Monthly Archives: September 2013

Mere

Take away the extras.  Take away: the television, the cable, the computer, the cell phone.  Take away: potatoes mashed in butter, 16oz steaks, dessert.  Take away perfume.  Makeup. A new pair of shoes. Breakfast out. pizza delivered.  Take away small talk, political opinions, church.  Take away the dollar store, the fundraiser, the community fair, the cultivated garden, the gym.  Take away modern life.

Take away modern life.  I want to be merely human.  What do I need, and how do I get it, without consuming modern life’s glut of noise and greed? We consume too much and are not sated.  Twinkie after twinkie, empty calories of media and pettiness and food and entertainment.  Some things don’t change in two hundred years:

The world is too much with us; late and soon, Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers; Little we see in Nature that is ours; We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon! This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon; The winds that will be howling at all hours, And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers, For this, for everything, we are out of tune; It moves us not.–Great God! I’d rather be A pagan suckled in a creed outworn; So might I, standing on this pleasant lea, Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn; Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea; Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn. 

We have given our hearts away!  We are out of tune with the planet on which we live, unmoved by the sea, the howling wind.  We are offered “glimpses that would make me less forlorn,” and reject them for a slickly produced two minute weather porno on youtube.

On the hierarchy of needs, water, food, safety and shelter: I have a roof, locks on the door, too much food in the house, a clean water supply.  I have a tribe or tribes, I belong to people and they to me.  I want a pot of soup to share and pen and paper and access to the outdoors.  Take away all of modern life but that.

Oh to be bare, pure.  A thread in the fabric.  Mere.

 

 

 

Food for grown-ups

I’ve told the prince that one of the things you must learn as you grow, along with how to drive, how to ask a girl out, how to be kind, how to look people in the eye, how to be on time, and in general how not to be an ass, is how to like vegetables.

My friend Ruth, proud of her first apartment, asked me over for dinner; she was 18, I was 17.  She made pot roast (ambitious for a teen but not too successful), and she made boiled broccoli smothered in cheese sauce and extra cheddar.  I think the cheese sauce was store-bought and I’m pretty sure the sauce and cheese outweighed the veg; but it was the first time I ever ate and DID NOT MIND broccoli.  The waiting coffin called “heart disease” got a few shiny new brads, but the superhero called good health got a small shot of steroids too.

I can eat any veg.  I choose not to eat limas and a few other losers, but I have learned simple preparations for so many veg, minus the two lbs of cheese, and I am convinced they are the key to a healthy life so I eat them every day.   Phyto this, bio that, the chemistry of why vegetables are so good for you is not fully known.  It’s not just the known nutrients; it’s the way humans are meant to get a whole variety of nourishing shit.  I won’t eat stuff that actually tastes like shit because for me food must be pure pleasure and the following is a purely delicious way to eat one veg.

The last of (imported but cheap) asparagus was available last weekend; I’m the only (grown-up) one who will eat it and I love it enough that I can eat the whole pound+ but have learned from painful experience that that is a bad idea.  Gastro-fill-in-the-blank-ness.. So I buy the pound+ and eat it over 3-4 days.

Rinse a portion of the sparegoose.  Shake off the excess water or let it sit for several.  Snap off the woody end of each and discard.  In a small skillet heat to med high a tablespoon of olive oil and, when hot, snap the spears into two inch lengths starting at the bottom.  Reserve the tops for the last 3-4 minutes of cooking.   Toss the thicker bits in the hot oil until they just start to brown then add the tops, and toss til the the tops and all are a bright green with bits of brown.  Take off the heat, salt lightly, and cover to keep hot.  It’s wonderful as is but you can then add the merest smidge of any of the following: fresh parmesan cheese or a sprinkle of bacon or some fresh squeezed lemon juice or a nubbin of butter or a drip of sesame oil or red pepper flakes or a schmear of almond butter or some chopped toasted almonds or half an ounce of chopped prosciutto or crisp-cooked pancetta.

 

Three that slipped in under the radar

Sometimes a book comes to you with a rave review; when it does there is some pressure to like it, and that can ruin it.  I ruined one for my friend Leanne because she had asked me to list my top five books, and the one I put in the number one spot was one she finished, barely.  I sold fireworks and she bought a bic lighter.  So I won’t oversell these three, which came to me as little nothings: one a gift, one bought at a yard sale, and a third assigned at college. In no particular order (and no these are not necessarily my top five):

Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

The All of It by Jeannette Haien

Words

I was talking with a friend about how much I love words.  Reading is a natural soft spot for introverts but for me it’s more than a hobby, it’s a love affair with this truly peculiar given we call language.  The word language itself, how cool is that?  I’ve forgotten my Latin and am too lazy to look up the root.  Must come from the tongue, lingua.  Just as numbers people play with the possible meanings and connections of numbers I instinctively do the same with words, and fall upon rhymes and misspellings with dismay (“alot”) or delight (“anecdon’t”).

I mentioned anecdon’t in another post; that’s pretty obviously an object lesson, the classic “do as I say, not as I do.”

Another favorite one is oatmean, which of course is what you have for breakfast when you’ve gotten up on the wrong side of the bed.

“Language” the word reminds me of anguish and sandwich, and there is a short story with those three words, for sure.  We only need two characters eager to make themselves understood, failing miserably, and hungry.

i had written to my friend that I see words as pieces of silk, whispery caresses.  Or as tiny smooth river pebbles in which one might bathe at a fancy spa.

