Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween!

I may decide to wear a paper bag over my head just so I can go around and collect some free chocolate. Or my dog can dress up as me and I'll dress up as her.

Freckles and Constellations

I fell asleep early and woke up at four o'clock this morning. When I brought my dog outside I saw the Big Dipper constellation on the horizon, it was tilted on its handle, pouring milk into the sky. Perhaps God is left handed and pours the milk towards the handle. Who knows how it's done in the sky. Who said it was milk in the sky? I did. I guess with the Milky Way and my love of cows I just imagined the big dipper was pouring milk. The trees are bare and the sky is freckled with stars. Imagine having your freckles read as constellations.

Fingerprints and Labyrinths

I picture everyone's head as a labyrinth. We grab onto our ear lobes, tilt our skulls, and the shiny little metal ball rolls, finding its way down another path, and then another, until it hits a dead end. Then we tilt and swirl and try to find the path again. We go through life tilting and turning trying to navigate the maze. Each person's labyrinth is as unique as the pattern and grooves of their fingerprint. This is why it's tricky to find out how to help a person. Although some people can look right at us and see our labyrinth. They can tilt our head and we get it.

She's Got Weimaraner In Her

My dog has tufts of hair growing between the pads of her paws. It makes traction difficult on linoleum, and the snow and ice collect there forming ice balls on her feet in the winter. Then she tries to walk without touching the ground! She'll lift one paw, then another, and then a different one, trying to lift off like Mary Poppins. I try to clean out her paws and that sometimes works, otherwise I carry her home. Last winter I got dog booties and we put them on her, which surprisingly she didn't mind. She's got Weimaraner in her, she doesn't mind getting dressed up. Anyway she ran like lightning, her usual speed, through the snowy cemetery. By the end of the walk the booties were shredded to bits and looked 1,000 years old. Maybe this year we should sew some out of leather scraps for her. Purple or green booties would look great with her red-brown fur. Maybe one yellow and one orange one too.

Monday, October 30, 2006


I know a few couples who keep nothing but a plastic gallon jug of spring water and a few condiments in their fridge. To me this would be like deciding to sleep on a box spring without pillows or a mattress. How can they live like that? Don't these folks ever eat? I know they do, they have invited me over for home-cooked gourmet meals.

When we were about to move into our house we were so excited and overwhelmed at the task ahead of us. We had to move our individual workspaces and our apartment into one location. We discussed a plan to move our workspaces slowly and methodically, while still living in our apartment, so as not to disrupt our lives. On the day of the closing, it finally hit me; we own a house! Oh my god, let's pack up the contents of the fridge into a cardboard box and go over there. We did! And as far as I was concerned we had moved. Over the next few days with the help of our friends, everything else followed. Home is where the fridge is.

I discovered that these nearly empty fridges belonging to these successful couples were not about busy lives; these couples didn't trust themselves around food. I'll admit I am a big snacker and continuous dreamer of food. I personally don't think there's anything wrong with a few dozen mini-lunches or supper-like snacks in a day. I have friends who say that's all well and good but I can't keep chocolate in the house. Another will say I can't keep cheesecake in the house. Another will say I can't keep ice cream in the house. I confess, I can't keep cauliflower in the house! Yes it's true, it never even makes it from the grocery bag into the fridge. As soon as I get home it's like I've been let out of a twenty-year prison sentence, missing and craving an important vitamin only present in cauliflower. I rip apart the hard white brain, after mixing up a blend of mayonnaise and ketchup into the inexplicably-named Russian dressing, and I dunk the white brain clusters into the pink goo and chow down happily until it's all gone.

Crisp and Blurry

Most people remember their first kiss, or their first beer. I remember my first cup of tea, which immediately led to my first cup of coffee. I was 16. I can't believe this is legal, I thought! A door had opened and I wanted more. In high school, while my friends were taking drugs and drinking, I was plugging in the coffee pot as my parents drove out of the driveway. My skin tingled and I could focus and concentrate. I could paint three paintings in a day and in between dance wildly to Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. I loved it! I thought I had found my first God. I started making more paintings and pastel drawings under the influence of my newfound beverage and wondered if I could ever work without it.

