Tuesday, November 28, 2006

driving somewhere you can touch

We needed gas.
Pulled over in Louisiana, it was a busy little overpass.
I looked up, and in disbelief saw the sign, little chamber
buttons and sure enough, the name of the place where I
was born, Denham Springs.

I could not abide the coincidence. I had seen miles of Mississippi
and the overhangs necessary in the South to not bake but let in
the evangeline breezes.

Sunset fire in Baltimore. This was no random stop-
So I asked the clerk in the quick-n-shop
"do you mind if I ask you a question."
"sure" she said
"well," I said with as much tenderness as I could,
"I was born here. And I don't know anything about this place.
can you tell me in one or two sentences what it's like?"

She thought. For a good spell. Enough time for me to size
her up. A teenager. "It sucks" I was sure I'd hear. But no!

"It's just like the Andy Griffith Show. With more busybodies."

I stood transfixed. Hot damn.

"... And an antique row that used to be Main Street.
And there's the high school
there down the road, and the junior high over there. Shoot, my
Dad and I had the same chemistry teacher, and they still talk. It's
a miracle. Cause he burned all his tables in the lab..."

Welcome back.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

polka dot

Show me your polka face.

  • Blob's Park

  • Nope, not kidding. Please do make your way
    over to Blob's Park one fall evening
    to enjoy Polka and German fare.

    We happened to have been there the night a 15-time
    grammy award winning hop-til-you-drop polka band
    took the stage. We had many pitchers of Heifeweitzen
    and even more sausage- so much in fact that I must troll
    the web for the NAME of this band and write a proper
    review, with photos. Until then- grab your partner.

    Saturday, November 04, 2006

    a cold comfort

    I am thankful for the presence of the cold current at the kitchen door
    for now I bake with abandon at three in the afternoon
    the bread
    the pies
    the promises
    and only crack a window, and a smile at the clever efficiency of it-
    venting the excess heat from this hearth if there were any left over
    from my hands, all flour dust flurries and marks on a red apron
    full of yes.
    I am so thankful for November.

    Tuesday, October 31, 2006

    happy halloween

    "I'm a secret agent man. In polka dots."

    BEST LINE of the night - I only wish I had more
    candy for the tiny little man of mystery, for making
    me smile.

    Our neighborhood is beautiful, diverse, and full of
    kids that "take one" and say thank you, smile and
    wave at me through the french doors. I saw an astronaut,
    carmen miranda, elmo, the scream guy, and various princesses,
    fairies and dinosaurs. But no witches, mummies or frankensteins.

    Perhaps in our day different sorts of characters elicit fear..

    On to sweet November.

    Monday, October 30, 2006

    polka dot

    Show me your polka face.

  • Blob's Park

  • Nope, not kidding. Please do make your way
    over to Blob's Park one fall evening
    to enjoy Polka and German fare.

    We happened to have been there the night a 15-time
    grammy award winning hop-til-you-drop polka band
    took the stage. We had many pitchers of Heifeweitzen
    and even more sausage- so much in fact that I must troll
    the web for the NAME of this band and write a proper
    review, with photos. Until then- grab your partner.

    Sunday, October 22, 2006

    what wine pairs with twinkies?

    It is no secret in certain circles that at one notorious
    office Christmas Party I received a Twinkie Making Kit
    during the secret santa exchange, and that the culprit
    responsible for this heinous gift kept her identity
    a secret until through a diligent process of
    elimination I was able to find her out, and promise revenge.
    And it turns out, revenge is sweet.

    I had forgotten how fake-angry I was until Carri's
    daughter Eva pulled out the lady-fingeresque bake
    pan from one of my cabinets along with the little
    half-twinkie-half-cowboy plastic figurine/twinkie
    storage device and said "whassiss?" Whassis, indeed.
    Whassisdoinginmykitchenstill? The recipe booklet
    fell out of the cabinet. I picked it up, expecting:

