Saturday, September 30, 2006

He knows something

Wry, originally uploaded by pwilnyc.

(There's a large dead cricket under the geranium)

Friday, September 29, 2006

Late summer garden

zinnias, originally uploaded by pwilnyc.

What is with the tomatos this year? I must have two dozen big beautiful GREEN tomatoes on the vines, and very few have turned red all summer long. Either we're going to have fantastic tomato sandwiches in October, or we're going to have hella lot green tomato salsa frozen for the winter.

Zinnias didn't go crazy like they did last summer, and of course the three best plants are in the vegetable garden, where nobody can see them. And I guess I'll never see a marigold like this crazy plant that grew from seed in 2004.

Last year was the Year of the Gourd, with giant vines of snakenecks and angelwing gourds taking over the entire yard faster than I could beat them back. I didn't plant them, and I didn't plant the few gourds that are growing this year either. And this year's gourds aren't the same as the ones from last year... gourds are an enduring mystery.

I was all excited about the tomatillo I planted this year - it sprawled, it self-rooted, it has many little flowers... but until now there have been no tomatillos, and the ones that are there now are the size of acorns.

Luckily I always have chili peppers, and plum tomatos, sweet peas, nasturtiums, rosemary, and for some reason I have good luck with these plain ol' zinnias.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Go to D.C. buy me things

All right, I saw these, called Damned Dollies of course, at last year's Bazaart, the annual crafts fair at the American Visionary Art Museum (this year, November 25), and to date nobody has bought me one. Even though I have dropped hints as broad as, "See this? I want one of these!"

Now she's going to have a booth at the Crafty Bastards fair in D.C. this weekend. I think that I must not go to this event, oh there's not enough disposable income in the world for all the plush baked goods and hand-painted vinyl wallets I need.

Not to mention this beautiful skirt.

This amazing ring.

A case for the craft supplies I gaze longingly at but hardly ever use.

Big soft heads you can wear on top of your real head.

Pirate baby clothes.

A lamp made of cocktail umbrellas.

Ok that's it, we're goin'.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Big Man after being bombarded with "vita-rays"

"Vita-rays." Is that not the lamest origin story of any superhero?

Steve Rogers, patriotic illustration student, tries to enlist, gets rejected, and some general just happens to overhear him grousing about it. Says, "Oh hey we've been looking for a guy to be this huge giant hero - how's about it? Would you like to be excellent?"

What's really mystifying is that Cap is still with us. And apparently still appealing, judging from this picture.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

New look, and not just for the Kleenex

Jeez, all I wanted to do was to have a little more width here so that I could post my pictures larger... and look what happened!

It's kind of a little, uh, contrived for my taste, but I like the brown wallpaper, and in fact it ended up being really hard to do, so I have this big sense of accomplishment right now.


suckered!, originally uploaded by pwilnyc.

I usually try pretty hard not to get suckered into paying more for an ordinary item just because somebody's designed it up. I realized I was susceptible to this kind of marketing ploy when my ex-husband ridiculed me for buying a Wolfgang Puck frozen pizza - a product I ordinarily eschew. He correctly observed, "Just couldn't pass up that color scheme, couldya?" It was purple and grey, very nice I'll tell you.

Not, of course, edible. It was frozen pizza after all.

The "Method" liquid soap stuff at Target falls into this category - yeah yeah you're so grapefruity and ya got the iMac colors, you're still just soap.

But Jesus, I will pay whatever they want for this Kleenex - AND I will thank them for it! It's not even THAT attractive, but I ask you, how motherfucking long have we had to wait for a Kleenex box that didn't look like it belonged on top of the teevee at the nursing home?

Good god!

Monday, September 25, 2006

If you're freaky and you like it say "Whee!"

Big Man, Mr. Three, Train Man, Big Friend, Big Friend's Little Sister, and Girl Friend

Bob: Kid magnet

Kid magnet

Big Man, Girl Friend, Mr. Three, and Train Man (aka "Juicy") decompressing after a tough day playing the in hay maze, exploring the Boo Barn, picking apples, and getting friction burns on the hay slide.

View slideshow

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Ol' Chalk-face

Ol' Chalk-face
Originally uploaded by pwilnyc.

Hangover Street

Hangover Street
Originally uploaded by pwilnyc.

It's the late 80's, you can tell by the hair. It's Easter, you can tell by my dress. I'd say it's the first beer of the day after a late night, and there isn't a person in this crowd over 25. Joe and I had just started dating, and we clearly had a lot to say to each other.

Someone Googled a guy who isn't in this picture (he was in Colorado at the time) and wound up here and left a very nice comment, and I'm pretty sure she's the girl in the shorts.

If that's you, hi Cobi!

UPDATE: No, actually I know exactly when this picture was taken and why I'm in that dress. It was 1988 and Bob was visiting his brother Joe in D.C. (yes Bob husband Bob). I left work on Friday, dressed like that, drove to D.C., made eyes at my future (12 years in the future) husband across one of Joe's famous deck parties, spent the night there, then drove back to Baltimore because my boyfriend Joe and his roommates were having a barbecue the next day. And this would be the barbecue.