Yesterday a kind man with sleepy eyes who I've seen regularly at the jams bought my husband and me each a beer. We had just shared one, which is usually about right for the night, and here we were, each with another. I smiled and thanked him and wondered where I would hide it or pour it when he wasn't looking. Maybe if it takes me three hours to drink that will be about right. But would it stay cold? To me that's the best part about beer, the ice cold temperature and the bubbles. After a few sips my edges start to blur. I guess people want this. I prefer the sensation of crispness most of the time. We had another jam to go to and shortly after arriving I felt really sleepy. I asked the waitress for a cup of black coffee. Ah, yes. The coffee gave me a sensation of crispness, creating a boundary on my skin and a calming sensation in my torso. I sat up straight. No more blurry edges. I spotted a piece of Halloween chocolate in an orange plastic pumpkin head sitting on my table and nibbled it with my sips of hot black coffee.

But it's not just the beverages themselves that are enjoyable but the associations and combinations that can enhance the experience. Even the hours in between can make enjoying these pleasures all the more delightful. That may be what defines a ritual. For me swimming enhances my enjoyment of hot tea and coffee, and playing music and sweating makes drinking an ice cold beer quite refreshing. My husband used to enjoy a late lunch after a day of teaching science at a local high school. He'd walk home, make a sandwich, and enjoy it with a beer while sitting in the bathtub.

Ritz Crackers and Canned Laughter

My pal Rachel told me she's baking Woonsocket French-Canadian meat pies with a special ingredient; Ritz Crackers. This reminded me of how much I loved Ritz Crackers when I was a kid. I'd always take three at a time out of the waxy paper tube and shove them in my mouth all at once, chewing madly. Then I'd stick out my tongue while looking in the heavy glass mirrored light-switch plate, on the white tile wall of our kitchen. This was also the age when my sister and I would tune into I Love Lucy on the black and white television set that was often hidden but occasionally wheeled out of my parents bedroom closet. TV was considered a bad thing in our household so, wanting to be a good girl, I tried not to pay full attention to it. I would stare in another direction while my sister watched with rapt attention. But not wanting to be fully left out either, whenever I'd hear the audience laugh, I would force a laugh, chiming in with the canned laughter.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Coinciding Dents

Have you ever driven in traffic and have a car turn towards you dangerously, and you notice they already have a dent exactly where they are about to hit you? What a metaphor for the human psyche. We have to watch out that we don't keep falling back into the same dent.

I knew a couple who got hit on the right side of their car as they were making a right turn into their driveway. So they decided their driveway was very dangerous and they would, from that point on, drive around the block, face the traffic and always turn left into their driveway. When we went over for dinner they warned us to do the same but I never would, it seemed ridiculous to me. Then one day I figured out what must have happened. When planning to turn right, they must have turned left to make a big spacious loop in order to turn right, not realizing that the car behind them really believed they were turning left and thereby attempted to pass them on the right. Because they never examined what they did wrong in order to prevent it from recurring, they just continually avoided turning right. Many people run their lives this way. A guy we met from Manhattan said I was in Brooklyn once I got a parking ticket there, I'm never going back!


When I was six I visited my biological father and he explained reincarnation to me. My first thought was that I'd come back as a coffee pot. The coffee pot was always sitting beside me at the breakfast table. I loved the distortions and reflections I saw when looking into the shiny metal percolator. I would stare into it moving my face and fingers. It was my little fun-house mirror.

Now I only think about reincarnation when I think about suicide. But as I told a friend one day, I'm convinced that if I dared to take my life, I'd probably be reincarnated as a cockroach. Not just any cockroach, a NYC cockroach! What a horrible thought. I remind myself of this on my darkest days, to make myself laugh, when a jump off the bridge almost seems appealing, rather than having to endure any more psychic pain.

Slow Down

Preconceived notions and expectations get me in trouble because they are self-defeating. I tell myself to surrender all the pictures I have of friendship, success, how my workdays ought to go, the definition of a balanced meal, and the importance of matching socks! All of these plans should be shed like snake skin. Hit the refresh button and update yourself to reality.

