Heart? Did you know it's over 7 minutes long? How many seven-minute periods in your life do you not get back because they played it on the radio so much? Does its total psychotic awfulness make more sense now that I'm telling you it was written by Jim Steinman, the guy who wrote Paradise by the Dashboard Light for Meatloaf? Sure, turn around, bright eyes, and scare the living shit out of me.

And All By Myself - covered by Celine Dion! Ow! Rip my ears off before you subject me to that.

And, for my brother, Lucky Man by ELP is now officially a terrible song.

*Actual Mad Lib concocted in the librarians' office during a recent dull moment.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Religion retard

Second best
Originally uploaded by pwilnyc.

So, I've already established that I am not, as they say, a person of faith.

I'm not sure they say that. I might have made it up. I like it though - it is almost a funny thing to say, if you load it with enough faux delicacy, and yet it is a perfectly descriptive and nonconfrontational way of saying I don't believe in God. Gods. Any god. People can get really itchy when you say, "I'm an atheist."

"Atheist" always sounds like there's a big gang of us out there, actively campaigning against Him. Well hell, I don't give a crap, believe what you want, especially if it makes you behave more nicely.

I didn't believe in god quite early. In fact, when I was a kid, I didn't think anyone did. I went to church every week, sang in the choir, but it all sounded like mythology to me. I liked mythology. It wasn't until much later that I realized that most mythology had been religion at some time.

Very very sucky, when looking at a Tibetan thangka illustrating some 400 Tibetan Buddhist deities, to say (to a Tibetan) "That is some cool mythology you guys have." Tibetan history has been continuously documented for like 4,000 years. Those deities aren't mythology, they're history. Culturally insensitive much? Oh sister, that's my middle name.

Once, I was training a group of curators and registrars at the Jewish Museum on the software my company had installed. I was groping for an example from their collection that might illustrate how the database handled composite objects: objects that are made of separable pieces.

I said, "Take, for example, a seder plate. A seder plate has the big round platter and then the, what, 6, 7, 8, little bowls."

Thirteen pairs of eyes rolled in unison. I've never seen anything like it. It was like Busby Berkeley meets Woody Allen.

On my lunch break I snagged a book in their gift shop and discovered: seder plate? One big plate, yes, with 6 spaces (which may sometimes be dishes): one for the charoset, one for the egg, the karpas, the shank bone, and two places for the bitter herbs. Not gonna make THAT mistake again.

Anyway, at the age of 8 or so, after church one Sunday, I asked my mom something like, Dag, how can that preacher live with himself, doing all that talking about something that doesn't exist? She kind of swallowed her gum and then had a conversation with me that left me entirely unconvinced.

Not to say I'm not interested in religion - no, I'm a fan. Of the imagery and the ritual, of course, not the dogma. Growing up going to a Presbyterian church, we didn't have saints, incense, Hebrew, ritual food, special clothing, crap smeared on the forehead, man we barely had curtains.

So I love all that crap. It's like a tenth-generation American who grew up on food cooked with soup, who as soon as she could, started eating and cooking food from cultures that use spices. In fact, it's exactly like that.

My first exposure to serious Catholicism came in 1994 when I traveled the Mediterranean countries by myself. I don't know dick about saints, but I quickly realized that I didn't really have to. That stuff was made for illiterates, and so the stories are right there in the visuals. You can piece it all together, and that's so great.

I made long lists of the saints I had seen -

  • Barbara: holds a building
  • Roch: shows people the wound on his thigh
  • Lucia: has eyes? on a plate
I collated all the information from the statues and paintings I saw in Spain, Portugal, France, and Italy, and later looked 'em all up. UN believable. Saint Agatha, who had her breasts cut off because she wouldn't have sex with someone, was later claimed as the patron saint of bakers and bell-makers, because literacy had declined and people thought those lumps she held on a platter were buns or bells, and not in fact boobs.

That is so cool.

I was mesmerized by the exhibit that my old museum put on about Haitian vodou (it originated at the UCLA Fowler Museum). The exhibit designers created representations of shrines to Ogou, Danbala, etc, massing together iconic objects preferred by these entities: a Darth Vader figurine, a certain brand of rum, perfume, colors, materials. And it turned out that visitors to the exhibit... tossed offerings to the spirits. MetroCards, cigarettes, etc. The intention of the exhibit was unimportant. Merely putting these objects together in the same place invoked the entity. If playing cards, smokes, a mirror, and something blue were blown together by the wind into the end of an alley, that place would be a place to entreat that spirit.