Regardless of the fact that I'm having a pretty good time in this picture, that night in D.C. pretty much ruined me for any other boy. I bombed back up 95 devastated. But he was leaving the next day and he lived in Seattle.

It took many such meetings (this wasn't the first) to convince us that we should throw over our otherwise lives in order to be together. Come to think of it, even then, our otherwise lives had ditched us first. How stubborn can you be?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Underappreciated-Second-Children playgroup

The underappreciated 2nd child playgroup

View slideshow

We LOVE these kids. Look at them, aren't they lovable? Sweet dispositions, and they play well together, and they're SO affectionate! We cut our teeth on their older siblings, and their older siblings cut their teeth on us, you better believe it.

So now that the older siblings are in Kindergarten, sometimes we get these little doll babies together so that they can play cooperatively, share all toys, and take breaks to come over and hug us. The rest of the time, they play quietly on the floor so that mommy can check her email.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

"To the memory of little Bernice"

A Little Pink Rose
copyright 1912 by Carrie Jacobs-Bond

(con molta espressione)
A little pink rose in my garden grew,
The tiniest one of all;
'Twas kissed by the sun,
caressed by the dew,
Oh little pink rose in my garden.
Oh, little pink rose, 'twas you!
[You see where this is going, don't you?]
Oh, little pink rose of your mother's heart!
Have you faded, and gone away?
Has the Gardener gathered my little pink rose,
For His loveliest garden today?
Did He need one more blossom of your size and hue,
And was that the reason the Gard'ner chose you?

Oh, little pink rose in your mother's heart!
Have you faded, and go-one away?
Gah! Found this gem in a big box of old sheet music that was in Bob's mom's house. I can't stand this morbid dead-baby crap, but I must say I love the accusation that GOD KILLED THE BABY for aesthetic reasons - God the Mad Ikebana Florist, that's a new one.

It made me think of those wackos with their "reborn" baby dolls - you know, very skilled and probably very deranged women who take high-end baby dolls, eviscerate them, and rebuild them from the eyelashes up. It's creepy. Here's one. The way that she describes every detail of the process, stripping the factory color and then applying paint in thin layers, rooting each hair, replacing the eyes, all this painstaking ritual - you know what it reminds me of?

Serial killers.

I mean, I like babies - now. Now that I've had a couple. But back when I didn't have any, I didn't really get the appeal. Even these "reborn" "angel" bleah bleah things aren't particularly attractive for the most part. Check this one out:

Compare to:

Similar pose, similar age, though Big Man's got a mouth like a coin slot and the other one's got those poofy Shiloh-Jolie-Pitt lips. They both look pretty constipated. The fact is, a baby's mostly great because it's alive and warm and soft and is GOING TO GROW UP INTO SOMETHING MORE INTERESTING! Ok it's wild that it's so small and yet is still a human, that's also a neat thing about babies. But these aren't.

See? Not human, and not going to grow up. Not even warm. Creeping me out utterly.

Oh and you know what? When I checked A Little Pink Rose on eBay (I'm grossed-out, but I am not above making a buck on it), someone's selling a inkjet copy of that cover for five bucks. "Shabby Chic." heh heh heh.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Reverse engineering

I'm experimenting with a blog for the Big Man's school library. I thought, for a start, we'd ask parents to write about their favorite children's book (oh so original but if it worked for RIF it can work for us).

I kicked it off by doing the exercise myself, and it turned out that I had a lot to say about From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsberg. Goddamn book changed my life. So here's a less expurgated version of what will go in the school library's blog (if we decide to do it).
This is my favorite book of all time. In it, two kids, Jamie and Claudia, decide to run away from home. Since they're smart and practical (not to mention snobbish and greedy) and don't want to end up on a curb in Times Square, they plan to run away to a place that's indoors and has some of the comforts of home. They pick the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Isn't that great? That's a thought process that basically makes sense. And you can tell right off that this is not going to be your hijinky plot-driven pratfall novel - they don't run away to the circus, they run away to an art museum. E. L. Konigsberg writes great books, with sharp characters, but this is her genius work. An unpleasant, geeky girl with a violin case and an annoying little brother goes into an art museum - and that's the premise for a successful, beloved kids book? Dag.

What keeps this book going, and what fascinated me as a kid, is the view of the off-hours museum through Claudia's eyes. Claudia is a pretty dissatisfied kid, and in the peace and beauty and mystery of the museum, she has a chance to get out of her crabby self and become absorbed in the beautiful, weird, storied objects that surround her. She gets to touch and examine precious things that are usually off-limits, and in the process, one object stops her in her tracks - a small sculpture of an angel.

When it was my turn, my object was Cupid and Psyche by Jacques Louis David.

I came around a corner in the Cleveland Museum of Art, looking for something to write a paper on for ARTH103, and this baby popped me right in the eye. It's enormous, for one thing, and very detailed, almost realistic. Cupid is climbing out of bed, smirking - yeah, he tapped that - and now he's trying to get out of there without waking her. I believe I met this painting before I met Bob, but this is kind of what Bob looked like when he was 19, when we met (minus the smirk, he would insist I point out).

