Sophia and the Cavorting Dogs

This morning Sophia, who walks our dogs, tripped over something on the sidewalk and flailed around for a minute or two, which our dogs naturally took to be party time. According to Sophia, they jumped and rolled and play-attacked each other in the several minutes it took for her to collect herself and the house she carries on her back. Sophia is young and beautiful, so I’m sure it looked like a ballet to human eyes, but to the dogs it was irregular and antic and walker flailing and therefore whoopee!

Two days ago my husband had a small automobile accident. It was sort of his fault, although he only got a $20 ticket and the police were entirely sympathetic. The other guy has no collision insurance and delivers pizzas. I’m sure he will sue our insurance company. My husband’s shoulder hurts a bit still but he’s fine and confident in what happened.

I do not take this as time to party and cavort. It’s irregular, it’s a slip-up, and I sit here moaning about what’s going to happen to us, and if he should drive at night any more. (Which always reminds me of a group of “older” ladies, one of whom mentioned she had a new male companion. In unison, the rest of the women said “Can he drive at night?”)

I’m thinking life is over and it’s foamy-water time again. Slip away. John Mayer (where the hell is he? not here) isn’t helping, Bill Evans is making me sob and I’m trying not to impose on the dogs because they get sad when I cry, especially Franklin. (Actually Tommy the Shiba couldn’t give a shit which is kind of refreshing).

Trump and his rag-tag gang of fourth-rate Russian gangsters and his demented and possibly inbred relatives might be lightening my load a little bit. Trump in France (even those words are embarrassing), putting his Trumpian never-fail moves on the First Lady thereof, and slouching along the regal path to review the troops as if he were carrying a knapsack and was headed over some Slovakian border, jacket open, too-long tie flopping in the Parisian breeze, Trump in France is amusing the way watching a hawk pull every feather out of a mourning dove is amusing. Like, why the fuck would you want to look at that. At least he didn’t grab her pussy which, when I think about it, is not out of the realm of possibility.

But back to old age and pink water. I want to have fun. I can’t even think of what would be fun. Maybe driving along some long lonesome road, mountains on either side, infertile soil and houses made of logs. (Which reminds me, I recently learned that carex species are great massed under big trees where the roots render the soil hard and dry! That’s a hopeful thought.)  John Mayer’s driveway! I turn in. He comes out, looking…ah well.

But we are old. I feel like I literally can’t stand it, like I will sob myself to foam, will crumble and never smile again ever in the few remaining years I have. Woah. Linda. Grandma. Get hold of yourself.

So I knit and try to figure out the meditative, life-enhancing qualities of the brioche eyelet “pattern”, a jungle of pain, a maze of unachievable brk’s and yarn-overs and take your odd number of stitches and go to hell with them. I saw another reference to yet another study that knitting can lengthen your life. If I vow to stay alive until I understand the freaking brioche eyelet pattern, yes, I will live forever, miserable and confused and having to reprint and reprint the pattern because I’ve crumpled it and spit on it and stomped on it and got so many of those knitters’ tape things on it and sometimes I forget to move them so I have to ask myself every time if I’m on the right row.

For some reason this reminds me of the lede piece I wrote for the Food section of the Post a long time ago, and had a lot of trouble with. I turned it in hoping for guidance from the editor. Glass offices. I watched her spend ten minutes reading it, then she walked out of the office for lunch and I simultaneously got a message as follows: “boring, redo.”

Ah, the key to life now that I think of it.


Uh Oh Here Comes Another One

Every now and then John Mayer, probably in a fit of boredom and mired in a dearth of personal reinforcement via fans (he’s in Montana {and I know this because he said so…}) answers questions on Twitter. This question was about what music put him to sleep at night. The answer was “any Bill Evans ballad.” Well, I’ve listened to a lot of Bill Evans ballads and not only do I not go to sleep, I always burst into heaving, sobbing fits of terminal sadness.

The conclusion I’ve come to, and these conclusions are always subject to revision or repeal, is that I have no filter, and the notes go directly to some lobe of my brain that says I’m dying of sadness. Beauty is death, death beauty. Sophocles. Not really. Janet Malcolm, an intellectual stalwart and student/critic of psychoanalysis, or maybe that devil man psychoanalyst she wrote about, said that reactions like mine are because I want to be the music. Got any solutions to that, Freud?