Choosing the right words in the right sequence: so mechanical.  Paint by number.  Or, alchemical.  Vermeer.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Our back yard dips down quite low; the back end of it houses the water runoff for the whole neighborhood, so it’s the lowest spot and the wettest.  I don’t know the science behind fog but the yard was blanketed in it and it was enchanting the way snow can be.  The ugliest things: the decaying woodpile from a dead birch, the 5 gallon paint buckets from a neighbor’s honey-do chore, the unwieldy unpruned butterfly bush, all made soft and pretty.
Then on the way to work as the sun gets serious its gold shoots through the corn and vanquishes the damp, winning the battle not the war–  but in the moment as it happens I sense all the vanquishing, of winters and summers and years gone by.  I sense time passing, but collect this minute, this instance of bliss, this sunrise and surge of energy.  Catalogued, banked.
I love autumn, and I love winter.  My mind is most fertile when it’s cold.  Whatever relationship there is between what might be perceived as a soul and the carbon-based fleshy sack around it, in me, is most antagonistic when it’s hot.  Heat makes me sour, irritable.  I take it as an assault on me even as others relish it.  I lose hope for the future.
I love cold, I love being cold, I love breathing cold air.  I’m cheered by it and feel cared for, a secret between me and god him/herself,  a secret code only I understand.

This Moment

I just read that “to be bored is to be inattentive.”

Attention is a bit like appetite: it can be primed, and it can be oversated.  If you are hungry, you could take care with what you choose and sear some scallops in butter, pepper them lightly and finish with a bit of lemon and white wine, and it’s a delight.  Or you could shove some Tastycakes into your piehole until you want to vomit.

At this moment I’m not in the Alice Cooper concert for which I was an usher at 15 years old, at which my capacity for attention was overwhelmed and I had to leave early with headache.

Nor am I in the mandatory three day training last week, in which one must sit uncomfortably side by side with people not of one’s choosing while looking at a powerpoint in one’s lap and on a screen 15 feet before one, and having said powerpoint (so helpfully) read to one by a pre-recorded voice (Oz-like), and, piece d’resistance, having said pre-recording interrupted with asides by a “trainer,” so named for the inadequate training he got from the higher-ups, who themselves are inadequately trained by people even further up who have far too much confidence in their abilities to interpret and transfer information, and in their belief that said information trickles down to us in a way that is consumable—phew, rant largely avoided there, NOT.  In the training, boredom was acute–it was like being on the conveyor belt with Gumby when the sweets were shoved in his face, but instead of sweets it was policy.  Yuck.

At this moment, I’m on the back deck with coffee– “on the back deck with coffee” really is enough, as it evokes such ease and tranquility as I’m experiencing.  But to show the point of the impossibility of boredom when attentive: the air is cool and sweet, the breeze enough to soothe the sunburn on my face.  There is an enormous weeping willow ahead 200 feet on the other side of the yard, a dead ringer for an outsized dripping green ice cream cone or Oscar the Grouch’s hippie sister.  The sound of highway traffic belies our socio-economic status.  In the time I’ve been writing, a dozen or more neighbors have awakened to let out dogs and children to enjoy the sunshine, grabbing their Sunday papers before they go where they will with their coffee.  I have grooveshark up to play Phil Keaggie, just something I was in the mood for.

In this moment, I am grateful.  There are disappointments and aggravations, yearnings that can’t be named, worries for the future.  But in this moment I am suffused with passion for the rest of my moments.  Each a gift.

Welcome to the World of Need

Hi!  Welcome to the World of Need.  If you’re new here, allow me to explain a couple things about the accommodations and decor, what will be expected of you, and what you’ll get for your efforts.

If you have recently left the working class, I apologize for the shitty chairs, the surly service, the crumbs on the floor, the bureaucracy, the inability to reach anyone by telephone, the hour waits to see anyone in person, the lost paperwork, the limited menu of options to help you, the need to verify every burp that comes out of your household, the good intentions, and especially the bad intentions.  While it’s our job to serve you, you will often feel that you’re left begging or yelling to get what you need, and that is a sorry state right there.  It sucks, and I apologize.  Additionally, we will ask you to do a lot for very very very very little, we will wrap it up and decorate it and call it “a leg up,” and you will find it very stressful and demoralizing.  I’m sorry.

If you have recently slipped out of the middle class, upper middle class, or upper class and find yourself with no options but to join us, and you walk in without the natural humility that might come with reduced circumstances and are in fact pretty arrogant about “not belonging here,” well fuck you.  Here’s why.  You likely voted for the shitty chairs and surly service, you grew the bureaucracy to make sure not ONE person got help who was less than deserving, and the result is like ten wasted man-hours to get one family the merest pittance of help.  You thought of the World of Need as a place you’d never be, frequented by lowlifes who want to TAKE*TAKE*TAKE, and then you try to yell at ME because there are crumbs on the floor and you “DID NOT WORK MY WHOLE LIFE TO BE OFFERED CRUMBS, WHAT DO YOU MEAN I DON’T QUALIFY– THIS IS BULLSHIT.”  This is the bullshit you ASKED FOR, because help was for “those people,” and “they” don’t deserve anything.  “They” should be forced to grovel.  Well, when “they” is “you,” and I’m sitting on this side of the desk, BELIEVE ME IT’S TEMPTING.  Please take a seat and shut the fuck up, I’ll be with you shortly.