Saturday, July 30, 2005

Travelling Shoes

I'm generally a good packer, except when it comes to shoes. I seem incapable of leaving town with fewer than four pairs of shoes.

I need to take running shoes, because you never know when you are going to have a chance to run, and if you have a chance to run but don't have your shoes, it is just too sad.

Then I need a nice pair of shoes and a comfortable pair of shoes. Say, pumps and clogs in winter, or Nine West black slides and Merrell Tokens in summer.

And then I need just-in-case-of-the-weather shoes: boots in winter (just in case it snows); clogs or sneakers in summer (just in case it suddenly gets cold).

I'm always trying to buy the pair of shoes that will be both nice and comfortable (but they never are), or the boots that will also be nice (except then you need another pair of weather-proof boots in case it blizzards). Sometimes I try to fool myself that I can use my running shoes for either the comfortable shoes or the weather shoes, but I can't, because I am quite compulsive about only wearing my running shoes to run.

So it is with enormous trepidation that I am leaving town today with just three pairs of shoes: running shoes, the Merrell Tokens, and clogs. I am foregoing the black slides because I can't imagine I will be going anywhere so nice that the Merrell Tokens can't see me through it. I am not taking my hiking boots, because I can hike in my running shoes, really, I can. I am not taking flip-flops, because the Merrell Tokens are sufficiently flip-flopesque, I hope. Really, though, I'm only taking three pairs of shoes because S is coming up in a few days, and he can always bring me another pair.

I'll be back in two weeks. There may be sporadic blogging, but there may not.


Our neighbors are moving in. So what, you're thinking, neighbors move in and out all the time, especially around Town. But these are special neighbors: these are our downstairs neighbors, the people with whom we will be sharing our house for the foreseeable future, perhaps forever.

We've always done well with neighbors. Once we shared a side-by-side duplex with my stepbrother, which was great. Another time we lived in a funky little complex with four units (an old house broken up into three flats with another one above the garage), and we all became quite good friends, that is, the kind of friends you stop and chat with and occasionally share drinks with, but don't keep in touch with after you move.

In Red State Capital City Suburb, our neighbors on one side were essentially M and E's foster grandparents: we visited back and forth weekly if not daily, celebrated break-fast, Hanukkah, and seder together, invited each other to parties, shared important news as soon as it happened. On the other side there was a rental, but the last two families who lived there also became good friends, and on the other side of them were the infamous S and E, children of L and B, our favorite family in all of Red State Capital City Suburb.

But in Red State Capital City Suburb we had a house. Sure, our dining room looked straight into the neighbors' kitchen, across just a dozen feet of driveway. Sure, everyone on the block knew our every move, just like we knew their every move. Sure, M and E and S and E treated our two houses and yards as one, moving seamlessly back and forth between them, begging whichever parent was nearest for snacks. But our house--our walls, our basement, our roof, our deck, our garden--was ours.

When we started looking for a place to live in Town, it immediately became clear that if we bought a house, E would be sleeping in a closet, all the books and records would need to be sold, and we'd be eating oatmeal for the next thirty years. So we bought a condo. When we told our friends in Red State that we were buying a condo, they all looked appalled. There, condos are those horrible complexes by the freeway where recent college graduates and recent divorced dads precariously perch. But our condo is half a house: the second and third floor of a 1913 two-family, along with half the basement, half the driveway, and a shared garden. As of yesterday, F and L own the first floor, half the basement, half the driveway, and a shared garden.

I think it's the garden that makes me most anxious. Not for any gardening reasons. God knows, if F and L want to garden, I'll be thrilled. More for kid reasons. They are a yuppie couple, probably a dozen years younger than us. So far they seem very nice, and they talk a great line about kids. And the fact is, all these houses are becoming condos, and basically all of them have a family with kids on the second and third floor and a yuppie couple on the first floor, so they must have known what they were getting into.

We could end up the best of friends. I grew up in a three-family building, and we always did fine with our neighbors. C lived in exactly the same set-up as we have now--her family on the second and third floor, and a succession of young couples on the first, until the final young couple became a family and eventually bought the house from her parents. They were always the best of friends.

I don't want to think about the alternatives. But being the worrier that I am, I can't help worrying. Will the kids be too loud and messy? Will our music make them crazy? Will their music make us crazy? Will they hear me yell at my children--or worse, at my husband--and think I'm a shrew? Will we have scary fights about snow shoveling and shrub pruning? (I can't tell you how much I do not care about snow shoveling and shrub pruning...)