Our buddy John continued the Twitter q&a. “If a song is honest and true it will protect you.” This, in answer to a question about whether he feels uncomfortable with how “honest” – read revealing – he is in some of his songs, especially the recent ditty crushing his mother and father to eeny teeny little bits of bad-parent coal that he sings about before crowds of millions. So he’s protected by the honesty of his songs but what about poor old mom and dad who after all produced and raised, however inadequately, this genius? Who’s gonna protect them?

But, as Mayer would say, back to me. I would settle for being able to make such beautiful music myself. Yes, I would. Okay, there was a time when I played the cello and there were some who thought I was promising until I played at a competition and forgot – was able to produce nothing in my head but opaque, hideous clouds of vapor – all the notes, beginnings, endings, all of it, and had to leave the living room where this hideous competition was taking place, me and a bunch of judges, and try not to cry until I got outside. It was more or less the end for me of trying to make music.

As an adult I took piano lessons until the teacher suggested I use “all that wonderful weight you have” to make the sound bigger, or fatter or something I never got. So I walked out of that one too. Bad enough not to be able even to manage the “small bites” she suggested learning, one at a time, worse to be told you’re fat but you could theoretically use that to your advantage.

That “baby baby baby” sung in a lusty falsetto by Mayer’s sideman at the beginning of “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room” goes straight to my – actually the problem is I don’t know where it goes and what I should do with it when it gets there – maybe to my gut. My soul. My inner me. The place where also lurks existential nightmares of Trump and dead baby mice and multi-faceted phobias that keep me plastered to my chair suffering with the beauty around me and longing for something I’ll never have. How do you get over that?


For my own good I was going to lay off that golem who masquerades as our president, but I can’t. I don’t care if it kills me. To say the man is evil incarnate is not only a cliche but also overrates him. He’s like the little roach in the cake batter, you know he’s there but he moves through the sludge with stupid cunning and some kind of third eye, or no eyes at all. Trump reminds me of the experience of having to scrape six dead baby mice out of a far cabinet in my kitchen. They were a gooey pile, some crispy but mostly goo, and although mice terrify me almost as much as golems (gola? goli?) I had to do it and I had to do it quickly or not at all and I had to pretend I was just cleaning up some random mess instead of the rotten dna of six helpless, starved, formerly-living creatures. There were men in the house at the time but being a proud feminist I had to do it myself instead of whining to the big swinging dicks in the other room and yes I am being unfair.

How did we get from Golem Trump to dead baby mice? No idea except that with his gruesome Barbie hair, his pathetic wishful-thinking long ties, his – countenance that is half spoiled baby, half clueless thug, and 100 percent narcissistic pile of goo – now I’ve lost the thread. I have trouble concentrating anyway, what with the mice and the plants and the overall pain – oh and here’s another nice thing to think about: I have these painful lumps along the length of most of my bones and there’s a name for them and they arise in the tissue that has been described as most like the gooey white film that exists between a raw chicken and its skin. Oh my fucking god. So not only do you have this film but it makes lumps that hurt like holy hell? Who thought that one up? And the cure is basically to pound the bejesus out of them.

But where was I. This happens more and more often. The rascally skein of yarn that is satanically designed to twist into a maelstrom of gorgeous slinky silk but what the fuck good is it if you can’t untangle it? (I sense metaphors here, stupid, random, accidental metaphors). The Animal vacuum cleaner that takes all the HEPA out of the room, or something, but scares me and scares the poodle so much he can’t sleep when I’ve stored the thing on top of his crate. Trump! It’s all his fault. I want to tell Angela Merkel, Angela, dumpling, you’re entirely right. This is an idiot, a hand-crusher, a soul-killer, a broken id let loose on the world, and worse, half my cousins voted for him.

When the woman who always bursts into my knitting group, looks around and says “Bitch took my seat again!” I want to say yes, sweetheart, addled dear sweetheart, this is the way life goes. The bitch took your seat again.

