Sunday, December 8, 2013
This morning I wasn't two sips into my coffee when my eyes scanned the headlines of Salon (an online news source that I admit is really no better than a tabloid) and lit on a story about a woman who knits yarn that she has inserted into her vagina. She's an Australian performance artist, and looky-loo gawking aside, it's actually an interesting article about misogyny, feminism, taboos and general outrageousness. What I'm grateful for today, this gorgeous Sunday morning, is my own opened-up mind that is so, not because of any great effort on my part, but due to chance (meaning I could have just as well been born a woman who reads something like this and dismisses it as being bullshit or even disgusting). Reading about the Australian woman's skein of yarn, rolled into a ball and inserted into her netherparts (unlike her, I'm still close-minded enough to shirk from using the "c" word), I was able to even read through the part where she describes what happens when she menstruates, and I didn't even flinch but rather raised an eyebrow figuratively as I can't do that literally, and read on. I even nodded my head at parts of it, and to tell you the truth only balked when the language became too theoretical. I hate theoretical talk more than visualizing a ball of yarn inserted just so into a vagina, tugged little by little on needles and then knitted into a long scarf, to tell you the truth. Years ago, and I might have already discussed this on the old blog, I read a story in Vanity Fair, that other great tabloid, about men who dress as stuffed animals and have a fetish for it, who actually number in the thousands and who call themselves Plushies. I remember reading about this and, again, not being particularly grossed out, felt more amazed than judgmental. I was hard put to thinking anything theoretical at all and could only come up with what could become a mantra for the more simple-minded like myself, and that is:
It's a big world.
So, years after reading that article, I attended a healthcare conference in Orlando, California for my job, at the time, as a parent co-chair of a national collaborative to improve the access and quality of healthcare for children with special needs (what a theory, right?). While lunching in a nearby hotel with my elderly aunt and uncle who had driven to meet me, the three of us noticed a series of men dressed in animal costumes. There were wolves and squirrels and bears. One man walked by our table with a darling raccoon tail coming out of the back of his khaki shorts. My aunt said in her sweet voice that they all looked adorable. My uncle wondered if it were a mascot convention. I think I was digging at an avocado half and bringing a spoonful of chicken salad up to my mouth when it suddenly occurred to me who these men, masquerading as stuffed animals, actually were, and in lieu of spitting my food all over my plate, I probably raised my figurative eyebrow and nodded sweetly at them. Later, on my way out of the hotel, headed back to figuring out why children with special healthcare needs were treated so abominably in our great American healthcare system, I followed a puppy who walked into a huge banquet room of playmates. It was, indeed, the annual Plushie convention, and I could only shake my head in wonder that I had the great good fortune to be at the hotel in that exact moment in time, with my lucky open-mindedness and think it's a big world.
Sipping my coffee, I thought about how so many of we humans believe that things like cursing, particularly if you're a woman, make you somehow less of a woman. I thought about how so many of we humans like to nod our heads in admiration at those women we think of as real ladies -- you know, the kind of women who dress properly, speak properly, act gently and with humility and how thinking of these women, these ladies, make people like myself feel insecure, like we don't measure up, like we're somehow less than because we curse or rail or complain or knit scarves from yarn inserted into our vaginas. I have no theory for this kind of musing on a Sunday morning sipping coffee and skimming tabloids other than it's a big world.
Reader, are you more a theorist or someone who has been chanced with an open mind? Or both?
At the grocery store today --
these meteors and angels, wise men and all
the beautiful hallucinations of December, wearing
the masks of the Ordinary, the Annoyed, the Tired.
The Disturbed. The Sane
Only the recovering addict with his bucket and bell
has dared to come here without one.
He is Salvation.
His eyes have burned holes
in his radiance.
Instead of a mask, he has unbuttoned his face.
***I have no idea why snowflakes are falling in that last photo that I took outside of my house. There was no snow, and I have no apps or gadgets. Maybe it's a Christmas miracle?
Saturday, December 7, 2013
As soon as I drag our sofa out to our Barbie porch, it'll be full-on white trash Christmas. Sheets of upholstery foam, an adaptive bicycle, bats and other sporting equipment, a bound Christmas tree leaning on the wall behind me, and of course, our life-sized, singing Santa Claus. Thank goodness he's bilingual, so no one can accuse me of being elitist.