Claudia wants to learn everything there is to know about "her" angel, and in the process discovers something that only the titular Mrs. Frankweiler knows (looking back, Mrs. Frankweiler had to be a registrar - registrars are consistently the coolest, geekiest people in all art museums I've come across). Though the angel isn't really Claudia's, this secret knowledge is. The process of discovery, the possession of knowledge, and her intimacy with the object change her, showing her what is best and noblest in her nature.Cleveland Museum of Art

When I had my Art History classes in the basement of the Cleveland Museum, I would leave through a set of very high, very heavy double doors. I'd run down the wide marble steps that led to the Lagoon. I was usually the only person there, and at those moments, I always felt like Claudia - I felt like I lived in that museum, and that all the treasures inside of it were mine. Eventually, I spent so much time with those objects that, like Claudia, I did own them in a way. I sat in front of paintings and tapestries and Japanese woodcuts for hours, desperately hoping to find enough to say about each object to fill a ten-page paper.

I am not a spiritual person. Maybe I'm the antithesis of spiritual - I'm a physical person. I believe in the transformative power of knowledge, and I believe that firsthand observation is the best way to gain that knowledge.

When you can take time to absorb the textures and smells of an object, you can absorb its language, feel the actions that made it, and figure out which questions to ask. You can meet its maker.

Me, I know the political climate that Jacques Louis David painted in - I know why there are laurel leaves on Psyche's bed. I know what the missing letters in the Byzantine tapestry were, and I know what happened when the weaver was running out of room on the right side.

Don't get me wrong - it's not the trivia itself that I groove on. What I like is the way you can decode details of the artist's world backwards from the details of the work.

When I finally had a chance to decide what to do with my life, I chose to live in museums, like Claudia. That book showed me a place filled with intrigue and stories, a place where you could figure out things that nobody else knew.

I have spent a lot of time in Claudia's museum, both as a student and working there, and she was right -- knowing that place feels like having a big cool famous friend. It was a privilege every single time I went into the workrooms of any museum I worked in, from Birmingham to Brooklyn to Baltimore.

Maybe if I'd read a different book, a good book about a scientist kid, for example, I might have been a botanist (except I still would have flunked Calculus). But I read From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and it changed my life.

Monday, September 18, 2006

sinus trouble

At the time, I was irritated that Bob had put his hands up like this as I was snapping the picture, but now I think it's funny.

action heroes

I'd be happier if this photo were minus the squirt guns, but both smiling and looking at the camera - I can call it a day.

Oddly, like the minute I posted this photo on Flickr, I got this comment:
"ei cine sunt, verisori de-ai tai sau copiii dintr-o curte???Simpatici oricum :)"
I finally figured out that the language is Romanian, but when I threw it through a Romanian-English translator, I got
"her who sunt verisori from - of tai or children tooth curte??? Simpatici either"
I could probably do better treating it like it's Latin - off the top of my head I would get:
"Who are they, family members of you or children from court? Either, I like them"
I assume "children from court" refers to their guns and the Big Man's striped pajamas. I am surprised how miserable the online translators were with Romanian. I am surprised how similar Romanian is to Latin. And who knows how this Romanian kid came across this picture?!

at the Lauraville Fair

The scarecrow we made together, and a great expression.

Friday, September 15, 2006

"...for he IS the Kwisatz Haderach!"

An assignment for his kindergarten art class. "Put some symbols in and on a box that stand for things you like or aspects of your personality." I actually wasn't looking forward to this - how do I explain "symbols" to a five year old?

Well, he didn't have any trouble with the concept. Right off, he pointed to my arm and explained to me that my tattoo was a symbol. And how.

Here are the things that he drew on the outside of the box (see if you can find them all):

  1. "Your tattoo!" "Yes but that's a symbol for me - what does it mean about you?" "It's a symbol that I like my mom!"
  2. "a monster in its nest with its egg"
  3. "the monster's teeny tiny baby sister"
  4. "a Tyrannosaurus rex that is so big it doesn't even fit on the box and it ate the monster bug and the gigantic snake"
  5. a gigantic snake
  6. a monster bug

Inside, he put these things:

  1. "sidewalk chalk, because I love drawing on the sidewalk."
  2. "this brown crayon shows that I love drawing and also my favorite color is brown."
  3. "a puzzle piece because I love doin puzzles, and this puzzle is a school bus and that is a symbol of I love school!"
  4. "this is from my mom's floaty pen collection and it's the Statue of Liverdy because New York City is my favorite city and also I was even born there!"
  5. "my library card because I love books!"
  6. "pirate booty because I love playing like I'm a pirate"
  7. "a jellyfish because my favorite place to go on vacation is... the beach!"
  8. "this shows I love RACIN'!"
  9. "I will draw the S and you help me with the spiderweb to show that I love books and especially the Spiderwick book that Alex gave me for my birthday."
  10. "my favorite holiday is Halloween"
  11. "I love dinosaurs"

Then we went through my box of postcards I've collected over the years - he was very concerned that he hadn't found a symbol of rock'n'roll.