This comes close, to me, to the origin of the idea of sanctity. Sanctity as experienced in the world. You come across a spring, a flowering tree above it, and you are hit with the feeling of specialness. One way to translate that is: God was in that place.

Haitian vodou appropriates the images of Catholic saints and some of the icons of the Masonic tradition. I like that. To me, it gives the Haitian spirits more validity: everybody knows what Papa Legba likes, and when a Haitian spotted a picture of Saint Francis, he thought, "Legba wears brown - this is totally Legba, he'd love this!" It is the opposite of assimilation, the opposite of conversion. "Hey thanks missionary guy, I know just what to do with this!"

Doesn't take anything away from the saint. The Haitian knows that the concept expressed by that icon is separate from the image itself, and that he can use it in a different way, without offense to this spirit that the white guy is yammering on about.

It's the same with me. I see the picture of Saint Rita with a nail in her forehead, and I know just what to do with that. I'll draw a comic! A comic about domestic abuse and how much crap women take sometimes. Doesn't take anything away from the saint that somebody is praying to. She is not her picture. She is not even her story.

I heard something on NPR the other day about how the mikvah, the traditional Jewish ritual post-menstrual immersion bath, is now being appropriated as a feminist gesture. The implication of uncleanliness has been discarded, and women are now using the mikvah to get in touch with the sanctity of their bodies, to symbolically cleanse themselves of bad experiences, etc. Some rabbi expressed concern that it might become trivialized, stripped of its spiritual origins, "like feng shui."

Well... was Taoism really harmed by the feng shui fad? Sure, a lot of people hung a lot of crystals without understanding why, but has there been an overall decline in the respect granted the ancient traditions of China? Have spiritual practitioners of feng shui suffered?

Worse things could probably happen to Orthodox Judaism than the acculturization of the mikvah. Joe Lieberman, for example.

One of the big benefits of being a stone atheist is - I don't want to say a buffet approach to the rituals of this world, because I still don't participate in a single freaking one (except for the feng shui, I rearranged the wind chimes after reading part of Move your stuff, change your life) - but appreciating the icons and rituals and observing that the buffet approach can be beneficial. Cross-pollination can indeed stimulate new growth in new directions.

There's a lot of crap that people have to deal with in this life, and we should accept succor and remediation where we feel we can find it.

I still think it's all horseshit, but then, I used to read palms.

Monday, July 10, 2006

get em while they're hot

get em while they're hot
Originally uploaded by pwilnyc.

"Strength AND Leadership!" he boasts... but, sadly, no lips.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

The panties are not the point

portulaca (look at me big)
Originally uploaded by pwilnyc.

1996. Ok, so the first man I married, my ex-husband, let's call him "Scott." Scott was his name actually, but my memory always puts it in those verbal quotes, like an alias. The name didn't suit him, should have been something less normal, something crusty and artistic, like Gil, or something teenage and furtive, like Kevin. He was a painter and a sculptor, and made a good living in a sought-after job as an exhibits carpenter at the Guggenheim Museum.

Anyway, my ex-husband, "Scott." Was always after me to wear more alluring underclothes. He liked satin, he liked lacy stuff. I myself am more of a form-follows-function person. I shake my head just thinking about slick synthetics, scratchy lace, what have you. No, I say - no. It goes like this:
  1. Hygiene
  2. Comfort
  3. There is no number 3
I know, I sound like a podiatrist.

Luckily, I considered his requests to be so cliché, so run-of-the-mill, that my self-esteem never suffered a hit. I figured his underwear thing to be about aesthetics – some kind of Vargas thing. So much was, with him.

And I didn't care too much one way or the other, so after he had made a few comments on the subject I said, "Well since it's your idea and you work next door to Victoria's Secret, go on your lunch break and buy me whatever you like. I'm a size 5."

Soon after that, he came home with the dinky little pink striped shopping bag in his large paint-spattered hand. In it were a couple pair of nylon satin panties trimmed with plastic lace. I tried them on and changed my mind. He had bought cheap uncomfortable crap. I told him to return them and next time I'd go and help pick something out.