Really, though, they seem very nice. And tonight they had a bunch of friends over, and I could only hear the music because the windows were open. They were hanging out on their deck, and M and E were playing in the garden, and it was the most pleasant of domestic scenes. I'll just try to fixate on that.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Thursday Night Movies

Here's why blogs are ridiculous: I rented Some Like It Hot to watch with the girls. I figured that once I fast-forwarded past the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, the whole cross-dressing/slapstick thing would amuse them. I think M would have gone for it, but E was pretty impatient. I, however, was in heaven. That is one great movie, even if I only got to watch twenty minutes of it.

But here's the ridiculous blog thing: I remembered the cross-dressing and slapstick, but I had completely forgotten how outrageously amazing Marilyn Monroe is. With those amazing breasts and hips, and that incredible breathy voice, and that soft gaze, and the way she coos "I'm not that bright," or whatever it is she coos. You watch the movie and you realize why we have been so obsessed with her for the last fifty years. The woman is a phenomenon. She is the ur-object of desire.

Now isn't that just a ridiculous thing to say? I mean, everyone knows that Marilyn Monroe is a phenomenon and the ur-object of desire. Is the world altered in any way by me saying it here on Not Quite Sure? No, not one bit. Yet I still feel compelled to say it because it is just so true, even though I know my saying it means absolutely nothing. Dumb, really dumb.

Anyway, after we turned off Some Like It Hot, we watched The Challenge. What? You never heard of The Challenge? The last straight-to-video Mary-Kate and Ashley movie where they play twin sisters who hate each other and end up on the same team in a Survivor-rip-off reality game show, and of course their team wins, they learn to appreciate each other, and they get the guys?

Confession time: I like Mary-Kate and Ashley movies (if you feel that you can't read my blog any more, I respect your decision--I mean, after all, blogs are ridiculous, no?). I don't like them like I like Some Like It Hot or Heights or any other real movies that I like. But I like them a lot better than most of the things I am forced to watch with my children--like Blues Clues for the forty-seven-thousandth time.

Mary-Kate and Ashley movies are funny. They take place in visually pleasurable locations like London, Paris, and, in this case, Mexico. And they have this weird little subversive streak.

Really, they do. It has to with breaking the frame, and I remember it happened in the Bahamas one too, though I don't remember the specifics. But in this one, at the very end, after they have won the game show, they reunite with the boys. At that point I started to scoff about how it always ends with them getting the guys and asked if we could turn it off, but M insisted we keep watching. Then one of them tells her guy that he is her first love, and all of a sudden another guy bursts in and says "Hey Mary-Kate [or maybe it was Ashley--in the movie their names were Shane and Lizzie], I was your first love, in Passport to Paris, remember?" And then all these other guys come in from the other movies and start insisting that they are their boyfriends, reminding them of the other movies (are you following this?). And then Ashley says (or maybe it's Mary-Kate), "You guys are all ridiculous, you're just our movie boyfriends," or something like that, and then as the guys continue to fight over them, M-K and A look at each other, shrug, and walk away. Then it gets totally cheesy as they say something about boys coming and going but always having each other, but really, is that a challenge to the hegemony of the marriage plot, teen version, or what?! (Yes, I know, it's a carefully-manufactured have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too challenge, but that's the best you're going to get from popular culture, and it's certainly preferable to straight acceptance of the dominant paradigm.)

David Sedaris In Fine Form

Probably everyone who reads my blog subscribes to The New Yorker since I'm that kind of effete intellectual liberal. And they've probably already read the latest David Sedaris essay, and are rolling their eyes at my belatedness. But just in case there is anyone out there who is a) more behind in their New Yorkers than me, or b) lucky enough not to subscribe to The New Yorker, and thus not to have to feel guilty about their New Yorker belatedness, I thought I would let you know that after being kind of boring lately--I hate to say it, but it's true--David Sedaris has returned to form and this one is hilarious.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

On Being Unable to Read

Another sign of the discombobulation that is clearly simmering beneath the surface of my summer is my inability to read. I read the newspaper every day, and the occasional magazine, and too much online garbage, but I just can't seem to settle in to a good book.

I've read two novels in the last six weeks, which for me, in summer, is ridiculous. One was a really bad book that I won't name because I am kind enough not to want the author to google himself and find this comment. I read it because I have the vaguest of vague connections to the author and wanted to see what he was up to. I kept reading it because I couldn't believe it could keep being so bad, and I wondered how he would manage to end it.