1. First one he saw that spoke to him was the Sandy Skoglund installation of fish in a blue room.
"Wow this is cool! Can I have this one?"
"What does it say about you?"
"It says that I looooove... SALMON!"
heh heh

2. Next he saw a card listing the traits of those born in the Year of the Snake. Like me. And him.

He liked it because he likes snakes. Also, he knew it was Chinese, because of the shape of the white space (yeah, I think he gets symbols), so he was all excited that it was also a symbol that he likes Chinese food.

3. While were looking at the postcards, Mr 3 got in on the action and drew his letter on the lid. Big Man said that was ok, it was a symbol that he has a brother. Not committing to more than that.

4. We went through the entire set of these planet postcards, but he picked Pluto because of the three-eyed cartoon alien. "This says that I like cartoon drawings and also that I like outer space and my room is decorated like outer space."

5. He was still concerned about the rock'n'roll. We got to that picture of Patti Smith with the flames behind her and the shirt half off and I had a little moment - that picture is maybe TOO rock'n'roll for Kindergarten. But he passed right by it and pounced on this picture of Lou Reed. So we played him the live version of Sweet Jane and he decided that Lou Reed was rock'n'roll enough for him.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

More tripe, please

Do you get what this is? A message embroidered backwards on your pillowcase so that it imprints across your sticky cheek or forehead or in the case of my children who sleep weird, calf.

You can buy it from this guy in the UK but shit, I embroider - I'd rather come up with my own messages.
Or you come up with one: best suggestion wins it on a pillowcase, embroidered by my grubby little hands. Choice of colors mine (dictated by what colors of embroidery floss were left in my granny's sewing basket when she died). (If that grosses you out, um.)

Oh my fucking god... not since the Pooper Scooper Law has dogshit been worthy of this much attention. See it all at the headquarters of the Sprinkle Brigade.


gosh this is heavy..
Originally uploaded by Xie Kitchen.

I have been fooling around looking at Japanese toys and miniatures and came across this group of photos on Flickr. This stuff is beautiful, it's meta-kitsch, in fact it's probably well beyond kitsch, and... but... my god the things people have time and money for.

Originally uploaded by oisoyboy.

IV. Have you Power of Tenned lately? Here is a heart-stopping version. Moves from far outside the Milky Way down to the quark level. When you're done, click to the Molecular Expressions Galleria (or come back here and click the link, their navigation sucks) and check out the fabulous microscopy pictures, like this lotus blossom.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Back to the issues

I've stopped sniffling long enough to fry some fish, vote in the primary, get the kids to bed before 9pm, and catch up with the bandwagons.
  • Everyone from everyone to everyone's mother is right - OK Go's video with the treadmills is beautiful. I wonder how many times they nearly ripped their ears off going through the handlebars of those treadmills before they got it right.
  • The Official Seal Generator is numbingly fun.
  • This Star Trek / Nine Inch Nails mashup (I believe they call it) is not safe for work due to how very many times the word 'fuck' is in the song (well I guess "how many times" is not the issue), but jeez oh man, find a secluded corner and watch it. Genius.
  • I neglected to credit The Comics Curmudgeon when I lifted that Apartment 3-G strip the other day. I read that guy a lot, I always suspected you could find humor in the asinine comics in the daily paper, if you paid close enough attention. Josh does, and he shares. Ahhhhh.
  • And somebody figure out for us how Sean can get his mazes published. Sean is some kind of savant, he will just absentmindedly doodle a detailed, functional maze the size of a full sketchbook page. He does other things too, I mean, it's not like he lives in a Dumpster and doodles mazes. That's just a sideline.

PS: Speaking of savants --
  1. When I played the Nine Inch Nails video for Bob, he identified which Star Trek episode each tiny snippet of film came from.
  2. Here is 5-year-old Big Man applying himself to Sean's mazes. See if you can do them any faster.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Contrail of consciousness

All right, I'm doing the stupidest thing right now.

CNN is streaming their coverage from 5 years ago and I'm running it. Tears dripping down my face, it's so hard to take.

We were on our way to the pediatrician's office, we had a 9:15 appointment, Big Man's first post-natal checkup, when we saw an enormous column of smoke off in the direction of downtown Brooklyn. We said to each other, "My god what could be on fire in that part of Brooklyn to produce that much smoke?" Gives you an idea the scale - we guessed it was a huge fire, but a mile closer to us than it actually was.

When we got in to the dr's office, people were sort of scrambling to try to get the TV in the waiting room to work. We groused about it, "Jeez it's 9am, who needs TV?" Somebody said something about Windows on the World.

And when we saw the doc, a good guy who used to joke about Big Man's name (in Yiddish, it's funny) he said, "I don't know how to say this, but a plane crashed into the World Trade Center."

I said, "Ha ha. That was 1934, and it was the Empire State Building."
He said, "No, it's true."
I still wouldn't go for it, "Why would you say that? I mean, it's not like that's not something we can check!"
I think he might have convinced us - we got up and looked at the smoke again through the window.