It seems everything takes longer in real life and we are continually trying to live up to our minds-eye's speedometer. Do dairy farmers have this problem? They are pastors of the pasture, ministers of the earth. You can't rush a cow giving milk. Hey, where are we all rushing off to anyway? Maybe the day should be 48 hours long with two chunks of sleep. Would that help slow us down? How about a day of not looking at clocks, just relying on our own circadian rhythms? This weekend we move the clocks backwards, out of daylight savings time, to daylight wasting time. I don't mind, I actually like the early morning brightness and the early night can feel cozy when you are able to keep warm.


We receive signals all the time yet can we receive each other? Can we stop, look into each other's eyes and really listen. Is there room? Or are we preoccupied, swirling in our own tornados, where it's just too windy to focus, concentrate, or receive what is all around us.

Friday, October 27, 2006

A Colorful World

If I ever stole decorative kale I'd get caught and have to go before the judge and say yes sir I was stealing purple and green kale from the grounds of the local office park. I'd explain that I'm sorry but he must know how delicious it is steamed and eaten with olive oil and salt. Better to feed a hungry artist than decorate a parking lot!

Last night we went to a jam and one of the guitar players was introduced as The Judge. He wore a black coat and tie, and had rosy cheeks and shiny shoes. It's true he really is a judge. He was enjoying a beer, had loosened his tie, whipped out his guitar, and rocked out! I imagined him deciding the fate of people's lives and then pictured him playing his electric guitar in the courtroom! I realized how close-knit this community is and I love it! If I ever got in trouble for stealing kale I hope he'd be my judge. Or is that against the rules?

There used to be a lifeguard at our local YMCA who was also a lawyer and a nun. One day she gave me a lift on her motor-scooter. My glamorous realtor friend plays competitive soccer a few nights a week. A few women friends of mine grew up taking apart and working on cars with their dads. A food writer friend of mine wades in hip boots to go fly fishing in the river whenever she gets a chance. A wacky unemployed smart guy I know is obsessed with keeping a collection of hundreds of orchids. A guy I met at a Christmas party is a criminal prosecutor by day and a Sunday bread baker. He loves to cultivate his own sourdough yeast from grape skins. I was at a jam recently and met a beautiful young woman sitting with her sax-playing boyfriend. We were chatting and I asked her about her work. It turns out she's a police-woman and she wants to play the sax too. I told her go for it! One day I was walking my dog in the cemetery and one of the local cops was parked there. We got chatting and he told me he dreamt of writing a book. Do it, I said. Listen to that voice and follow it. It makes for a very colorful world.


Now that our faith in spinach has been shaken, let me say a few words about kale. What an amazing and delicious green vegetable and so inexpensive too! It's not as fragile and perishable as spinach. It's a hearty robust green. It's loaded with important vitamins, B6, calcium, iron, vitamin A. If you steam it in a pressure cooker it takes three minutes. Then I like to douse it with olive oil and kosher salt or soy sauce and enjoy it with gusto! Popeye never had it so good. Save the green kale water from steaming, it has vitamins too. You can drink it salted as a hot broth or use as a base for soup or as the water used in baking bread. I've often thought if I were really in a fix I could "liberate" the purple and green kale bouquets planted as decoration around office parks.

Soul Food

I tell myself that pursuing my artistic dreams feeds me and this is an important form of soul food. In this crazy world it's crucial to nourish my soul. This is why I play in the jams, this is why I write. I ask myself, what is most important in my life? Will I nurture and grow it, and keep it alive? I need not be Mozart in order to play music and I need not be Julia Child to play in my kitchen. I wouldn't expect that of anyone. So I won't put that kind of burden on myself.

At the jams things are often chaotic and not at all predictable. Sound volumes shift burying some, accentuating others, some hosts get drunk or stoned losing track of who plays next. Some musicians thrive on the chaos and others are exasperated by it and some jam hosts have much better leadership qualities than others. One friend said for him the chaos of the jam is a microcosm of the chaos of his day-to-day life and he finds it refreshing to practice coping with whatever flies at him. I try to tame my level of expectation before I go to the jam and remember I'm there to be brave and to learn, and it's often really fun! Some nights at the jam I look around and it's magical. We're all playing music and people are dancing. There's color, light and sound and we're all one joyous sonic love cluster moving like happy bugs. Hey, The Sonic Love Clusters could be a band name!