The other was Sue Miller's Family Pictures which I picked up at the lake and couldn't put down. So then I went to the library and took out two more Sue Miller novels, thinking her brand of engagingly familiar domestic realism was what I needed. But though I quite liked The World Below when I started it, and even picked it up a few more times, it still hasn't sucked me in.

I have a big stack of books on my dresser, waiting to be read. From top to bottom, it includes:

Stella Tillyard, Aristocrats: Caroline, Emily, Louisa and Sarah Lennox, 1740-1832
James Robert Baker, Tim and Pete
Terry McMillan, How Stella Got Her Groove Back
Molly Hite, Class Porn
Judith Farr, I Never Came to You in White
Nancy Mitford, The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate
Alice Munro, Runaway
Lucy Grealy, Autobiography of a Face
Myla Goldberg, Bee Season
Michel Faber, The Courage Consort
Anthony Trollope, Phineas Redux
Sarah Grand, The Beth Book
Randal Keynes, Darwin, His Daughter, and Human Evolution
Anne Michaels, Fugitive Pieces
Barry Unsworth, Sacred Hunger
Christine Balint, The Salt Letters

Good books, no? I've even started a bunch of them and liked them well enough; I just haven't kept reading.

I don't want to understand why I can't read; I don't particularly care why I can't read. I just want to read. So I've decided I just need to find the right book. I'm taking suggestions.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Comic Relief

It's hot, M is sick, my friend's brother's obituary appeared in the paper today, and I am trying to finish the project that has been hovering over my summer. Nothing of much blogging cheer.

So instead I will just say that yet another pleasure of East Coast Big City is daily enjoyment of Boondocks, the comic strip that was made for me: sarcastic celebrity gossip and radical politics--what more could a girl want?

Well, if you're M, you want talking unborn babies and precocious small children: she's become a big fan of Jump Start, and she just couldn't wait for those twins to be born.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Memories of July 26

It's probably a good thing I don't remember 1964. It can't have been very pleasant.

There are pictures of 1967 and 1968, black and white, with me, candles, and kids I can't name.

1974 was significant because of double digits, but also because I met my Aunt M for the first time, though back then she was my uncle's girlfriend, not my Aunt M. We had a big family party up at the lake with swimming all day and charades at night. My mom's friend J gave me a tape of 1974ish music, folkie variety: The Weavers, Peter, Paul, and Mary, Judy Collins, "The Sinking of the Reuben James," "If I Had A Hammer," "Puff the Magic Dragon," that sort of thing. It was my family's favorite tape ever, and I'd give up lots of S's jazz CDs to recover it. I also remember this one because later M made me a book about it with photographs she'd taken.

1987 was the first year I had to go to work (camp counselor doesn't count). I was depressed. But then my mom sent balloons to my office and a friend took me out to lunch, and it wasn't so bad. Then my wallet was stolen out of my bag on the Metro, and it was bad. Then we went to see the Neville Brothers and I charmed the bartenders into giving me many free drinks by telling them what day it was and that my wallet had been stolen, and it wasn't so bad. Then I looked up and the Neville Brothers were on stage, and then I looked up and they were gone, and then I looked up and I was in Mr. Eagan's, presumably drinking some more, and then I looked up and I was at home and my housemate was putting me to bed, and I really can't remember if it was bad or not.

In 1993 I was directing a summer camp, and the whole camp surprised me with a celebration. After lunch, I was blindfolded, carried down to the lake in a cart, and put in a canoe. When the blindfold was removed, S and I were out on the raft where they had built a table, two chairs, and a flower-covered bower. They had baked a cake, and the entire camp was standing on the shore singing to me. That was pretty much the best ever.

1994 was numerically significant but sucked a lot. I was at camp again, it rained, and I had to go to an all-day meeting, and then to a dinner, where I was seated across from my least-favorite person there. The only good thing was the new red dress I wore.

In 1996, baby M was nine weeks old. My friend M came up to visit from Santa Cruz, we went out for sushi, and I was happy.

After that, May 24 and then December 21 became a lot more important than July 26.

In 2003, my sister made a party for me out in Country Town. My mom came, and K, and my oldest friend C and her family, and B and her family, and P whom I hadn't seen in 15 years, but whose daughter turned up in my nephew's first grade class that year. We ate lobsters at a big table out on the lawn, and my sister decorated the cake with tiger lilies. It was like one of those French movies that make you want to sit at a big table out on the lawn and eat and drink wine with your family and friends, except that we were doing it, not watching it.