At the beginning of the Bad Year I saw a hawk in the top of every tree right after the giant orange insect that mowed the fields had finished, and it occurred to me that I understood the world. It was only natural: the hawk could see all the babies, the foxes and the voles and the bunnies. Boy was I wrong (about the understanding thing). When I read Bernd Heinrich I thought I understood the world. The job of the vole is to turn grass into protein for the hawk. Uh huh. Yepper. Hawk-eat-vole out there, only natural. I should have known that this superior attitude of faux-understanding would lead me straight but not straight enough to the loony bin where I was with my kind: like the guy who watered the paper flowers every day, faithful as the sun. So hopeful!

Don’t get me started on Hobby Lobby may they go straight to hell. I thought we were through with them but no. Their Museum of the Bible (“430,00 square feet devoted to the Bible” declares their website and to that I say is that all you’ve got?) is in danger thanks to the godless Forces that don’t want them stealing artifacts from Iraq as if they were England in the old days. And here’s another thing: a terrorist, by definition, cannot be white. There are no white terrorists even though a white person may burst in upon a crowd with his AR-15 and reduce several dozen humans to goo like those mice, but that was not an incidence of terror because the guy with the AR-15 wasn’t Muslim.

The off-lede in both papers (I’m counting NYTimes and Washington Post) today was about the US standing alone against those Socialist Europeans who have figured out universal health care and kindness to children and the poor (although they could do better with the dark people, just like us, almost) and are mostly way above us on every chart including “happiness” whatever that is. We have decided to go all Bannon on their asses and Stand Alone. Well good. As my crazy mother used to say, you’re cutting off your nose to spite your face. I never knew until just about now what that meant.

Good luck with that standing alone thing. It has never worked in the history of the universe but hey, we’re Trump. We have long ties and small hands and broken and gooey egos and we can only see how inhumanly good we look.



Artisanal Vibrations

I’ve been thinking about artisanal things. The definition of artisanal is that somebody with a degree from MIT or the University of Colorado at Boulder made it or invented it, has strong opinions about it, and it’s something nobody needs. My favorite example is the group in Brooklyn, and here I should say that artisanal usually happens in Brooklyn or Boulder or Berkeley, that grew broccoli in vacant lots, turned the broccoli into dye and dyed wool with it. Then they ate the wool. No, not really. They knit rustic garments with the wool.

There are even artisanal dogs, like the one next door whom my daughter spotted as artisanal because my daughter lives in lower Manhattan, which is near enough to Brooklyn to be almost cool. The dog is half poodle, a quarter collie and another quarter some kind of sheepdog.

Let’s take artisanal coffee. People get into actual screaming fights – dark roast, light roast, single-origin, cold brew, French press, the poetry of the beans’ journey from the jungle plantation across rivers in the passenger seat of a pick-up truck (see Blue Bottle, whose advertising materials feature the most florid writing of any coffee company I know of, and there is lots of competition). I have a friend who won’t drink my coffee because these beens have been roasted too dark. It’s “burned,” she says. So that she won’t ever have to drink burned coffee at home, she roasts her own, medium, and has the correct coffee maker. I bought the same coffee maker but that didn’t make my coffee any more acceptable.

And now there is this. It’s from the New York Times, which had to take a deep breath, and find a lede:

“As a product designer, Janet Lieberman often finds flaws in everyday tech devices. This was particularly true when it came to vibrators, which she would spend hours shopping for on Amazon.” Janet is on the left, presumably vibrating.


The Times continues, straight-faced, with another quote:

“I had always bought cheap vibrators and my bedside drawer was a graveyard for them,” said Ms. Lieberman, 31, who lives in Brooklyn (italics mine) and studied mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “You could replace the batteries but they still would stop working.”

Parenthetically, my own bedside drawer is a graveyard for dusty Tylenol pills, a seven-day pill organizer, a couple of hair ties (used for tying hair), an inhaler, a tweezer and mirror for removing the seven-inch chin hairs that I can’t see without magnification, and a bunch of those things you’re supposed to scratch between your teeth so your gums won’t recede more than they already have. But anyway.

The Times goes on: “After splurging on a pricey vibrator for a boyfriend’s birthday that also quickly died, she had an aha moment. (Aha moments are part of the artisanal quest.) ‘I realized there was a need for well-engineered sex toys,’ she said. ‘There’s no real trusted brand and that’s what we’re setting out to be.’” What? What about Maytag!?