When I hit a wrong note I often laugh. I am a beginner so I have many awkward and inexperienced notes flying out of me! My fingers sometimes jump ahead, or switch keys dancing their own way. At first I thought everyone would banish me from the universe or drop down dead if I landed on a wrong note. You're convinced it's the worst possible thing but if you immediately correct it, you realize it's not so criminal after all, it's actually kinda funny and besides, life goes on. The notes vanish. It's not like you have to step over the pile of them on your way home.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Share Your Bread

Last night we walked Honey in the dark to the local pharmacy to get mini Dove dark chocolates to enjoy with a shot of piping hot black coffee. Chocolate is a cold weather comfort. I've heard that in Spain and Mexico and France chocolate is a food! We should learn from this. What are they doing at the UN? Where's the international council on chocolate? That proves it, we need more women in office.

I'm kissing the Earth, grateful that my autumnal post-summer blues have dissipated into a focused contentment. Today I appreciate everything, even dust! It makes such a difference to be engaged in what you really care about. It is horrible to hate your job. I've been there, it's a prison and a cancer that spreads into hating your life and everyone around you. Pay attention to what you love and follow it like a bloodhound even if the scent goes up a tree.

Speaking of trees, this morning the cemetery caretaker was surprised to see me so early. He was just arriving to deal with the infinite piles of fallen leaves. The headlights were still lit on his truck. He asked me if I saw anyone sleeping on a grave. I said no. He said yesterday he found a homeless man passed out on the grass behind one of the headstones. Maybe the guy was practicing for his next journey. The caretaker called the police, and the policeman apparently kicked the man's shoe three times to wake him up. Maybe he was a deep sleeper. The caretaker said these homeless guys get a check every month, why don't they just rent an apartment together? I said maybe they are caught in a swirl and can't see the horizon. Y'never know what demons, addictions or mental illnesses people are fighting. Why is there such hostility for the down and out in this country? Are we that out of touch?

My grandfather had a little fans-and-motors store on the Bowery called United Blower, and when I visited him an occasional bum would wander in to use the bathroom in the back of the store. My grandfather said, "I give them a bathroom and I take them out for a good breakfast once in a while." Today I am thinking about charity and gratitude. Do we appreciate what we have? Can we share our bread with others? It's that simple.

As I kid I decided I was adopted and my mother was just keeping it from me. When I was five I tried this theory out on her. She adamantly denied it. As I got older I searched for clues in our family photographs. I saw my legs and blue eyes were like my grandfather's. My eye sockets and toes resembled my mothers. I'll always be an orphan inside, but I am my grandparents' child because they really loved me and accepted me.

Whenever I do something wise or good for myself and it seems to come out of left field, I say it's my inner grandmother guiding me. Like when I suddenly decided to put a three-dollar ad in the local paper, "looking for accordion," and a sweet old French lady named Madeline called me and offered me hers. And then five years later, I decided I just had to find an old bari sax, and I did. And more recently when I needed to rejoin the Y.

We all have an inner mother and an inner father, but we also have the inner demon mother and the inner demon father and we must house, clothe and feed them all.


One night at a jam my trombone-playing pal emptied his spit valve. It let out a steady steam of moisture into the arch of my left shoe. I told him what just happened and roared. You couldn't do that if you tried! I have a fantasy of playing in an all girl brass band, inspired by The Dirty Dozen Brass Band. We'd call ourselves The Spit Valves.

I am fascinated by quiet early morning hours the way my musician friends are fascinated by late night hours, it's the same hours but we come at them from opposite sides of the day. I had a friend who was searching for months for an affordable apartment in NYC finally he was offered one if he legally promised to be out by nine AM each day and he could return no earlier than five PM. Someone else would be renting his apartment as an office by day! With my hours, perhaps I could share one of these apartments with one of my musician friends.

This morning I walked through the cemetery admiring the hydrangea as my dog ran ahead of me tracking the scent of a deer. The trees are golden and reddish and varying shades of orange. The rose-colored bouquets of hydrangea are drooping and dry and their leaves are turning from green to a limy yellow. The plant looks like old-fashioned couch upholstery. Looking around at the autumn trees I feel as if I'm walking through a sepia photograph. The clouds parted, revealing an early morning orange light, accentuating the tint.