2004 rocked. I finished a huge project on July 23. On July 24 we had a big party with ginger daquiris, Japanese lanterns ringing the yard, two cakes (I couldn't decide between fruit and chocolate so we got both), and the last guest sent home at 3:30 the next morning. On July 26, I read all afternoon at J's house while M played with N (E and E were at camp), and then we went out for sushi (a familial birthday habit), and S gave me a vintage Vivienne Westwood kilt and the catalogs from the Ossie Clark, Elsa Schiaparelli, and Vivienne Westwood exhibits we'd seen that spring.

Today I'm going to have breakfast with my college roommate, and then M and I are going to go get my friend who has been up at her parents' sitting shiva for her brother. This evening we'll go out to dinner with my mom and stepfather. It should be a good day; it usually is.

Tune in tomorrow for memories of July 27. (1964: Milk! 1987: Hangover!)

I Actually Saw a Movie

Heights. Another narcissistic, rich, white people in New York movie, but a good one. I liked it.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Blueberry Buckle

"Are you coming over to pick berries tomorrow?" asked my mother-in-law.

"I guess I am," I replied.

"Good, then I don't have to pick them," she said.

My mother-in-law is winding down her reign as the garden queen. She's just got a few flower beds and a vegetable plot bigger than any we've ever had in our life. And she's got the berries: a big thicket of raspberries and a tangle of high-bush blueberries in a chicken wire cage to keep the birds away. More berries than anyone could eat, let alone two people, no matter how many berry desserts they serve up at dinner parties.

So the girls and I went over yesterday afternoon and in 15 minutes had filled a container of raspberries and a bigger container of blueberries. E ate all the raspberries for snack (M snagged a few, but mainly it was E who loudly proclaimed as she ate, "I like raspberries!"). We made a buckle with the blueberries.

When I was a kid, we rented a house on a lake every summer. The only cookbook there was an ancient Betty Crocker whose blueberry buckle recipe became our summer staple. Of course we never thought to copy it down, so there have been lots of semi-successful buckle efforts over the years since we stopped going to that house. Yesterday I googled once again, and there were literally hundreds of buckle recipes, some claiming to be Betty Crocker but still differing from each other (though only slightly--the main differences are whether there is 1/2 or 3/4 cup milk and 2 or 2/12 teaspoons baking powder). I copied down the one that looked best, we made it, and it was perfect: soft blueberry-studded cake, crackly sugary topping, rose beautifully. I highly recommend it.

Blueberry Buckle
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
1 egg
2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup milk
2 cups blueberries

Crumb Topping
1/2 cup sugar (I used half brown, half white)
1/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup soft butter

Preheat oven to 375. Butter and flour an 8" square pan. Cream sugar, butter, and egg. Mix flour, salt and baking powder. Add to butter mixture alternating with milk and blend thoroughly. Fold in blueberries. Pour into pan.

Mix topping ingredients with your fingers till it is the consistency of small crumbs. Spread topping on batter.

Bake 45-50 minutes (ours was done at 45).

Sunday, July 24, 2005

A Sad Story

Once there was a girl named E. She was four and a half. She had a terrible life.

Nothing was fair. Everything was unfair.

She never got to do anything she wanted. Ever. Everyone else got to do everything they wanted. Always.

Nobody played with her. Nobody read books to her. Ever.

She couldn't read. She would never, ever learn to read.

On top of all that, at least five or six times a day, she had to scream and cry and run into her room and throw herself on her bed, because it was all so terrible.

Isn't that the saddest story you ever heard?

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Is This Our Future?

We can take lessons. From the Iraqis, the Israelis, the Irish.

But I want to take ice skating lessons and learn to do that crossover thing. I wouldn't mind French lessons, or piano.

I don't want to take lessons on how to live in a world where bombs go off every day.

Friday, July 22, 2005

My Little Multi-Media Junkie

E: I wish the TV and computer were next to each other. Then I could watch TV while I play on the computer.

Heretical Thoughts on the Supreme Court

The guy is going to get confirmed.

Bush did exactly the right thing: chose the lawyer with excellent credentials and a minimal paper trail. Sure there's the quote on Roe, and the wife who's a board member of Feminists for Life, and the nasty decision on the twelve-year-old girl and the french fry, and the consistently anti-environment/pro-business decisions, but all of that is pretty tame, not the kind of stuff that derails a nomination. Unless they find a literal skeleton in his closet (i.e. discover that he was having an affair with the crack-smoking nanny and then murdered her so she wouldn't reveal that he hadn't paid her taxes), he's in.