After the exam, we got the baby strapped in the carseat and Bob went into the underground parking garage to retrieve the car. As he drove up the ramps of the garage WNYC kept staticking in and out, and he heard scraps of stuff that sounded really bad. He pulled up, we snapped the carseat into place and pulled away. He told me, "I think one of the World Trade Center buildings collapsed."

I laughed. It was absurd, so I laughed. Then, like it was something that someone ELSE had neglected to take into consideration, I said, "But what about all the people in there?"

I took a break just now to do a puzzle with my three year old geography prodigy. It's the United States - he likes me to hold up each piece and he says their names and tells me where to put them. Calmed me down.

WTC from a helicopter - Bob's birthday present in, I'd say, 1998

This CNN thing is unbelievable. I didn't see it at the time. The reactions by the anchors make them sound so stupid, but we all were - see above.

As we drove back to our neighborhood, it was like it was snowing. "What is this shit?" I remember one of us saying, and the other realizing, "It's ash." We were a couple miles away.

At the time, when was the last time you'd heard the word "hijacked"? You know, it was a Cuba word, an Entebbe word. So strange, I remember it being so current when I was a kid but I guess it got replaced by carjacking. I don't know if it stopped happening but the idea of a screaming political terrorist (my image is Al Pacino, I think Dog Day Afternoon really formed my images of hostage takers) holding a gun to the temple of a stewardess just seemed so 70's at the time.

Thank god we were together. Bob worked for the City about 8 blocks away from the WTC. He would have been fine, but he would have had to walk home across the Brooklyn Bridge. The cell phones went out because the transmitters were on top of the towers, so I wouldn't have been able to get ahold of him. I would have lost my mind.

We didn't even go into the apartment when we got home. The park at the end of our street, Sunset Park, is the highest point in Brooklyn. We carried the carseat up there. People were standing around randomly, all facing Manhattan, not speaking at all. Hands to their faces. Like statues, like Pompeii but standing up. We couldn't see anything but smoke and dust where lower Manhattan was.

One time, my friend Sean visited us in Brooklyn. As we walked to the subway in the morning, I pointed out to him that we had a funny vantage point on lower Manhattan - one Trade Tower completely blocked the other, so it looked like there was only one. Sean shares my taste for speculative fiction so I pointed it out to him as, "What the world would look like if anarchists blew up one of the towers." I knew about the 1993 bombing, of course, but the idea that one of these massive structures could be erased from the surface of the earth was so absurd, it was science fiction.

I cried in the park, looking down at our baby. I knew the world was a violent, unstable place already, but I thought this was probably going to change everything. I felt so bad for him. And as it turns out, we have been at war for his entire life.

9:55am CNN used the words "Osama bin Laden," reporting that he had made threats against the United States. And the guy's still at large? What the fuck?

We went inside and watched CNN and New York 1. The WYNC person on the radio hadn't been able to keep it together. WNYC had transmitters and other equipment up there. Bob's sister Janie and her husband Miles had worked with that equipment.

My daily commute on the subway took me over the Manhattan Bridge. It was a privelege, to come up out of the ground and see the sun sparkling on the river, and at night to rise past the tall buildings with their sparkling lights. One time as we came out into the sunlight, two little Chinese girls in our car crowed, "Outside! Outside!" and Bob and I looked at each other and grinned. We felt exactly the same way.

I would look at those buildings at night and think about how much they were made of air. They looked solid but of course they were just matrixes of cement and steel, honeycombs full of light. It made me think of the structure of solids at the molecular level. They try to tell us that there is more space between the molecules than there is space taken up by the molecules.

I read the New York Times this morning. I have cried more reading that fucking paper than I have cried reading all other literature put together. Some of the companies that had people in the building had bought ads listing their lost. 75 people at one company, over 300 at another. The names were so New York - Economos, Wisniewski, Chen, Pham, Romero, Aquilino, Novotny, Costello, Hafiz, Ranganath.

When the one was gone and the other was still standing it looked so lonely. It stuck up so dangerously.

Everyone I knew didn't die; everyone I knew didn't lose anyone close to them. Everyone I knew who might have been hurt missed it by 'that much.' Mark was late for the train that would have taken him under the buildings. Meghann and her dad canceled their breakfast date at Windows on the World. That kind of thing. There must have been twenty or thirty thousand people working in those buildings. The WTC Evacuation Study reports about 15,000 evacuated. 3,000 died. From the report:
The high rate of survivability of persons on floors in WTC 1 and 2 that were below the aircraft impacts was attributed to the small percentage (estimated at 20%--30%) of the building occupants at their work stations at the time of the first attack

A strong argument against getting to work early. It was such a beautiful day - in my mind I see these lower-Manhattan go-getters deciding, fuck it, I'm going to have an extra stroll this morning before buckling myself into my cubicle. I'm going to sit in the sun and read another section of the paper before going up to work. Those kind of decisions should be the decisions that save your life.