    Enriched Wheat Flour - enriched with ferrous sulphate (iron)
    B vitamins:
    Thiamine mononitrate [B1]
    Riboflavin [B12] and
    Folic acid
    Corn syrup
    High fructose corn syrup
    Vegetable and/or animal shortening containing one or more of
    Partially hydrogenated soybean
    cottonseed or Canola oil
    lard and
    beef fat
    Whole eggs
    Contains 2% or less of:
    Modified corn starch
    Cellulose gum
    Sodium acid pyrophosphate
    Baking soda
    Monocalcium phosphate
    Corn flour
    Corn syrup solids
    Mono and diglycerides
    Soy lecithin
    Polysorbate 60
    Calcium caseinate
    Sodium stearol lactylate
    Wheat gluten
    calcium sulfate
    Natural and artificial flavors:
    Caramel color
    Sorbic acid (to retain freshness)
    Color added (yellow 5, red 40)

    But instead, "flour, sugar, eggs, milk, baking powder."
    Seriously? We had to try this. Of course, the recipe is
    not THE recipe, so we were making twinkie-shaped
    yellow cake, but it was fun to pretend.
    Turns out I converted my baking supplies to
    organic a while back, so as an added insult to Hostess,
    they turned out to be Organic Twinkies, and we made
    a chocolate sauce instead of the white...stuff.

    This made me think: "I'll bet Hostess does this in
    the next year or so. Cause everyone else is."
    Even Wal-Mart is "going organic". As if.

    Twinkie-making made for a nice evening.
    We (the adults of course) drank a nice
    Cabernet and had a good giggle about the whole thing.
    In fact, the evening was so pleasant that I
    consider my grievances aired and will not, in fact,
    place a tofu and spinach- filled whole wheat version
    of this otherwise harmless (ok, not harmless..)
    treat outside the door of the sarcastic ms. claus.
    This does not, however, preclude the best re-gifter
    ever. And there are many culinary options to be had
    in the aisles of Toys-R-Us. Many options indeed.

    Oh this thing doesn't really work. I just felt like I was violating the poor thing.

    Zelda and Eva wait patiently for dessert to be served.

    Saturday, October 14, 2006

    embracing pink

    I was walking through cross street market and saw them.
    The pale pinks, the deep rosy tones, the scarlet, which I passed on-
    buying red roses for oneself is...well I don't like them anyway..

    Pink is important in the second or third week of April, when the
    cherry tree out front blooms, sighs, and sheds its rosey robe like
    a burlesque queen. I walk under the heavy boughs and marvel at
    the tissue paper sensuality in that particular shade of blush.

    And speaking of blushing. Very important in many arenas: when one
    blurts out an indescretion, admits a mistake, or realizes, upon a glance, or
    an almost imperceptible brush of pink-laden limbs, that one has fallen in love.

    And then there's the "four-cheek blush." As seen on babies, and "polar bear" swimmers.

    And besides all that, pink makes me feel 'sportif.' Thank you, pink.

    Something to Consider:

    "Here is the crux of the problem, the single greatest obstacle to American literature today: guilt. Guilt leads to the idea that all writing is self-indulgence. Writers, feeling guilty for not doing real work, that mysterious activity, turn in shame to the notion of writing as "craft." "Craft" solicits from them constipated "vignettes" – as if to say: "Well, yes, it's bad, but at least there isn't too much of it." ~Elif Batuman

  • consider n+1
  • Tuesday, October 10, 2006

    the last of the summer peaches

    no by-the-side-of-the-road strawberry stands for me
    no sir
    all-ferocious peach off the tree
    juice down my chin and down to the bayou
    barefoot on gravel
    right before the bitterness sets in
    and never frozen
    and always in august
    sticky sweet first kiss
    and the fuzz stings a little
    on my cheek

    Monday, October 09, 2006

    in the kitchen

    In the kitchen
    You prepare life
    scones and laughter
    In the kitchen
    no matter how wide or narrow
    You can cram everyone in there
    and they'll smile and drink wine
    until it is done
    and the belly aches
    from laughter
    not that apricot cream cheese
    or even the bean dip
    no matter how gassy it gets in there
    from loose buttons and metaphors
    what we all share
    love is that meal-

    When she was little she had little jars
    in which she collected the beans from
    bean bag chairs.

    Sunday, October 01, 2006

    authentic stripes

    authenticity is tricky.
    a cat has no choice - nothing inauthentic about eating, bathing, and sleeping-
    blending into the carpet.
    but when we stop to ponder, there's the rub, and it's uncomfortable.
    often against the fur. ick. an uncomfortable truth.

    ponder, in the cool breeze of early fall, the difference between
    living an honest life, and living an authentic life-

    Tuesday, September 26, 2006

    everyone on the count of three!