The bag sat by the door for a couple weeks - he kept forgetting to take it back. Then the credit card bill came. The Victoria's Secret charge was $93. Whoa! "My god Scott, that crummy underwear cost ninety bucks? We are taking it back RIGHT NOW."

We took the N train to SoHo carrying that ridiculous Chihuahua of a shopping bag (huh. THAT’s what Paris Hilton reminds me of) and the credit card statement. The receipt was in the bag. We returned the two pair of panties and the clerk handed us some $30, not the $90 I expected. I cocked my head. I revved up – I am a good remonstrater. She cut me off by handing me the receipt. It clearly showed an original purchase of 6 pairs of underpants. I looked at Scott. The clerk's eyes shifted between us.

Scott said, "Can we not talk about this here?"

I said, "Very well."

On the broad stone doorstep of the Victoria's Secret on Broadway in SoHo, I said, "Who are you buying lingerie for?" I mentioned a co-worker of his, "Christine" (also her real name), who clearly had a crush on him.

He said he wasn't buying underwear for Christine, and he said again, "Can we not talk about this here?"

Well, it's not like we were just going to forget the whole thing, and I was feeling eerily rational and clear-headed, so ok, we walked on down Prince Street. I felt a bit great, actually. I was clearly in the right, and let’s just say that hadn't been the case in most of my previous experiences with jealousy/infidelity/whatever the fuck was going on here. And I didn't have that dizzying who-is-this-man sensation. So I puzzled it out.

I didn't really think he was attracted to Christine, she was in fact both mean and unattractive, and already wore cheap satin underwear. You could see it over the back of her jeans. And he pretty much didn't know any other women.

Finally I said, "You're not buying lingerie for... yourself?"

And he said, "Yes." Pretty quietly.

We're on Wooster, walking down the cobbled street, past the cast-iron fronted buildings, possibly the most fashionable place in the world. You see pictures of that street in a million ads, car commercials where super-attractive dreadlocked guys using brooms are spotted grinning at you from the sidewalk as you glide past on leather upholstery.

What I’m saying is, if you're going to have an unreal conversation, good place.

So my mind clicks through what I know of fetish objects. According to The Kinsey Report (I read the part about long-hair fetishes, thought maybe I should know), fetishes are perfectly normal unless they become fixations. I make my conclusion: well, ok. I can accommodate this in my worldview. We walk on.

Then it occurs to me to ask: "You don't… wear them… yourself... do you?"

And he says: "Well, yeah!" As if to say, "Well gosh what ELSE would a 32-year-old 6-foot-3-inch carpenter from South Dakota be doing with ladies underpants!"

I knew - I knew - that what he was talking about wasn't all that weird. I read Savage Love, hell he could have been into fisting, he could have been into something really unpleasant. And good grief, I was married to the man: naturally I would work with him within any set of parameters. The parameters weren’t just shifting, though: they were inflating and flipping around like a fire hose with every syllable he dropped - the standards of deviance on my internal graph of sexual norms were sliding WAY away from the top of the curve. But like I said, we were in SoHo.

I processed the idea of Scott wearing panties - where did he keep them, when did he put them on - and I said, "Well you don't wear them to work, right?"

And he says, and for some reason this really embarrasses him, he says quietly, "Yes."

I then said, and this seemed totally reasonable to me at the time, and still does, and I do not believe there is hidden anger or hurt in my train of thought although just about everyone else who hears this story, um, does - I said, "Well, wearing them to work seems like a bad idea. You got that giant table saw, the drill press, the SawZall for god's sake - you need to concentrate. Wearing those things might make you distracted, and if you got hurt at work and got put in an ambulance – I know EMT’s, Scott, trust me – when those assholes cut off your clothes in the wagon and see that you're wearing ladies' underwear you are NOT going to receive the highest standard of care because they're gonna be wasting time cracking jokes."

Nothing but caring in that train of thought, I am telling you.

So, new territory for me. Also for Scott, I imagine. We tried to accomodate his dumb-ass little fetish – this was my marriage, you know, you bend. And at least I didn’t have to wear that tacky crap. Well. He left me before too long anyway. Started sleeping with Christine, wrecked my apartment.

How stupid was this guy, you wanna know. Why did he allow himself to end up in such a position, getting interrogated in public about something so private? Mmm-hm.