The tone and color of a voice have a huge impact on me. The more resonant tones draw me in. I have a friend with a voice so beautiful I could ask him to read the phone book and not be bored. This is primal stuff. His voice lights up my torso like a pinball machine. What if we all just murmured and growled and barked for a day. I bet we'd understand each other perfectly from the tones and textures. My dog does.

Sometimes I think singing and dancing are primal art forms, because your body is the ultimate tool. There's no need to buy canvas, paints brushes, reeds, all that expensive stuff. It's just you and your body! If I tried to sing, and I want to, I fear bugs and furniture would suddenly fly out of my mouth. I used to sing along with Patsy Cline in my blue VW Bug. The sound would bounce back off the shallow windshield amplifying my tones. Sometimes when I was really angry I'd scream at the top of my lungs while driving. Cars are both magnificent sound studios and tanks.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Mud Flap Maiden

I woke refreshed at three-fifty this morning after having narrative dreams; I was dictating to my blog head the virtues of pressure-cooking beans, and my dog was scratching a flea. I love waking at four. It's as quiet as a Sunday morning.

I am out of working elastic in my bras and have been putting off replacing them. It's only been 12 years, jeez if they made them out of metal they would last a century! This morning I discovered the torpedo bra I had bought years ago to wear in my 50's dresses. I put it on and I looked like a woman in a racy comic strip. It's hilarious! Lifting these mud flaps up, I can see my hips again! I'm a blogging mud flap maiden!

Pressure cookers are another amazing invention. For years I've threatened to bring my 27 year old Presto Pressure Cooker to demonstrate steam cookery at the annual Steam-Up at the Steam and Wireless Museum. I did teach a pressure cooking class once. It was fun. We made applesauce in three minutes, brown rice and beans in 20 minutes, steamed kale in three minutes and lamb stew in nineteen minutes! My friend visited Tibet and when she got up in the mountains the monks were cooking yak meat and barley in gigantic pressure cookers. One day a few years ago I wrote a fan letter to Presto telling them my passion for my Presto cooker. They asked me if I minded if they hung my letter in the lobby at their headquarters.


Swimming has brought my thoughts back to bodies and the beach. My Grandmother Sophie took me to Brighton Beach when I was five and she bought me a huge thin flat potato knish from the knish man. He was walking the beach shouting "Hot knishes, Get your hot knishes here." He had a tattered shoulder strap attached to a banged up insulated metal box that held warm knishes wrapped in large pieces of waxed paper. It was summer. I remember when we approached the water I noticed all the bodies; especially the old men and old ladies. Everyone was swimming or standing in the water. Some old ladies were wearing black dresses in the water. It was my first exposure to the urban ocean of Brooklyn's Bombay. Grandma would always carry a Tupperware quart bottle of water in her beach bag and after our swim she'd have us sit on the boardwalk bench while she rinsed the sand off of our feet before we returned to her apartment. We weren't allowed to go inside the regular front lobby entrance when we were in our bathing suits. We went behind the building down the cool back alley to the gray basement laundry room to catch the elevator.

Body Knowledge

One of my favorite sensations I remember from when I was a kid was swimming in a cold pond and then laying down on a hot dry dock in the sun. The feeling of having swum gave me a sensation of inner peace that I have never found any other way, this is what brings me back into the water. One night I was treading water in a cold pond for a long time feeling just my own warmth gushing out of my neck. I loved it. I felt heat all around me while being immersed in the cool. I love cold water on my skin, it helps me know the physical boundaries of where I am, where skin meets water or when walking outside on very cold days, where air meets skin. The YMCA pool is a very warm 83 degrees so I often feel like I am swimming in semi-congealed chicken soup or warm turquoise jello. The water is heavy and yet it's holding me up. The boundaries are blurry.

