Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Just Say No To Wretched Excess

The holidays are upon us -- and so is the glut of catalogs that meet me everyday at the front door. Not only do they junk up my personal space and our environment, these catalogs junk up my mind with a steady stream of throw-away lifestyle issues. Like: Is there a maximum personal polar fleece load? How much bioengineering did it take to make that pear? If I need a "smart spoon", what does that really say about MY intelligence? Are there that many people who actually still use the fountain pen? And, if my husband wears that, do I really want to be married to him?

On top of all this emotional turmoil, I also have to deal with the guilt of knowing that our ACL (annual catalog load) took some town's whole rainforest away. It's enough to make a person eat tinsel. But then, a star appeared in the internet sky, and I rode my cyber camel to a place called Catalog Choice. You can go there, too.

The nice people at the Ecology Center worked their green fingers to the bone to give us what is, possibly, my favorite Christmas present this year. (A thankful shout out goes to the National Wildlife Federation and the Natural Resources Defense Council for their endorsement of the site.) Through Catalog Choice, an easy-to-use website, you can set up a FREE account that will stop catalogs from coming to your home. You can actually pick and choose which catalogs you want to put a stop to (e.g. the toddler toy catalogs that you are still getting even though you kid is now in college), and still receive the ones you like to peruse. And for the wafflers among us, there's a function to restore a deleted catalog later. I can hear the wind whistling through my mailbox already.

Hark! The herald mail bags sing!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Mourning Becomes Non-Electric

I'm doing right by Al Gore. I have just installed two of these solar lights to illuminate the many dark and treacherous paths that ring the house. Okay, I just staked the darn things into the ground.

The gal at the overpriced-gardening-store-that-goes-by-two preppy-names insisted that they would light up a football field after soaking up 15 minutes of sunlight.• They were on sale, so I got two of them.

She was such a liar. I hope her pants are on fire, 'cause these lights sure ain't. Now I have $70 yard art that barely couldn't make a chipmunk cast a shadow. I have moved the solar panels that came with the lights to every sunny location conceivable, all for nothing. Cigarette lighters are like blazing torches compared to these lights. Matches could give them a good run for (less of) the money.

Still in the Al Gore state of mind, I am wondering what I could use these useless light fixtures for, a kind of recycling revenge. I 'm thinking of options like:

1 - Home security device. This baby could pack a punch after a good wind up.

2 - Modern art conversation piece. I have seen $multimillion exhibits of stuff that looks just like this at MOMA with written placards nearby that explain, "This is a retrospective piece from the artist that explores his relationship with is family vis a vis the existential experiece he had once in Chelsea with a bologna sandwich."

3 - Inverted, a grapefruit juicer.

4 - Inverted and filled with ice, a party acoutrement.

5 - Worn on the head, a protective device to ward off whatever they are dropping on us this week from Langley.

6 - A decorative tomato stake for early spring.

7 - A Christmas gift for Ralph Nader, mailed off with a note reading: "If I can organize a big splashy press event in my front yard featuring the injustice of this well-meaning purchase -- that features you, of course -- can you get my money back? PS Did I mention it will feature you?"

8 - With some slight modifications, a Mission-style WII controller grip.

Better to light a candle, than curse the darkness, as they say. I'm handing out flashlights from now on...with rechargeable batteries, of course.

* I am such a sucker for retail promises. I just know that salesclerks everywhere start laughing as soon as I pull out of the parking lot. "She went for that old line?!" Guffaw, guffaw.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Abe and the Honest Turkey

For those of you who cook for Thanksgiving, but are also a tad conflicted about all this colonial plenty, give a listen to my Thanksgiving commentary for WAMU. I call it "Abe and the Honest Turkey." It has something to do with Thanksgiving, but owing back to a more recent time -- and perhaps a time more similar to the current one.

My friend Donald was kind enough to send me a link to a speech from Wampsutta (also known as Frank James), an elder of the Aquinnah Wampanoag tribe. It was this tribe that was allegedly invited to the original Thanksgiving dinner. Many people believe that it was more likely that the Indians provided the food, but were not allowed to sit down to eat with the Pilgrims. It was normal practice of that time for colonists to sell Indians into slavery in Europe, so this lack of hospitality -- on the part of the white man -- would not have been surprising. Wampsutta recounts what happened to the Wampanoag at that time and since. He made this speech in 1970.

It is not surprising that many Native Americans regard this holiday as the Day of Mourning.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

This Unabomber Still Likes Chocolate

This just in from my friend Karl, who found this potentially dangerous person in my front hall this past Halloween. Authorities have been notified.