Which makes me seriously question why we are spending so much money (for some reason eighteen million dollars is the number stuck in my head, and I think that's only for one organization) trying to beat him. This whole thing makes the Democrats and progressive organizations look like exactly the kind of nit-picking, never-satisfied ideologues the Republicans want us to look like. If the goal is to let them know how we feel, well, they already know and they don't care. And that's a lot of money that could instead be spent on an issue that has some real political viability. Like electing Democratic senators in 2006. Or ending the war.

Can't we please, for once, be as strategic as they are? (Look at how Roberts did indeed push Rove right off the front page and out the back door.)

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Before There Was Nigella, There Was Julia

If I were going to be in Chicago on my birthday, I would definitely be going to see Bon Appetit!, an OPERA about JULIA CHILD making a CHOCOLATE CAKE, based on a transcript of her show from 1961. How incredibly brilliant is that?!

[Oh god, am I going Dooce-like again with the caps? I haven't read Dooce in so long...she does. the. periods. between. every. word. thing. right? But there are a lot of caps in there too, aren't there?]

Domestic Complaints

I hate my sheets.

Several years ago, really so long ago that I don't remember and would be embarassed to say if I did remember, we bought new sheets. We'd always had sheets, of course, like any ordinary people, but I think we had handmedown sheets or thrift store sheets or something. No, I'm sure we did not have thrift store sheets, because that just would not have been ok with me on a sanitary basis, even if I washed them, which I know is irrational, but there it is. But the point is: once we had sheets of unknown provenance, and then we bought new sheets.

Actually, I bought the sheets. S has never bought a sheet in his life. And I don't think I had either, until I bought the new sheets (the question of where we got the old sheets is still nagging at me, but I really don't think I bought them). I bought the new sheets at a sale, which is why I bought them, even though our old sheets were perfectly reasonable, and I bought two sets, which seemed extremely grown-up and responsible. I think my idea was that we would use one set and then put them in the laundry and use the other set. But in fact we are juvenile and irresponsible when it comes to sheets: we barely ever wash them, and when we do we just put them right back on the bed. So of the two sets I only opened one.

I loved those sheets. They were Ralph Lauren sheets (it was a sale, remember?) and they really were better than any sheets I'd ever slept in (later we got Garnet Hill flannel sheets for winter--on sale--and they were even better, but this was then). They were blue with a kind of floral paisley design and they were soft and comfortable and pretty, and eventually they wore out. Like: no more corner elastic. Like: holes. Like: I could no longer pretend to myself that these were acceptable sheets, even taking into account how juvenile and irresponsible we really are (this is making me remember a hilarious blues song some friends and I made up many years ago about sleeping with guys in beds where the bottom sheet always came off the corner of the bed and was full of grit and there was just a sleeping bag for a blanket and no top sheet at all--luckily we are no longer that juvenile and irresponsible, but still...).

Anyway, when my lovely blue paisley floral soft Ralph Lauren sheets wore out, I opened the other set. These are the sheets I hate. I have no idea why I bought them. The bottom sheet is gray. Gray? Who on earth would buy a gray sheet? The top sheet is gray and white striped. There are two gray pillowcases and two--can you even guess? is the suspense killing you?--gray and white striped pillowcases. They are the ugliest sheets in creation. But worse, so much worse, is that they are not soft. They are kind of rough, kind of itchy, kind of not pleasant at all, especially when it is hot, and it has been hot (but now it is not so hot in the sheets because S got us an air conditioner for the bedroom, but still...). Not only that, but they pull off the sides of the mattress no matter how often I tuck them in. They are the hell of sheets. I hate them.

OK, you're saying to yourself, you reasonable reader out there, why doesn't she just go out and get new sheets? She is obviously a person of sufficient means; she just got an air conditioner, for goodness sake. Just go to the store, you want to tell me, or even to the Garnet Hill website, sale page if you will, and put yourself and the sheets out of your mutual misery, because surely if you are so unhappy with the sheets, the sheets cannot possibly be happy with you.

Yes, I should, but the thing is, we don't have a bedroom right now. We are sleeping in E's bedroom, and E is sharing M's bedroom. We need to build a bedroom for us (now you're wondering who's we, white man--obviously not me [yes, I see your vigorous nods, those of you who know me in person], but a bedroom must be built). I don't know what color the bedroom will be. And I want my new sheets to match my new bedroom in some way, so that...well, after yesterday's post I just don't want to go any further with discussion of the perfection of my bed, but I would like to love my sheets again, and unfortunately I am the kind of superficial person who could fall out of love with my sheets if they do not look good in my bedroom. Then again, I suppose I could buy some sheets and then paint the bedroom to match them...