I sent the above photo to a friend this morning in a half-hearted attempt to feel gratitude. Gratitude schmatitude. I'm sad that I'm not in New York with my family, eating fried dough and melanzane. It's raining buckets here, and we had to dash into the valley to pick up our Christmas tree at Henry's school. Even though I had a sighting of the incredibly handsome Gilles Marini, the actor who sustained me during my Brothers and Sisters binge (a father at the school), and a passel of wonderful young men tied the Christmas tree to our roof in the pouring rain, and Oliver dressed in full Dodgers regalia (see above), I'm testy. Ms. Moon said it all, actually, over on her blog, particularly when she quoted a movie character's imprecation. I don't want to steal her thunder, though, so I won't type it here. Go visit her blog and you'll see what I mean.
When Oliver was a really little guy and the world got on his nerves, he'd say, I hate everyone and everything! That's a bit of what I'm feeling. Don't take it personally, though, and I won't take it seriously.
Friday, December 6, 2013
photo by Jennifer Werndorf (one of my best friends)
I was supposed to be landing at Newark airport tonight, be on my way to my cousin's house to spend the night. In the morning we were headed up to Rockland County in New York, just over the Hudson from the city, where all my Italian relatives were meeting for the annual Pittule Day. I haven't been in fifteen years, since I moved to Los Angeles in 1997, and I was so looking forward to seeing aunts and uncles and cousins and cousins' children and even cousins' children's children. My parents will be there and so will my two sisters. Pittule Day is an Aquino family tradition where the elder women make enormous bowls of a yeast dough that rises and rises until it's almost tipping out of the container. Then pieces of the dough are grabbed and shaped into small balls and dropped into hot oil. They float there, frying, while the women and more enlightened men prod them in their oil bath until they turn a golden brown and are removed and placed on paper towels and are then topped with powdered sugar. Hundreds of these little delicacies are fried and eaten about as fast as they come out of the pot, until someone declares that it's time for the savory ones. The same-sized pieces of dough are pinched off, and a small chunk of anchovy is pushed into the center before they're dropped into the oil and cooked until golden brown as well. There are about sixty people at the gathering and food, probably, for six hundred. Trays of melanzane, homemade soppressata, cheeses, breads, pasta and meats, figs and peppers, oranges and whole walnuts, ready to be cracked.
I bought a ticket about a month ago for a very cheap price and was going for two nights, a quick trip with a stack of New Yorkers, my ducks at home in a row, and an ugly, old L.L. Bean coat pulled out of the back of the closet (I don't own a coat!) . I even wore socks! About a half hour after I arrived at the airport, when I was just opening my first New Yorker and eating my first Twizzler, I learned that our flight was delayed due to weather on the east coast, and because I was already arriving very late and the rumor was worse storms beginning Sunday, when I absolutely needed to make a flight home to Los Angeles, I decided to cancel my flight. Snow, sleet, ice and rain kept me away.
I'm sad to have missed the weekend and seeing people whom I haven't seen in years. I was also looking forward to all that reading on the plane, to ripping off the address labels of my New Yorkers as I finished them and tucking them into the pouch on the back of the seat in front of me.
I'm here in Los Angeles where it's gloriously beautiful and very cold for us. It's going down to the high thirties tonight, but the air is crystal clear, the clouds fluffy, the moon a perfect crescent. We won't get snow or ice or sleet, and that's just fine. I'll be picking out a Christmas tree tomorrow when my dear relatives are picking dough balls out of hot oil and licking their sugary fingers. I'll miss them.
Yesterday, I had just settled down for a long winter's nap when Henry ripped open the package of new printer ink with a clatter, and I sprang up from my bed and cried What is the matter? It was the wrong ink for the printer, and it cost $50 and I knew, I just knew that I'd have to swallow the money and go buy another one. I bowed my head and maybe even shed a tear because you know it's the small things, and when Henry looked at me and asked what was wrong, I wiped it away, set my thin lips in a line, sighed and drove back to Staples. The manager was young, but I took my chance and asked him whether there was any place I could perhaps sell the wrong ink that I'd bought. When what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a smile on his lips and the response that yes, no problem. You can just exchange it. He walked away. My eyes how they twinkled! My dimples so merry! And when I laughed, my belly shook like a bowl full of jelly.