It’s my guess that the panties were not the point. I think he had this little push-pull relationship with concealment and revelation. I think he set up secrets so that he would be discovered (later, this became more apparent, when it came to light that he had used our credit card to spend a lot of money on 8th Ave.). I think he was looking for a reprimand, like a child. And in the marital context, that's just icky.

I think he picked me out in the first place, blonde and blue-eyed, glasses and an office job, for my appearance of wholesomeness. This I resent: being someone's erotic patsy. Nobody likes being appreciated for their naiveté. But I am guessing my response to his whole panty-fetish setup was unsatisfactory. I have a feeling I was supposed to jump on a chair and say Eek.

So, ha.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

All the power you need

Originally uploaded by pwilnyc.

"I'm a supa-hero. And I have lots and lots of x-ray visions."
"Is that right?"
"I have x-ray vision from my eyes so I can see things far away. And I have finger x-ray vision and that makes things distapear."
"Distapear. And I have knee x-ray vision and that's FIRE GAS!!!"
"Oh my word!"
"And butt x-ray vision!"
"Your... butt has x-ray vision?"
"So... what does the butt x-ray vision do?"
"My butt x-ray vision keeps things safe!"

The sleep of reason

log in sunlight
Originally uploaded by pwilnyc.

Weirdly, I have been having nightmares. Nightmares, weirdly, I have been having. Nightmares. Weird. Isn't that weird?

How many non-fictional adults (besides veterans, sadly) have you heard of who wake up in the middle of the night rigid with fear because a dream was so freaky? Rigid with fear, I'm not kidding. 4am and I am wide awake, cold sweat, whole body flexed and aching.

And it's not like I'm having nightmares about irresponsible babysitters, or ants, or even about my husband's brain. No, my nightmares are intricately plotted, quite exotic, and intensely cinematic. In other words, absolutely nothing like my real life.

In fact, I am comfortable telling even total strangers about my nightmares because they feel so utterly unrelated to my waking world. I'm about as well-adjusted as I've ever been. I haven't had a bad dream in years, and even then I dreamed that all my teeth fell out. Or I had to take a final exam in a class I thought I'd dropped. You know: the two most common dreams in North America. So all of a sudden experiencing these horrible things - it almost feels like 'something I ate,' a la Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend.

Except... would cheese (or in my case, gin) prompt visions of an unbelievably sinister, eyeless, charred-looking demon trying to insinuate himself into my house to suck the life out of my children? A demon who communicates via the gunky eye and nose secretions of a neighbor child?

Or... would a bad piece of sushi cause me to rewrite the movie Jacob's Ladder for myself, casting Tom Cruise as a violent psychopath who tortures his family (Nicole Kidman and two little girls) before moving on to recruit the inmates of an insane asylum and pull the head off a nurse? I mean, this was a nightmare with a framing device for god's sake. In my dream I was happily watching TV and came upon this movie. I thought to myself, "God I can't stand Tom Cruise but I heard he was amazing in this," and then I watched the movie and couldn't turn it off.

Wrecks me the next day, because I can't get back to sleep. Plus it just leaves a bad taste in my brain. Tom Cruise, yeesh.

They're not all ghastly. The other morning I told Bob at breakfast, "I had another bad dream last night. My camera was broken! And you were cheating on me."

He says, "I was cheating on you? And that comes up after the broken camera?"

Yeah you'd think that would bother me. I'm guessing that since in my dream his new girlfriend was a good-looking Asian woman, not a three-headed mermaid with teeth where her tits should be (for example), I just figured the whole thing to be more or less benign.

My camera, though, that would be a nightmare.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

[more animal noises]

my hero
Originally uploaded by pwilnyc.

Remember the babysitter who spaced on what time she was supposed to pick up my four-year-old from camp? She wasn't particularly contrite when I called in a panic, nor did she apologize at the end of the day. Fine. I wouldn't have accepted an apology with any kind of grace.

So, she emailed this week:

I was just curious if you needed me to babysit [Big Man] and [Mr. Three] anymore, or not. (and if you did, could I have a schedule for the rest of the times when you'll need me?) I'd appreciate it, thanks!
I emailed her back:
Thanks, [Ex-Babysitter], but we've found somebody else.
The reply (totally unnecessary unless you have a pathological need to have the last word):
that's what I expected. More timeliness though next time in telling me would have been appreciated. Have a good summer.
Timeliness, huh? If I hadn't conquered my own pathological need to have the last word (and this doesn't count!), I would email her back, hoping that some good advice might make up for my shabby treatment of her.