“Along with her business partner, Alexandra Fine, whom she met in 2014 through the social networking app Meetup, the pair set out to create a vibrator that was not only well crafted, but made specifically for couples, and women in particular.” That last scrambles my brain since really, who is it for?

“ ‘I was living in my grandmother’s pool house at the time,’ Ms. Fine, 29, said. That right there is a uniquely artisanal and Timesian quote. Of course she was living in her grandmother’s pool house while she found herself and her art. “She had just graduated from Columbia, where she got a master’s degree in clinical psychology ‘with a focus on marriage counseling and sex therapy,’ she said.”

To be clear – actually, never mind.

This vibrator attaches directly to the woman’s “nether parts” – even the Times couldn’t muster the nerve to say “clitoris” (or maybe they mean “labia”; to be frank I can’t think straight about this) and she wears it everywhere, I guess. I can’t help but wonder how those corporate meetings go when the thing is buzzing in one’s “nether regions.” It comes in a range of Hello Kitty colors and toylike shapes, and best of all it cleverly attaches to said nether regions in such a way that it doesn’t interfere with what we used to call “having sex.” I don’t know what they call it now, but anyway apparently you can still do it with this thing buzzing around down there.

So, sounds like an interesting idea, and I’m so glad Ms. Fine got out of her grandma’s pool house.

As an older person, a really old old person, I was sensitive enough about the coffee issue and dying your own yarn with broccoli grown in sidewalk cracks. But this one I really don’t know what to do about. Clearly it was difficult enough for the Times.

So they took a deep stately breath and plunged into the latest innovation in vibrators. But these women scare me. I already said that, didn’t I? The way they look scares me, says to me that they are the female version of das uber-mensch and – and – oops – are they wearing these vibrators as their picture is being taken? Surely not; they look too stern. But maybe that’s me. Maybe that’s how you look when you have something in your “nether regions” driving you nuts. Like a bee or a barking dog.

Actually, I shouldn’t have been so harsh on these entrepreneurs. They have degrees, they’ve invented something useful, they’re smart as all get out. Now if they could invent something that attaches to a cane…


50 Shades of Greyish

IMG_1004I was so excited to open my new box of yarn from uber-yarnster and Brooklyn Tweed star Jared Flood. It came in a gorgeous box, tied and tidy, with five already-wound skeins of his new yarn called Arbor, from Targhee sheep and with nuanced palette echo echo echo, but anyway I was happy. It’s been a long hot day with hideous things on the news and very little gardening done and a few too many macaroons consumed, so I was very happy to get this fancy box even though I know it’s half-scam. But when I opened it, I saw gray. A-fucking-gain. I chose very carefully and I chose gray, again. There actually are shades of gray but there’s nothing kinky or sexy or even remarkable about these. One of them has some purple in it, the others – gray. I have dozens more just like these and if you think that’s appalling you are not a knitter.

But why not scarlet? Why not Loam or Parka or Klimt or Treehouse or Black Fig or Degas for god’s sake, and yes these really are the names for Jared’s new yarn. How about say, blue like the ocean or green like John Mayer’s disgusting but metaphysically authentic tattoos? Mustard, dachshund, crow, Tide, all these possibilities and I get gray, after lots of thought. Are my thoughts gray? Not really, and actually more red-for-rage since the last 48 hours of coping with a colicky infant Trump.

I don’t want gray. I don’t want to be gray or look gray or knit gray or see gray or even hear it with its slight toilet-plunger sound. Its I’m-too-tired-to-be-even-beige aura is making me want to strangle it with itself. Nah, not really. I just don’t want to knit with it. I’m getting back online and ordering Humpback or Wreath.

Actually I’m ordering Treehouse, “a saturated spruce green that leans toward teal.” I like colors that lean toward things but are not those things. So Wittgensteinian, or something. At least not gray.