Suspect fled with a large paper bag and a flashlight. No other items taken. Investigators believe the suspect may have returned to the scene several times, as evidenced by trails of candy wrappers that were left throughout the house. These later found by owners. Forensics experts believe that the suspect prefers Reese's Peanutbutter Cups, not the kind with crunchies, but the regular ones.

Neighbors witnessed several suspicious individuals nearby on the night in question. Prints were inconclusive.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Turkey: Bird of Disaster

When I was in high school, I actually had to read about 300 ancient Greek plays for my lit class. Every one of them had a bird-based prediction of the future. Most of them were dire and involved bloody deaths or the rending of clothes. A hawk flying over someone's camp meant certain attack by the enemy. An owl seen during daylight hours meant that something weird and unnatural was about to happen (e.g. marrying one's father and then having to watch him gouge his eyes out). And so on. It's no matter that when I was pooped on by a pigeon while waiting for the bus in 11th grade, I nearly had to be tranquilized. I figured that not only was my perm ruined, my future must be seriously in the crapper. What else could I think?

So, it wasn't any surprise to me that years later, when I began to cook my own Thanksgiving dinners, the bird that would "fly" into my kitchen could ruin or exalt. Unfortunately, the turkey has not been good to me. I have bought certified fresh turkeys that NEVER thawed out from their permafrost deep freeze in time for Thanksgiving. I have burnt turkeys. I have over-corn starched gravy to a consistency that made it suitable for bathroom grouting. In an food safety-anti-eColi frenzy, I have cooked turkeys until their flesh was about as appetizing as wet straw.

And one year, as I prepared to feed 25 people, the turkey showed its true feathers, its disastrous powers. It was a beautiful, barrel-breasted bird, and I dressed and stuffed it with a special chestnut dressing. Of course, it was about then that I discovered that my beautiful turkey was too big for my oven. A finely engineered system involving a chair, many cinder blocks, and some rope just about got the oven door closed enough to roast the bird and help to heat the house. After many hours of roasting and several delicate basting sessions, I untied the turkey from the oven. I was calm, certain that the earlier disaster had been diverted, that the gods were smiling again. Then, as I was crossing the room, dodging guests, cats, and inlaws, I dropped it. I dropped the Thanksgiving turkey. And, even worse, I spilled all the gravy, most of which managed to snake down my leg in one boiling mass of turkey fat and chopped celery. When I tore off the pants that I was wearing, screaming with pain, most of my skin came off with them.

The turkey had spoken, that fickle bird. I learned then never to turn my back on one, or "dis" it with a shoddy oven set up, ever again.

I have the burn marks today, five years later. People ask me about that mean-looking scar on the beach every summer. I used to make up an answer, it was so embarrassing to say I dropped the turkey. Not anymore. "Turkey got me," is all I say, as they look on quizzically and pull their young children away quietly.

Every few years I tempt fate and try the turkey again, in the same spirit that I try making a flip off the high dive every summer at the pool. Other years, it's Cornish hen (a small bird capable of only minor inconveniences) or go really safe with a nice leg of lamb. I'm just happy that the Greeks never told the future through their livestock.

Just to play it safe, this year I'm cooking salmon.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

A Change In View

It's been a week of catching up and relaxing and letting the fingerprint grow back on my weary digits and now, of course, I'm getting a bit bored. And antsy. And anxious. This can mean one of three things:

A. I need to finalize the design and prep for my next window.

B. I need to get back to writing THE BOOK.

C. I could clean the house. Not.

Naturally, it is B that wins the turkey. Many know, and are probably sick and tired of knowing, that I am writing a book. It's about two brothers. One has autism. (It is not "Rainman.") They are flummuxed about the women in their lives. It's funny. Their aunt runs a hardware store.

I'm planning on putting excerpts on a secure site for patient, loving people (with time on their hands) to read and comment on. My friend, Rebecca, of "Nice to Come Home To" fame (her fab book coming out this year) did this to writerly advantage. As soon as I find out how she did this, I will tell you, invite you, and possibly beg you to come sign up for a read.

It must be said that I have had the generous gift of reviewers here and there already. Grateful thanks go out to my other friend, Chris, and her husband, Dick, for all the fine Asperger's behavioral and key personal habits edits that they have suggested over many months. "The Monday Group" and "The Wednesday Group" also deserve respectful shout outs. And Coach Don.

It's funny, most of us grow up with this vision of all writers beavering away in some garret all alone (aka the Emily Dickinson model). And, okay, there is a lot of solitary writing that has to happen. Yet, despite all rumors to the contrary, writing is a community effort. At least for me.

I'm thinking that Dickinson must have been agoraphobic. Or, perhaps, she had a multiple personality disorder, and her witty personas kept each other company.