I would express my chagrin that all the plum snowball-stand jobs will have already been snapped up, but I would point out that given her inability to retain pertinent details, she's going to be looking for jobs a LOT, so in the long run she may thank me for releasing her into a tough job market.

I would recommend that she play to her strengths: fancy education and glossy hair. I would caution, however, that a veneer of professionalism is not only somewhat unnecessary when we're talking about a 6-hour-a-week babysitting gig, but can lead to misunderstandings when the employer interprets the language of professionalism as evidence of sort of a minimum level of professional behavior.

My most valuable advice to her, though, as she makes her way through the exciting whirl of job interviews, first days of work, and subsequent dismissals, would be to keep her chin up. I would say:
[Ex-Babysitter], a lot of ex-employers are going to try to point out your weaknesses and refuse to give you references after you've burned down their chicken place because you forgot to turn the fryer off when you left for the day. That kind of negative feedback could eventually take the edge off your Gibralteresque sense of entitlement.

Don't let it! That sense of entitlement is all you've got, really, so you should keep it wrapped up safe: buff and polish it, until its glare blinds all potential employers... so that saps like me will hire you even when more qualified and personable candidates are available (and luckily, I'm talking about [Current Babysitter], who is fun and prompt and easygoing and who doesn't bring a BOOK when she comes to babysit two boys under the age of 5).

Have a good summer!
In other words: you flail, I bail.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Personality DNA

Roll that log over and see what crawls out...

Though admittedly, I might not have linked to this silly quiz if I had taken it and it came back labeling me, say, "Sluggish Drone".

My Personal Dna Report

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Some things you may not know about your neighborhood librarian

One or many may apply, depending on your neighborhood and your librarian.

  • Your neighborhood librarian is probably female, but you knew that.
  • Your neighborhood librarian is a public servant with a postgraduate education.
  • Your neighborhood librarian has a postgraduate education and decided to work in public service.
  • Your neighborhood librarian reconsiders that decision from time to time.
  • There's about a 35% chance your neighborhood librarian has a tattoo.
  • If your neighborhood librarian is under 40, it's more like a 80% chance.
  • Your neighborhood librarian may think murder mysteries are a bore, but she can recommend one for you.
  • If your child is screaming in the library, it is almost for sure that your neighborhood librarian has been there, and does not judge you in the least.
  • Your neighborhood librarian has a thriving healthy marriage built on frank dialogue and shared interests.
  • Your neighborhood librarian has been so thoroughly dicked-over by her ex-husband that she has sworn off dating entirely.
  • Your neighborhood librarian is an avid gardener.
  • Your neighborhood librarian thinks Nature is out to kill her.
  • Your neighborhood librarian is going to dress up for Otakon.
  • Your neighborhood librarian doesn't really get this "manga" stuff. Isn't it just comic books?
  • Your neighborhood librarian is a natural blonde.
  • Your neighborhood librarian can't remember her natural hair color.
  • Your neighborhood librarian is a cat owner.
  • Without exception.
  • You are correct in surmising that your neighborhood librarian has a larger vocabulary than you do.
  • Your neighborhood librarian owns at least one garment that laces up the torso.
  • In your dreams, pal.
  • Your neighborhood librarian smoked entirely too much pot in the 80's.
  • Your neighborhood librarian knows entirely too much about opera.
  • Your neighborhood librarian thinks it's idiotic that people try to ban Captain Underpants.
  • Your neighborhood librarian thinks there's a lot to be said for Captain Underpants.
  • Your neighborhood librarian has tried out the booger-dodging game on the Captain Underpants website.
  • Your neighborhood librarian volunteers at her neighborhood school library because the school can't afford a professional librarian, and that's not ok.
  • Your neighborhood librarian would like to get paid.
  • You may be surprised by how much your neighborhood librarian knows about computers, even if she is much older than you.
  • Your neighborhood librarian does not support the USA Patriot Act.
  • Your neighborhood librarian can identify that book that your book club is reading, but you forgot the title and don't know the author, but it was something about sewing? and China?
  • Your neighborhood librarian does not say everything she is thinking.
  • That's why she has a blog.