    Tonight, on a run with my trainer Amy I had a unique encounter – or, rather, a couple of unique encounters. We were making our way up Federal Hill and were met by a group of youngish people, one of whom thought it would be precious to lollygag behind us making sounds like a monkey. Monkey sounds. Seriously convincing monkey sounds. He kept after us for about a block, until he was tired, presumably – of acting like a monkey. Who wouldn’t be? It’s quite a workout waving around like that, oo—ooing and ah-ahing.

    On the way down the hill, as we passed two men standing beside their crusty blue TAY-ota pickup, one of them decided it would be a grand idea to show us his junk. Not the junk in the back of the truck, folks. The dropping of drawers, not from an old chiffarobe in the back of the truck but from guy #2’s incomprehensibly gleeful shimmying hips was timed precisely as we passed. Truthfully, I didn’t see anything (typical middle aged white guy, no rhythm) – just felt the telltale “whoosh!” of denim as I passed, and, briefly, his smile. He smiled a Cheshire grin, like a mischievous three year old engaged in the same sort of activity, only creepier and with a glint in his eye that could only come from someone who gets his jollies from brushes with the indecent-exposure law. I laughed through a sudden onset of gastrointestinal discomfort and Amy and I exchanged nervous glances. It is not, in fact, a full moon tonight. But there was a full moon in Federal Hill.

    Wednesday, September 20, 2006

    authentic gotham

    I was transfixed by the view from the back of the train. I'd never chosen the last car. I felt as the first videographer - am I watching my very life slip away down the tracks, my eyes could not hold onto the thread of changing light that
    trailed away from me. Les images qui bougent... I can understand how the locomotive was a terrifying technology. The idea of speeding up life was so new at one time, and now we have gone from rocketing our bodies through space to the impossible speed of the disembodied
    persona - and something named after an innocent wild fruit has replaced pen and paper, telephone, and certainly time otherwise spent processing the billion pieces of infomation our brains take in each day. Gotham has arrived, but not so romantic as we'd all hoped.

    "oh, you're there, I thought I'd get your machine and leave a message." Your machine. Everyone used to have one, the thing that captures voices in the ether - no longer exists either. Machines are now as transparent as skin. As I float along at 110 miles per hour, I think, "this could be faster" and all my slow particles beg to return to stillness.

    Monday, September 11, 2006

    holding breath and hands


    I am thankful to speak in my own voice today, to move it around my body, to convince or cajole or support or comfort, to say nothing in particular. From my train window this evening, I see a brilliant sun-painted fa├žade, and purple anemone wisps in an otherwise clear early fall day. This September 11th is more significant an anniversary than every other September 11th only due to our collective experience of learning to count in multiples of five. Year five doesn’t hurt any less than year four, or year six. But it is the five, the ten, the twenty, the twenty five that we mark with heavier hearts, and even heavier marketing, in the name of our collective American Pain. Lest we forget, the media shall remind us, “now more than ever.” What did stick out to me was that this particular September 11th was a meteorological gem. Temperature in the sixties, a light wind, a not-so-toxic smell, a fine mist from the fountains at Columbus Circle, and a very similar crisp atmosphere to the September 11th five years ago. I lamented not having time for a walk in Central Park. Perhaps someone thought the same thing, with more purpose, and abandon, back then - and went to gaze into the lush canopy. A day before looking up meant something horrific had occurred.

    In acting class, we work on breathing. Really breathing. Of course, while speaking complicated text – and for forty seconds on one sustained breath. One can seem suspended in time, above the need to breathe, perhaps. When I was small I would hold my breathe under the tub water and pretend that I could just stay there all day, if I wanted to. The trivia of it seems at once profound and ridiculous to me, considering what happened to breath and to voices and to all that render those involuntary and voluntary acts into the beautiful complexities of nearly three thousand human lives. Their parents and children and spouses and neighbors all held their breath that day. When I watch the documentary images, a child’s little hand counts off in my head.. one-two-three-four-five years ago. Five? Can you count to one hundred in fives? Five years, perhaps, is just long enough. You know you could stay a little longer, if you wanted to. But eventually you have to come up for air.

    Tuesday, September 05, 2006

    all the songs to know by heart

    Sheryl Crow and John Mayer played Nissan Pavillion on Sunday the 3rd.
    There was a buzz in the air, and it wasn't over whether or not Jessica
    Simpson was going to make a surprise appearance and duet with her
    new beau, although we spoke of it in hushed voices, hoping it would not
    happen while expressing a certain morbid curiosity regarding the possibility.