The body is one big antenna, satellite dish, or what I call a ziti. We pick up signals, stuff flows though us, and zaps us all the time. The conscious mind is continually trying to decipher sensations or ignore them! Our job is to be the ziti and the antenna and serve the flow of energies. When I'm painting a picture my color choices come from my abdomen. When I play my horn I feel low notes in my calves and I shake my legs. Dancing is fun and I have accidentally danced my way into various states of body euphoria. There's a particular sensation that seems to be triggered when I tilt my head back in the height of a dancing froth. It originates in my neck and drops down. Then I get a gigantic slow gut rush up through my abdomen and spine, it feels like the Earth and the sky momentarily exchange places through me, creating what I call a body-gasm. Hey, let's dance! Playing music is swimming in sound. Recently I was watching and listening to a guitar player take a solo at a jam. I had a gut rush from my groin through the top of my head, whoosh. I was startled, but I kept on playing.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Sourdough Starter

I baked my first loaf of bread when I was fifteen. It was for my tenth grade art class banquet. I made the wheat soy sesame bread from Diet for a Small Planet and it came out perfectly. Round risen golden loaves with the ultimate perfume. I was hooked and have been baking bread ever since. A few years ago I decided, reluctantly, to cultivate a sourdough starter. Since I've got no patience for house plants I was skeptical. But I kept this jar of pale mud in my fridge and basically I left it alone. If I was baking bread I'd use a blob of the starter and replenish it. Over time I'd lose track of it but it didn't die. I was secretly disappointed. I didn't want another thing to have to maintain. I continued to use it and replenish it, making bread with an occasional blob. The instructions say if three weeks have gone buy without using it throw out a blob and replenish it so it won't sour to death. I can't throw anything out, so I keep making bread with a sourdough blob thrown in. Years have gone buy and the taste of the starter has developed into a deep sour, giving the loaves an amazing flavor that develops over the week as we eat it; it gets better rather than going stale. I can't break the culture of yeast now! I realized this jar of starter has been keeping me baking bread. Maybe that’s the real reason why they call it starter.

We Cultivate These Things

I'm having a public love affair with life. I am writing in large bold type while wearing my glasses. I am in my plaid pajamas and summer bathrobe with a mug of hot weak naked tea beside me. The house is cold but feels good like an icy swim on my skin. I feel heat from my neck and goosebumps. I have eleven years of dust and paper piles in my office. I'm still wearing jeans from the Carter administration. I need to find a shoemaker.

Writing is freedom. We have unbelievable freedom in this country. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise even if they have advanced degrees. We can write paint and dance the way we want. It’s easy to forget this and be sucked up into the cultural indoctrination surface swirl. Dive deep and examine your thighs, and your thoughts.

When I first started writing I used to get up every few minutes and go to the window to check and make sure my mother was not out there with a gun aimed right at me. One day I saw a man on the street pointing at my house and nearby properties, he was looking up and down the street. I was sure he was the hired assassin assessing his angle for the kill. That’s when I knew writing was very important and I must continue. As a kid I would only write my dreams in my sketchbook and even those were psychoanalyzed. But now I am free to write, I am no longer living under a fascist regime.

Freedom doesn't take the fear away, it includes the fear. But we must use the combustible mix of fear, joy, love, and rage energies with a heavy dose of compassion, tolerance, and patience. Every day a kaleidoscope, a new mix of weather, news, emotions, hungers, dreams and fears. We are walking palettes and the brushes are in our hands.

Underwater Musings

This is my first attempt at sonar. I write because I am often lonely and I love the company of words. Words are little sparks of sound with meaning, each with an ancestral heritage of its own. I write because it’s how I feel my way through the dark. Words are my path of bread crumbs which may lead me out of the forest or in deeper.

I would like to remain a ticklish dolphin well into my old age, swimming in the underwater sun patches at my local YMCA pool. I love to see the ancient ladies methodically swimming laps, flowing through the turquoise tinted water. Just to be near them is equal to being fed chicken soup by five grandmothers. These ladies swim daily. Some have translucent skin with blue and green veins, bruises, scars, and brittle bones. They all have rosy cheeks and hearty laughs. They are beautiful. This is the chlorinated community church of the underwater aqua mamas.

Life is not the thing that begins after you ban leaf blowers and clear away junk mail. Life includes all the things that come along including fear and centipedes. Life is now. I tell myself; swim, write, paint, play your horn, cultivate courage in spite of fear, celebrate absurdity, imagination, and have fun. Laugh and learn. Find out who you are. What else are we here for?

Sometimes I wake at 4 am, and I mix up a batch of sourdough and realize the mailmen and milkmen are already beginning their day and my musician friends are just getting to sleep, and I am upside down from the perspective of those living on the other side of the planet.