Like all of that. My own little Christmas miracle. So, hallelujah and hark all the bells and don't you want to hear one Christmas carol, one of my favorites?
Here it is.
Reader, let's be more interactive and jolly. Tell me about your little Christmas miracle.
Thursday, December 5, 2013
How does something as outrageous as the above succulent exist, there in the dirt by the sidewalk on my street?
I ran into an old friend at Trader Joe's yesterday, the mother of one of Sophie's classmates, a young woman with multiple disabilities who has been in school with Sophie for fifteen years. My friend is an Orthodox Jew and lives not too far from me, but we run in different circles and it's only rarely that I speak with her. Yesterday, when we literally bumped our carts together, we both exclaimed how happy we were to do so. We threw our arms around each other and smiled. She wears the traditional garb of the Orthodox, a long skirt, sensible shoes, a nondescript blouse. Her hair is obviously covered by a wig. I was in jeans and a long-sleeved tee-shirt, clogs, my hair twisted up with a clip. I asked her how her ten (yes, TEN) kids were, and she said, They're good, thank God, thank God. She smiled and I smiled. Later in the conversation, I might have said the word hell, but I quickly apologized and she laughed. She told me how happy I made her. We shared stories of our girls, we talked about pads for soaked sheets (the bane, for both of us, of our existence -- the changing of the sheets). My friend has a dark sense of humor. She is one of my people. We ventured down the dreaded road of What Is Going to Happen After High School. (neither of us has any idea). She shared with me the pressure she feels from friends, even from family, to put her daughter in a home, give her away. I nodded my head. I understand. They want me to have what they call a normal life, my friend said. Ha! I replied. She is my life, my friend said. I nodded my head. We laughed at these friends, wondered why they didn't just pitch in and literally help. Change the sheets one morning! I shared with her how even a therapist I know told me a story of a couple who put their child with Down Syndrome into residential care when he was a baby, certain that that action had saved their marriage and subsequent children. We looked into each other's eyes and I imagine saw similar darkness and light. I would never judge anyone for choosing to do that, I told my friend, but I imagine it's harder than THEY say. We both agreed that we'd as soon shut down, cut out a piece of our hearts, be numb and dead to the world we know than make that decision. We talked for a bit more, hugged again and said good-bye.
Sophie's outrageous existence has brought me these outsider friendships with women and men that I would never have encountered otherwise. There's something beautiful and terrible in the symmetry of our lives, order and chaos, sharp and fluid, damaged and graced.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
I just finished reading Duplex: A Novel by Kathryn Davis, and I'm still a little off-kilter because of it. Struck dumb, unbalanced, bewildered. I don't even know whether I can explain it here, much less "review" it. It's lyrical and erotic and fantastical and ominous with a dollop of bizarre. I'd call it nearly science fiction, except that it's not. Here's a passage:
The girls rose on the next wave and felt themselves flung forward as the wave broke behind them. The farther they got from shore the bigger the waves were becoming, rocking under them with more and more energy. It was like they were being pushed on a swing, higher and higher, getting swept up the side of a hill to stay for a split second at the top before being swept down into the valley below and then up again, the top even higher this time, the slope even steeper and the valley lower, until they found themselves at the top of a mountain of water the size of an alp. The moon was right there above them, drawing the ocean up to it. The girls practically banged their heads against its surface. Because of the moonlight everything looked like it was coated in silver, but you could see how dark the water was underneath the coating, so dark green it was almost black, and the moon itself was whiter than anything, whiter and smoother than an egg.
I should tell you that the girls described above were dressed in identical black bathing suits with skirts and identical white rubber bathing caps that strapped under the chin. They looked like old ladies. They didn't enter the water like old ladies, though, splashing water up over the tender parts of themselves to lessen the shock. The girls plunged right in and kept on going. They ignored the jellyfish and the seaweed. They didn't look back.
So, there's that. There's a sex scene with robots, or I think it was a sex scene, and it was terrifying. There's this:
She went on to say that whatever brought two people together had nothing to do with sex. It had to do with the abyss, the face of the deep, with whatever came before people or animals or life of any kind and what would be left after they were gone.