Or, I could just complain about hating my sheets.

[I was going to continue with complaints about the cute little USELESS dustpan, brush, toilet brush and plunger we bought at Target that DO NOT WORK, but I think I've spent myself on the sheets, so to speak.]

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Not a Post About My Sex Life

I don't get the whole videotaping yourself having sex thing. Maybe I missed some crucial stage in my sexual development, or perhaps I was out of the room when they explained it in sex ed. Maybe I'm innately avideoal. But I just don't understand it on so many levels.

Is the act of taping itself exciting? Does knowing the tape is running make you have better sex?

What do you do with the tape once you've made it? Do you watch it? Do you have more sex while you watch yourself having sex? Do you watch it when you're alone and have sex with yourself? Do you share it with your friends? Do they watch it and have sex? Is this post going to get me lots of scary sexbot hits? Am I a total loser?

I don't think I want to watch myself having sex. But maybe everyone else knows something I don't. Maybe I should want to watch myself having sex. Maybe I need videotape sex therapy.

Could it be an age thing? Is videotaping yourself having sex a self-evident next step for the generation that has been videotaped from birth to birthday parties to ballet recitals? The generation that has never known a world without reality TV and internet porn? The generation to which I do not belong?

And what about these celebrities? Are they really as dumb as they seem? Do they truly believe that even though it happened to Rob Lowe, and to Pamela and Tommy Lee, and to Paris, it won't happen to them? Yes, Colin Farrell, I'm talking about you. But then again, maybe this urge to tape is so powerful that it overcomes all common sense. Clearly, I wouldn't know.

[This is one of those posts where I'm not sure whether I'm revealing how pathetic I really am or speaking up for the silent majority. And I'm not sure I want to find out.]

Tuesday, July 19, 2005


The girls are in camp this week.

M is going all day to a theater and art camp. When I got home yesterday she told me about every scene in their pirate skit, and the country they are designing, and how she is the only nine year old in her group, and that she likes Z and K best of the kids in her group, and she doesn't really like her small group for designing the country but it's ok, and she's the only kid who answers the teachers' questions.

E is going to soccer camp for two hours every morning. She said that she made a friend, but she doesn't know her name. She said they didn't play soccer, they just played kick-the-ball games. She said the games were boring so she and her friend didn't play, they just stood on the side and talked, and the teachers didn't notice. She said all this with great glee.

My basic philosophy for school, camp, and other such activities is if my kids are happy, I'm happy.

I'm happy.

Though I do feel really sorry for E's teachers.

Monday, July 18, 2005

The Unimaginable

We were walking in an old graveyard yesterday, and I saw two small graves side by side, siblings, a two year old who died April 26, 1736 and a one year old who died three days later. Maybe cholera, I thought. Smallpox, suggested S.

I can’t imagine parenting back then. Having all those babies, and then, too often, losing all those babies. We think perhaps they didn’t care as much. If you lose one baby after another before they can talk, you must get used to it. If you have eleven children, losing one can’t be that bad. But I’ve read lots of 18th- and 19th-century letters and diaries, and oh god it hurt them as much as it would hurt us. Read Darwin’s letters after the death of his nine-year-old daughter Annie to see pure devastation.

An old friend’s brother died last week. You might have seen it on the news. He was one of the three men killed when a woman trying to kill herself crashed into their stopped car at 70 miles per hour. She lived.

He was the youngest of four: the golden child, the light of everyone’s life. I haven’t seen his parents, but another friend said that a day after they heard the news they were still just sitting there, in shock, unable to speak.

There was a time in the middle of my 20s when I knew too many young men who died. One was shot while sneaking into Kurdish Iraq to take photographs during the first Gulf War; one died in a car accident in Zimbabwe; one was crushed in an avalanche out west while working on a search and rescue team; another fell off a mountain in Poland. There was an overdose in New York. There was AIDS in Vermont and California.

I only knew the parents of one of these men, and they are remarkable spiritual people who somehow managed to be at once destroyed and transcendent (if that makes no sense, I’m sorry, I can’t explain it, but that’s how they were). Honestly, though, I never thought about the parents of the others, about their grieving families. I thought about me and my friends and how young we were and how much life we were living and how wrong it was for them to die. But it comforted me, just a little, hardly, barely, but it did, that so many of them died doing what they wanted to do: hiking, war reporting, driving through the African bush.