    Sheryl had an anti-war message to transmit, and it was neither
    too wimpy nor too aggressive for my taste. Just right, Sheryl.
    She mentioned her battle with cancer. No bitter diatribe about ance-Lay...
    She was so.. peaceful. A kind Sheryl. Not angry at the world,
    just calmly resolute about her place in it - maybe befuddled
    a bit at the choices made by the powers that be- but
    calmly, soothingly resolute.

    And she rocked. Rocked well. Rocked on.. and she closed with ZED ZEPPELIN..and
    after this very fine show, on behalf of her peacefulness,
    I was ready to wrestle Ann Coulter to the ground and give her
    a big zerbert.. So whatever subtle political magic she's weaving,
    it worked, and worked well. At least on me.

    It was that kind of show.

    But that's not all. Even though I don't routinely listen to her on my
    pink iPod, (yes, the color matters) I found myself singing along. The
    proof of her staying power as an artist was not only in the nearly full
    house (and it's a pretty damn big house..) but in the fact that I and so
    many other single voices in the mass - not all diehard fans -
    knew the words to her ballads, her folky tunes, her delighful poprocks.
    Heartache, forgiveness, compassion,
    gettin' drunk at ten o'clock in the morning - and at least 5 of my top
    10 values for surviving in this insanity we're calling the
    American Way of Life these days... well, it was all there, and the words
    came, and we all sang these melodies together. She gave props to the
    crowd. "Who's in the yard!? hey y'all, we like y'all alot why don't y'all
    quit your jobs and come on tour with us?"

    Oh girl. Just as soon as I get done beatin' up on Ann Coulter.

    Friday, September 01, 2006

    fall finally fall

    But seriously.

    Was this the stickiest summer ever on the East Coast?

    I've been ready for fall since... spring.

    Yea fall!

    Or rather, yea Ernesto. It's not really fall.

    But yea fall!

    More soon..

    Monday, August 28, 2006

    when to stop dancing

    I picked up the canvas bag. It says, "bolsa del mercado"
    on the side, and my sister's name is written in an early
    eighties purple paint pen, bubbly letters, on the strap.
    They spill out, in one pale peachy pink scratched up
    broken and wistful "humpf!" they hit the wood floor.
    I hear some taps. I had tried to muffle the tapping by
    banging and darning and softening the puckered
    bottom one inch near the toe with water. They smell bad.
    Real bad. Sweat that's older than my 9 year old sister, and
    with as much to say.

    Point shoes. They do you no good on the street.
    One grand battement to the face and they're a weapon.
    But somehow, with much ado about being strong and supple,
    they're silent and you're flying. And getting caught up
    on that tip in a pirouette or an arabesque feels better than
    just about anything. And at 32, I've finally got some comparisons
    to make. When it was good, It really was THAT good.

    My contemporaries are retiring, or thinking about it.
    They're going to college, maybe grad school. Some left when
    I did, and have only the memory of long summer classes and some
    hey-days in college and one last stab of the feet into these damn
    satin promises, that we wanted so badly at ten, then eleven..

    In your thirties, it just feels a little ridiculous.

    Point shoes are part of the reason I was mystified by ballet.
    In the early eighties, the sun had not yet set on the superstars
    of that golden era, we didn't know about the cocaine and the
    surgeries and the anorexia and the mayhem, and every little
    girl wanted to put on a pair and pique', or hurt herself
    trying. The frequency with which these too-shiny hard slippers
    had to be purchased would rival any shoe spree on Sex & The City.
    They're expensive, they break in the matter of a few classes, and
    each pair had to be jury-rigged 'just-so' for each foot, each dancer,
    which was a ritual that took time, bloodied fingers, and made me feel
    ...different than other girls. And we know how important
    that is to a teenager.

    I still dance. Out of joy, out of desperation, at weddings, in
    my living room (hey neighbors!) to classical music, to jazz,
    to swing, to brass hop, to crickets.
    Now, I dance on architecture. As much as possible.
    When I can, I dance naked. Preferably in a valley, in the rain,
    and with abandon. Ok I don't have many opportunites
    to do that. But once is better than never. Watch out Colorado.