We were so isolated, out there in Brooklyn with our baby. We quit watching the TV when the president started talking about retaliation. I couldn't look at my fragile baby and think of Afghan villages under fire. So we slept, and ate cookies, and had visitors. Lots of people wanted to come see and hold the baby.

Sept 14, 2001

He was so little and beautiful and warm. They would come and want to talk about my labor, and his sleep, and they didn't want to tell their story about that Tuesday. We were like a little vacation from the smoke of Manhattan.

We went into town a couple times right after. My laptop had a virus; someone was moving out of town. My co-workers were astonished that we had tried it: traffic was closely monitored and everyone was still on edge that there might be more coming. Plus the air was awful.

Bob's sister Theresa came for a visit in October, and the first time she caught the scent, she had a violent fight-or-flight reaction. You could see her hair standing on end, her spine stiffen. Her house had burned down several years ago and that disgusting smell, plastic and scorched cement and god knows what, brought her right back to standing in the snow with her family and her dog going crazy watching everything burn.

Fighter jets patrolled the city. Once when I was in college, my two best friends and I went downtown on a weekend day and climbed buildings and explored the empty streets. Downtown Cleveland back then was a ghost town on weekends, it was like a giant movie set.

As we sat on a roof, we saw a pod of F-16s fly past in formation, low, just briefly visible in the space between two buildings. I was chilled: the word "Libya" passed through my brain as the wrongness of that sight struck me right in the heart.

It was the Cleveland Air Show, of course, and those were the Blue Angels. Cleveland not likely to be on the front lines of anything after all. Seeing those F-16s in the air over New York though - that wasn't speculation, or what-if - they were capable of shooting another plane out of the sky. Too late.

Bob stayed home a little past his family leave I think, because his building was being used to shelter rescue workers. When he arrived back at his office there was a stray work boot on the floor.

We passed by the site only once or twice. The amount of space they used to take up is enormous. As you drove by you felt like ducking, like flinching. Like all that empty air would crush you.

Five years later, beautiful blue-sky days no longer fill me with unease (although I'm glad today isn't one). It took me a couple years to realize why days like that made me grim and alert. Once, on a 2004 visit to New York, Jaime commented, "Well you really picked a perfect day to be here," and I replied, "Yeah I keep waiting for a plane to fly into a building." Jaime said, "That's not funny," and Bob quickly agreed. I wasn't making a joke, those days fucked with me like that.

Then a couple years when, in the middle of a beautiful blue-sky afternoon, I'd realize, "Hey! I haven't thought about disaster all day! Til now! Oh." And the day the kids tried on the neighbor kid's football gear, it wasn't til the next day that I realized I went through an entire beautiful day and just enjoyed it.

That's enough. Time to fix lunch for my littlest man.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Your Neighborhood Librarian announces her endorsements

Well, I don't know much about your politics
I only pick up stupid little bits that stick
That's from a song by the Jazz Butcher about the murder of the Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme. Best lines in that song?
Oh, what'd they have to go and shoot him for
Plenty of Prime Ministers deserve it much more.
So, we're about to do primary 'lections. I'm a registered D, big surprise. Ordinarily, in a primary, I vote for the women and the avowedly pro-choice. Also I ask Bob. Oh god, isn't that awful? I'm a housewife and a part-time librarian and I ask my husband who to vote for. Jesus, I might as well subscribe to Women's Day and give up orgasms.

(There's this horrific book called The Surrendered Wife that I picked up because I thought it was erotica. You gotta read the excerpts to believe it, I'm not going to gross myself out by describing it further.)

In my defense, Bob works for The Government and has met a lot of the candidates, plus he's more of a strategic thinker than I am.

So, right, the election:

Ugly (not her, him).
William Donald Schaefer, our Comptroller, has been in a major elected office for my entire life. He's 84 now, and is being challenged for another term as comptroller by Peter Franchot, who has the endorsements and the numbers, and Janet Owens, who is a woman.

Schaefer has always been an impolitic dickhead, calling the Eastern Shore a "shithouse," saying idiotic and offensive things about immigrants and HIV-positive people. He was recently actually videotaped asking one of the governor's assistants to demonstrate her going-away view during a public meeting (kid sued, and I'm glad). He ALWAYS calls female staffers "little girls," and he calls the mayor "Muscles," alluding to the sleeveless t-shirts Mayor O'Malley wore when he used to perform with his Irish rock band. (In his defense, the guy has great arms.)

During this race, Schaefer has blearily focused on Janet Owens. Keeps talking about her hair and her outfits, using terms like "Mother Hubbard" and "little prissy miss." When a reporter asked if he should maybe apologize for this bullshit, he said, "An apology? An apology for what? I can't help it how she looks."

Nice. Like one time I called my ex-husband an asshole and he asked, "Why am I an asshole?" and I ignored the implied second half of the sentence (" this situation") and said, "I don't know. Your mom is nice, your sisters are nice... it's a mystery to me too."

So of course I want to vote for Janet now. I actually think she looks cool, in a I've- had- this- hairdo- since- Eisenhower- and- I- have- more- important- things- on- my- mind- than- figuring- out- a- new- one kind of way.