I said to my friend that at least she had nothing to regret about her brother’s life, that he lived exactly as he wanted to live and had a great time doing it, and that’s not something you can say about just anyone. Still, it’s the smallest of small comfort.

I wish I could say that now I’m appreciating every inch of my children, of all my loved ones, that every moment I’m aware of how much I love them and how special they are and how much they mean to me. But I’m not. I nagged M to distraction last night about picking up her dirty clothes. All I wanted this afternoon was for E to stop whining about her computer game and leave me alone. I’m still here in ordinary life. I haven’t crossed over to the unimaginable realm of the bereft, and I pray that I never do.

But I feel so sick and so sad for all those who have.

Let’s Just Leave It Up in the Air

Clearly definitive statements are not working for me. So let’s just say that I might blog, and I might not. I might blog regularly, and I might not. I might say when I’m going away, and I might not. I might be deep and meaningful and original, and I might not. You might read me and you might not.

[For you nice people who are concerned about me, I’m fine. There’s no stalker or troll. There are no problems. I’m just a bit unhinged from all this transition and while it’s hardly visible in my everyday life, I seem to be taking it out on my blog.]

OK, I Can't Resist This One

Jude, Jude, Jude.

We understand, we really do. Sadie was hot and incredibly hip, but settling down so young and then having three kids before you were thirty? It was not a good idea. But you realize that now. You're just sowing your wild oats a little late. Sienna's a total babe in her own right and she's young. You get to do the whole reliving the youth you never lived thing. And the nanny, well, I'm sure she's cute too, and isn't fucking the nanny part of the whole movie star thing? Robin Williams married his, and rumor has it that Harrison Ford was all over his (thanks to Dawn for the rumor). You're just one of the guys.


Jude, you're very goodlooking. If I were Sadie or Sienna or the nanny, I would be all over you myself. But it's time to show a little self-restraint. Put it back in your pants. Go do a yoga retreat or something. This is ridiculous.

Friday, July 15, 2005

I'm Done

For now, at least.


Monday, July 11, 2005

A Huge Shout Out to M

for being the best, most helpful, most responsible big sister/cousin ever while I single-handedly wrangled her, her sister, and their almost-five-year-old cousin for a day and a night. She organized games, told stories, negotiated conflicts, held hands, dug holes in sand, and, most uncomfortably, sat squinched in the backseat between the two booster seats. She was endlessly cheerful and never lost her patience or got angry (though she did whisper to me that having four-year-old twins would be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad thing).

She well deserves going up to the lake early this morning with daddy to spend the day alone with grandma while daddy goes fishing. E and I will be heading up this afternoon, after my sister comes to pick up L. I'll be blogging again sometime around the end of the week.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Nigella Update

I know, I've been slacking on the Nigella front. But I've got excuses! Good ones!

1) Chocolate Guiness Cake and Chocolate Meringue Truffle Cake are so good that it's hard to resist detouring from the chocolate cake odyssey to make them again and again. This week alone I made Chocolate Guinness for S's brother's birthday on Monday and Chocolate Meringue Truffle for my mom's birthday on Saturday. Both received rave reviews, especially from those who have been following the chocolate cake saga on the blog but had not yet gotten a taste.

2) It's summer. Who on earth wants to turn on the oven and trek through chocolate cakes when it's 90 degrees out? Just give me a slice of watermelon already!

3) Honestly, I'm not too excited about the rest of the cakes: Chocolate Orange Cake and Chocolate Fruit Cake--the whole fruit/chocolate thing which, as you know, I'm not so crazy about; Rococoa Chocolate Cake--looks really challenging and has ingredients like chopped pistachios and mascarpone cheese which I don't usually happen to have around the house; Chocolate Chestnut Cake--Nigella uses some weird cake mold that I don't have; Chocolate Cheesecake--no real objection, just cheesecake doesn't seem very chocolate cake to me.

OK, writing out those objections makes them all seem lame--except for the ongoing fruit problem which I simply need to get over if I am going to complete this chocolate cake quest. My resolve is renewed. I will not repeat another cake until I have tried them all. The baking will resume.

In September.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

A Cold, Rainy Friday Afternoon

We made the decision to leave Red State Capital City Suburb when we were in London last year. We really wanted to live in London, but that wasn’t possible, so we decided the next best thing would be to move back to East Coast Big City.