    Do I give up the shoes? Of course. Will I ever stop getting caught
    doing grand jetes in front of random mirrors in public? Never.


    Sunday, August 27, 2006

    leave room for chocolate cake

    Hopefully I won't go straight to h*ll for sharing this, y'all.

    2 1/2 cups cake flour
    1 tsp baking soda
    1 cup butter
    2 1/2 cups brown sugar
    3 eggs + 1 egg yolk
    1 tsp vanilla
    1 cup milk
    6 T cocoa

    blend brown sugar and butter together
    blend eggs & vanilla in
    blend powders together in separate bowl

    alternate powders and milk
    blend until creamy
    makes 3 9" circle pans (greased well & coated with flour)
    bake 350 for 30 to 35 minutes, check at 15 minutes

    Frosting (you're making a layer cake, kittens..)

    1 lb powdered sugar (around 4 cups..)
    1 stick butter
    enough dutched cocoa to plaster a wall

    Beat the stick of butter
    Add the sugar
    Add the cocoa until you can't take it anymore - should be
    spreadable... Add a little milk if it's too thick. Just a little!
    and a teeny, tiny bit of salt, about 1/8 tsp. Make sure it's
    not too runny..

    Let the cakes cool, set the first one down on your favorite plate, and
    schmear away...

    Sunday, August 20, 2006

    one foot in the bayou

    There are moments when one gets caught up
    in the kind of nostalgia that calls for an afternoon
    of porch cleaning and brass-hop listening,
    red beans in a pot and teary-eyed memory.
    It is Sunday, and I terribly miss the fair and decadent,
    unacceptably humid and charming city that we
    called home for six years.

    And what is there? November will bring an opportunity
    to visit for the first time in too long, and find out.
    I imagine, that with every passing day, and with the
    promise of a cool cleansing fall, New Orleans will
    continue to be reborn. I look forward to finding out,
    even if it means just a small slice. If it's a languid Sunday,
    filled with the old smells and sounds, we might
    just have to come get our clothes and stay awhile, as they say.

    'she got one foot in new york city,
    one foot in the bayou'

    Monday, August 14, 2006

    Thursday, August 10, 2006

    tea with zelda bijou

    I highly recommend Sarah and Desmond's Organic Cafe in Ellicott City, Maryland if you're in the
    area. Good food, nice atmosphere; and, at least while I was there - WiFi (probably from a neighboring

    Zelda Bijou my African Queen

    "Hello Ruby Hobby Newbie. How are you booby cat?" I chirp as I walk through the front door.
    "hey girl, killed some stuff today." I hear Zelda’s voice as a thirty-something African-American woman, my earthbound angel and voice of reason. She’s brown and beautiful and striped like the grass cats of the African veldt, and she knows about me. She knows about my last nerve, the one that needs to be calmed down after a day of bosses and clients and misunderstanding. The nerve that needs healing, the one we all have. I can see it in her liquid eyes, she's licked the frying pan from breakfast, eaten some bugs and thrown up $15 worth of organic cat food under the piano bench. It’s all good.

    She wakes me up twice a week for a physical. She makes her silent entry into the bedroom, and pads lightly on my back with one paw. Wake up, sleeping-huge-hairless-food-giver. I turn over and greet her with a scratch on the head. If I don’t, I get a backrub under the shoulder blades. “Goooood Kitty.” Today, I turn. She starts at my hips, gesturing at my organs, finding the energy, and works her way up to my breasts. She lingered this day, making biscuits, her delicate pads were concerned, and she grumbled and purred, sitting at my waist. You are not well. Where do you hurt? She nudged, and insisted. Tears came, she was right. My heart ached, and I cried for her tenderness to say my name and reassure. I wanted so badly to know why I hurt, to find a salve, to pet my Zelda on the head and change my life. Cats know this.

    Saturday, August 05, 2006


    Who flanks you? Who is at your side,
    at the ready, honest and willing to
    divine words when none will come,
    or celebrate with you when they flow freely?

    Andria, the founder of Flanked (www.flanked.org)
    used prize money from an award (unheard of!!!)
    to start this conference, a diverse group of women,
    a fabulous group of writers who
    have inspired and moved, cajoled and
    conjured together this weekend..

    And so I carefully glance around now
    for who does, and who will flank me.

    Our literary guest speaker tonight was Tayari Jones, author of Leaving Atlanta and The Untelling.