Sigh. There's nothing like a book that truly transports you, knocks you off your perch or launches you onto a different plane.
Reader, tell me what you're reading.
I'm still in pajamas, feeling a tad sick for some reason and trying to ignore it. Oliver and I have had a productive morning, nonetheless, and are waiting for a Parkin cake to finish baking. It's some 18th century recipe that the Northern English ate on Guy Fawkes Day, made with oats, ginger, molasses and honey. We've been reading about the early empires -- the Holy Roman Empire and Spain -- as well as the Protestant rebellions and King James. We missed the actual Guy Fawkes day (November 5th) and Oliver would rather have replicated a bonfire, but cake in one's pajamas at noon on a school day is fine. There was some geography involved, as well as reading and questions to answer. He also worked on an online program for reading that someone recommended for dyslexics, and that'll be it for today. The picture above is of The Big O at the Science Center yesterday where we went for an afternoon field trip with some friends.
(And this won't become a homeschooling blog, in case you're getting nervous -- I'll just periodically update you on our adventures with some information on what we're doing and the resources we're using).
The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child
Volume 3: Early Modern Times
from Elizabeth the First to the Forty-Niners
Reading Horizons At-Home
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Despite waking at the ungodly hour, again, of 5:15 and lying in bed thinking the dire thoughts -- health insurance payments, the financial future, being house rich and cash poor, marriage, children, college, seizures, colonoscopy (I must make that appointment) -- and then reading dire articles about environmental disaster, rampant consumerism stealing our futures (why? why do I read these things?), I got up. I drove Henry to his conditioning practice, had breakfast with an old friend who I haven't seen or talked to in months, came home and worked with Oliver for several hours, engaged The Husband to pick Sophie up from school as she was having multiple seizures (sigh), did some contractual work for The Job and am now going to the Science Center with Oliver.
Oh, the whole aim of this post was to exclaim and be grateful for the poinsettia tree that is in bloom right around the corner from me. I hate poinsettias -- those little red things that come in pots at Trader Joe's every Christmas season, that live forever after Christmas and that I throw out, eventually, consumed with guilt. I walked out of the house to clear my head this morning and mail the bills (health insurance, medical marijuana, the financial future) and walked right by this tree. Isn't it beautiful? I figure that if you can hate a poinsettia plant and love the tree, all is right with the world, as it is.
Monday, December 2, 2013
I'm pretty sure it was him, sitting there at a little table with his head bent, reading. I walked past him, on my way out of a cafe where Oliver and I had grabbed some lunch. I had leftover meatballs and tomato sauce in a plastic container, he had a book. He looked up and smiled.
If I could or would or did, I'd have fainted.
I watched that show, In Treatment, religiously when it was on a few years ago. I got so involved in it that I'd drive around the city thinking that if only Dr. Paul Weston were my therapist, my life would be perfect. I imagined all sorts of scenarios, both ethical and unethical. Of course, my obsession was not with Gabriel Byrne but with the tortured, intelligent character that he played. I write all of this perfectly aware of my folly and of how ridiculous it sounds. I figure, though, that Ms. Moon writes rhapsodically of Keith Richards and Radish King of Tom Cruise, so humor me. I wonder what those two ladies would do if they nearly bumped into their own true celebreloves and made eye contact?
|photo via vignettedesign|
Today, Oliver and I have officially moved from de-schooling to homeschooling. On the schedule today is a bit of Dutch and Spanish history, vocabulary and writing exercises. We'll also be traveling to the valley to a music store where we'll hopefully rent a saxophone. Oliver has requested lessons for the sax for years, and I've always felt his schedule was too overwhelming to take on an instrument. I found a very inexpensive place for him to take lessons, so we're giving it a whirl.
Bring on the Charlie Parker!
Sunday, December 1, 2013
Oliver the Decorator Extraordinaire coaxed his brother awake this morning and up onto the roof to hang lights. I took one look and left in my car, hell bent on returning the reindeer head that my mother had broken with her cane and my father had fixed with superglue, a fool's errand I was particularly grateful for as it prevented an early death. Mine, that is. (Relaxxxxxx, Mom! I was told as I screamed good-bye and told him that I loved him).