Look at her: ain't she groovy? So I remark to Bob that Schaefer's so stupid - he's gonna inadvertently get out the female vote cause we're all going to show up and flip a lever for Janet! Woo Hoo! and Bob says, "Well of course the danger there is that all of those voters would have voted for Franchot."

Oh. Huh. Pulling votes away from the stronger opponent and giving them to the weaker one. Splitting the anti-Schaefer vote. Maybe the repellent old bigot isn't suffering from some kind of senile-dementia Tourette's after all.

I do hate it when batshit and crafty look the same.

We also get a new Senator this year.
Sounds-like-a-porn-name-but-isn't Michael Steele will be the Republican candidate, a black man with friends in Vice Presidential places. The major contenders in the Democratic primary are both seasoned Washington men with good track records, Ben Cardin and Kweisi Mfume. There's been some actual discussion about their relative merits - it's been nice, it's really resembled an election.

But the other day the Baltimore Sun (of all things) made a good point. Cardin is white, Kweisi is black (we're on a first-name basis because a part-time magician I used to drink with used to write speeches for him. I'm like that.). If Cardin wins, all the Democratic candidates for the major spots will be white men.

The Sun thought that that might throw some African-American voters over to Steele. I give people more credit than that - I do not think that a black Baltimore Democrat will vote for a Republican simply because he is black.

(I do think that a socially conservative black Baltimore Democrat might vote for a Republican because he is against gay marriage or for school prayer, however, and I think that Democrats are missing this point.) (This opinion I stole from Bob, although I might have formed it myself after getting to know our next-door neighbors, socially conservative black Democrats with two children in Iraq who support the President.)

Too many words - now a brief endorsement for beer:

Ok back to the whole race/politics bummer thing.
When discussing the Sun article with Bob, he pointed out that an all-white Democratic slate might reduce voter turnout. I could see that. Not that, at this point, I miss a chance to vote, but I used to not do it, and I know that if I had a woman to vote for, I made the extra effort to get to the voting booth. And in Baltimore, lower turnout among African-Americans means fewer votes for Democrats. And we do need to get that Republican governor out of there.

So, much as I'm going to miss evaluating Kweisi v. Cardin on their merits, hopefully we can look forward to an actual discussion of the issues in a Kweisi v. Steele race.

In conclusion: Kweisi for Senate! Franchot for Comptroller! Beer for everyone!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Synchronized and wet, but not what you would call water ballet

in the rain

Yeah, sometimes it feels like we're doing things pretty well. Our children are mostly happy and they're properly supervised at all times. Big Man is in a school that doesn't give me nightmares. The house, while never immaculate, rarely grosses me out. There is food in the refrigerator, the TV is hardly ever on, we pay our bills on time and eat whole grains.

On the other hand, sometimes it feels like we are the last people on earth who should be entrusted with children and a house and given drivers licenses.

When the kids have an out-and-out screaming fight because Mr. Three won't call the plastic car by its proper name (and BY the way, Big Man, it's not "Lightning Between," it's "Lightning McQueen," and you don't see ME losing my shit at YOU). When Mr. Three is still in pajamas at noon. When Big Man's lunchbox comes home as full as when he left in the morning.

Take the other night, the night I call the Perfect Urine Storm, the Festival of Laundry.

Big Man shows up by my bedside. "I had an accident of pee in my bed." (Who are you, Antonio Banderas? "I had an accident of pee," please.)

I let him into our bed and heave myself up to go strip his. I halfheartedly pat the mattress down with towels I'm not especially attached to.

While I'm in there, I check the bottom bunk. Mr. Three has flipped himself to the end of the bed, so I try to shift him back up to his pillow. He's sopping wet.

Sighing, I strip the wet nightclothes off his floppy little body and lay him on the dry part of the bed while I pull the sheet, the mattress protector, the comforter, the extra pillow, and the extra blanket off the bed. Big Man had hit the sheet, comforter, extra blanket and pillow. I don't know what they had had to drink before going to bed but my god they peed gallons. Apparently simultaneously.


They've discovered burping. Farting, also. And how fun it is to say 'poop.' We've discussed how yes, those seem like funny words and funny sounds, but grownups don't really agree. So if you really need to say poop, say it seven times in the car, BEFORE we arrive at the funeral home.

Big Man has compartmentalized his potty humor in an interesting way. He has an imaginary friend, Lenny, who calls on the phone (the phone is a Mr. Incredible Happy Meal toy) and wants to talk about poop. We'll be in the car and I'll hear him pipe up:

"Hello? Hello? Is that you, Lenny?"
"Hey guys!" he tells me and Mr. Three, "Lenny's on the phone!"
"So Lenny, what are you doing today?"
"What?! You're going to a poop party?!"
Mr. Three falls out laughing.
"Lenny! Quit it! Nobody wants to talk about a poop party!"

Oh, this is funny. Woo-wee. It can go on for a while.

Last night, Big Man is in the tub and Three is resisting. Being a real pain about it and we don't know why. All of a sudden he hollers, "Need to poop!" Ah that explains the shitty mood. He parks on the potty. At that moment Big Man cries "Me too!" Scrambles out, dries off, sits on the toilet.