Today my second-oldest grandchild graduated from high school. I wasn’t there. I wasn’t at my oldest granddaughter’s graduation either. I wasn’t at anybody’s middle school graduations nor at their birthday parties. For the last few years we can blame this on fibromyalgia and my husband’s vulnerabilities. But for the years before, what explains my neglect? Not a lack of love or interest. I love my grandchildren more than anything. I want to hear every word they have to say. I want to smell the giant orchid Clara wore on her wrist to the prom and I want to put my face in her hair. I want to see the foreign western landscape where my oldest granddaughter spends a good part of her year. I want to see the Chinatown pool hall where my grandson plays pool when he’s not studying justice. I want to be there, with them, in their world, I want to put my eyes on their sweet faces, an event that thrills my brain the way that sideman of John Mayer does when he sings the heavenly high baby baby baby. And I can’t. But I keep thinking it’s because I just don’t. I really could if I had nerve, or the right brain waves, or something interior that’s upstanding, regular, hopeful, brave.

I’d like to think this fear, this lack, this hiding, started when I was very young and lying in my bed hoping my father didn’t come into my room. I’d like to think it started when I lived for a year in a big cold beautiful house with a sick man, watching a yellow star move from the left side of the window to the right side. I’d like to think it began when I lay in my bed and planned to hide my father’s bottle in the vacant lot next door. I’d like to blame it on something, somebody.

But I can’t. It’s me. It’s my fault. I can’t get around it, over it, under it; I can’t trick it or get it to lie. It’s me.



I have several things on my mind, and all at once too. A few of them could be categorized under “heat.”

But meh, I have to get to it. I’m stuck on a live John Mayer performance of his song “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room” at the 02 Arena in London. The thing about it is, there’s this guy who always stands to Mayer’s left, playing backup guitar and vocals, causing no trouble there in the relative dark, but lucky to have this gig, a world tour with a big-hit sexpot who can play the wits out of himself and his instrument.

The guy to stage right is kind of thick in the middle and he wears a hat, probably to hide his bald head. But here he is in the spotlight, this David Ryan Howard always playing second fiddle, taking a deep breath now and emitting one of the most arrestingly beautiful sounds I’ve ever heard. “Baby…..” he starts. Simple enough, but there’s something about the tenor, or the tone, or the pitch or the way the sound gets all the way from his lungs to me, my ears, and resets my brain to euphoria. Soon enough Mayer appears, tip-toeing coolly under the big lights, and goes at it while David Ryan Howard retreats to back-up singer territory, and the dark. When Mayer starts, Howard clicks his own microphone back to second-guy level.

Mayer’s guitar gleams and his hair is careless perfect. He’s doing a new weird tippy-toe thing while he plays the bejesus out of his guitar but he’s still gorgeous and so is everything about the singing and the extended and frequent guitar solos and the fact that his custom-made earphones dangle around his neck instead of protecting his ears. Live for today, tonight, get the whole sound straight to the brain, always, night after night. And as it happens, his old love Katy Perry just declared him her best sex ever. Why do I know this? Here it is: I Google him every morning right after I read my email, and sometimes before.

Slow Dancing in a Burning Room has always been a seductive, sexy-death concept to me. Yeah, the relationship is dying but the house is going down in flames too. In any case, in the meta department it’s all several steps above foaming to death in pink bath water.

Then I came off my irrational sound-and-sex high and realized that my husband and I are slow dancing in a burning room too, but the slow dancing is because we can’t move any faster. The room is burning because the handyman who fixed the grill fan is also the only person I’ve ever heard of who tried to smoke his mom with his weed. For reasons not understood by me, he put his mom’s ashes in the same jar as his weed. Then he thought he could smoke her. He said it wasn’t pleasant and mentioned fragments of bone caught in his throat. It was a disappointing experience all around.

So it’s a good thing that tonight the dogs ate the raw flank steak that was going to be grilled for dinner. The big poodle got it off the counter where it had been left unattended for a few minutes by my husband whose fault it was entirely. At about the same time the Shiba got a used chicken leg out of a trash bag just minutes before the bag’s removal to the trash can outside. Also somehow my husband’s fault although I was the one who put the chicken in the trash and left the bag on the floor.

Looking on the bright side, the dogs shared!

So we had sandwiches. We worked our way through them with the hideous sounds of CNN screeching in the background, my husband huddled in his heavy black-and-red checked shirt because the air conditioning had been set by me and I like it cold. Slow chewing in a freezing room. The mood also changed slightly after the dogs ate our dinner since I’m a sap and my husband believed they should be punished and now they’re getting only kibble for dinner and no treats any other time either.

I don’t know how to end this. I don’t know how to end me. I guess I’d better figure it out.