Bob, who was supervising the bath, excuses himself. "Well," he says to me, "It's a poop party."

Monday, September 04, 2006

House party

Pirate children

God, there's nothing so satisfying as throwing a decent party.

There is no reason the house party we had on Sunday should have worked at all. We were so completely unprepared: somehow I had NO idea how many people were showing up.

How many people was 66. Granted, that's including us, and including the 5 infants - but my god! 66! I've been to smaller weddings. We ran out of potato salad, we ran out of mac & cheese, we ran out of buns.

Two of the 5 infants

I should have known I was in trouble when, this week, I had the sudden realization that I was scheduled to work the day of the party. I was only extricated from that snafu thanks to the magnanimity and flexibility of my co-workers, whom I totally owe big-time.

But it just got worse: we hadn't bought ice or juice boxes, so at the last minute I had to get my cousin to go buy them. I forgot about the veggie burgers in the downstairs freezer, so the vegetarians went hungry (sorry, Aimee!). And nobody could find the beer.

The first two sets of guests were roped into moving furniture and cutting up tomatos and limes - luckily, the first two sets of guests were the kind of people who arrive, go straight to the kitchen, and ask, "What can I do?"

Makes all that garden work seem worth it

Big Man totally cleaned up on birthday presents - after he and his friends had the orgy of opening them, I squirreled half away in the closet for christmas. No child needs that many new toys all at once.

But I made Bob's Rum of Love, and it was a big hit. Mom, who is not much of a drinker, took a sip of mine and immediately confiscated it for herself. I had to warn her it was solid rum - I have never seen my mom completely drunk and I didn't want her falling down the deck stairs.

And I made pulled pork - made up the recipe as I went along and it was good! But that's why we ran out of buns. Why I didn't ask someone to run to the store for more buns, I don't know, the whole thing is a blur.

And I must say, we have the most terrific friends. There were about 18 kids under ten. They swarmed the front yard, the back yard, did Play Doh on the deck, jumped on the playroom bed, did puzzles, took turns, made up games - all the things you love to see kids doing. And at all times there were grownups playing with them or chatting together while keeping an eye out.

The best part, though, is part and parcel of our unpreparedness. Bob's brother Joe and his wife Jeannie came up Saturday night and spent the night with the kids so that Bob and I could spend our anniversary night at a hotel. It was great, I must have slept 10 hours uninterrupted.

So when we got back here we were so relaxed that I failed to work myself into my usual bitchy nervous hysteria ("People will BE HERE in TWO HOURS!"). That hysteria gets things DONE, but it also makes my husband hate me, and furthermore prompts me to start drinking early, which means I'm often embarassingly loaded at my own parties. Oh man I hate that! Far better to run out of buns.

After everyone left and our kids were asleep, Bob and I sat on the deck and marveled at it. It's so gratifying when the house that you've put together to your (dubious) taste and convenience works for other people too.

I think that it was the house's party. The house made up for our flailiness. We knew we lucked out when we found it, it didn't need any work to speak of, it has a big kitchen and a front porch and a fenced back yard. But jeez we had no idea that it could throw a party all by itself with a minimum of preparation. That's pretty impressive, for a house.

Here's the video:

Well ok Eric found the beer.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Found video

Yet another golden oldie. Here's a video of Bob's mom enjoying her grandson enjoying a bubble machine at his Aunt T's place. Christmas, 2002. He's a year and 3 months old.

Big Five Man way up high

He made it to five. So far, not irreparably damaged I don't think.

Learning to control his freak-outs, thank god, or else six might have been an unlikely aspiration.

Had his first show-and-tell yesterday and for the first time learned the pleasure of eliciting a reaction from an audience. He took the silly glasses, of course, and told his class that Uncle Miles looked the best in them because he has so much hair. He enjoyed performing, which doesn't surprise me, but it does please me.

Look at him, he's getting so big. Mr. Personality.

Here is another picture of him with his dad reading the paper.
He's smaller in this picture. It's early September of 2001, back when you could read the New York Times and also be smiling.

We very briefly thought it was a funny joke that his birthday was 9-1-1. Then ten days later we didn't.

Banana chocolate chip pancakes

2 cups of Bisquick
2 eggs
1 banana
1/2 cup applesauce
enough milk to make a medium-thick batter (about 3/4 cup)
3 chocolate chips per small pancake

Mix it all together. Nonstick griddle over medium heat. I drop the chocolate chips on after I put the batter on the skillet.

Banana and chocolate always taste great together. I put in the banana and applesauce so that I can get some extra fiber and vitamins into the boys. The chocolate chips mean that they eat a ton, and because of the chocolate, I can avoid [scream of terror] maple syrup. Small children and syrup should NEVER be in the same room, in my opinion.

And while they're eating, they tell me what the pancakes look like: "This one looks like a grasshopper's face!" "This one looks like space!" "This one looks like you, Mommy!" Mm-hmm. Very rewarding.