It took us a year to organize the move: get new jobs, sell our house, buy a new house, let the girls finish school. That whole time I was full of doubt. We had such good friends and neighbors; our life was easy and affordable; the girls were so happy. Why on earth, I asked myself nearly daily, were we putting ourselves through this upheaval?

The talismanic moment I used to reassure myself that we’d made the right decision was one cold, rainy Friday afternoon in London. I was walking to King’s Cross on my way home from work, carrying my umbrella, stepping around the puddles, one in a stream of umbrella-carriers and puddle-avoiders, the Euston Road traffic honking and crawling beside us, and I felt perfectly, indubitably, deeply happy. I loved the work I was doing; I loved the place I was living; I was looking forward to the evening and weekend; the rain and cold couldn’t put a dent in my general sense of well-being. It was a completely unfamiliar feeling.

Yesterday in East Coast Big City it was cold and rainy. Late in the afternoon I went out to do some errands and then to the café to work. I was navigating the parking lot by the bookstore and hardware store, looking for an empty space, avoiding the cars coming the other way in the too-narrow lanes, turning my windshield wipers on and off to try and match the intermittent drizzle. I thought of that cold, rainy Friday afternoon in London, and I knew we had made the right decision.

Though I would still move to London in a moment. Even today.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Why Do I Find This So Hard to Take Seriously?

From a review of Daniel Coyle's Lance Armstrong's War: One Man's Battle Against Fate, Fame, Love, Death, Scandal, and a Few Other Rivals on the Road to the Tour de France:

Coyle, with a velvety mix of vivid, sophisticated prose, Raymond Carver's unerring eye for nuance, and John Irving's irreverent, unflinching humor, lays bear the European peloton (a race's large main group) during the 2004 season. From his base in Girona, Spain--the European epicenter of American cycling and Armstrong's Postal/Discovery team--Coyle spins a yarn worthy of a Tolkien trilogy.

But I Can't Go!

Somebody must have had John, Exene, and Dave over for dinner and plied them with tequila because not only did X play in L.A. last month, but the Knitters have a new album AND are touring.


It took me till this evening to read today's paper. Besides yesterday's win, the sports section was full of London and the 2012 Summer Olympics.

This morning I paid the bills, went for a run, and took the living room rug to the Oriental rug dudes to be cleaned. This afternoon I took the girls to the main library in Big City (the metropolis around which cluster City, Town, Other Town, Suburb, and all the other places in which our new life unfolds) to see an exhibit on printing and books, as well as an exhibit about Nancy Drew that we hadn't even known was there. Then we had ice cream, visited a friend and her toddler and baby, and ended up at the playground. I made edamame (frozen) and pad thai (from a box) for dinner.

Going on with ordinary life seems blasphemous, but that's how it is. Being more disturbed by bombings in London than bombings in Iraq seems hideously Eurocentric, but that's how it is too. I think it's the combination of the familiar and the unexpected. This I can picture; this I have not become inured to. Yet it raises the issue of how frighteningly inured we have become, as every day we blasphemously go on with ordinary life.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

I Know This Isn't About Me

We were in London when the Madrid bombings happened last year.

Every day I took the tube from Turnpike Lane to Kings Cross. Sometimes I would meet S and the girls at the British Museum and we would get on the tube at Russell Square to go home, passing through Kings Cross on the way to Turnpike Lane.

A week or so after Madrid, I wrote this in an email to friends and family:

Madrid definitely feels close, and while airplanes are not going to crash into skyscrapers in Red State Capital City Suburb, bombs are probably going to go off in Tube stations in London. After a few days of headlines about victims and suspects, and then the Spanish election, the newspapers turned to trumpeting the likelihood of an attack in London, which everyone agrees is very high. The day after the bombing there was a noticeable increase in the police presence in the Tube, as well as in the frequency of the PA announcement about not leaving your luggage unattended at King’s Cross. At [work], we observed the three minutes of silence for the victims. When I go down the escalator at King’s Cross, I often think about it, but I have to take the Tube home, so I just stop thinking about it and read about Samuel Pepys instead.

I'm sure nobody was thinking about it on the train between Kings Cross and Russell Square this morning.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Signs of Stress

The bottom line is that we are all happy with our move. I expected a lot more homesickness from the kids, but aside from M missing the girls next door when she's bored, they have pretty much left Red State Capital City Suburb behind. (Or maybe not: M just read this over my shoulder and said "And L! I miss L!" and then stomped off to the couch and wouldn't talk to me, so maybe I have just triggered the arrival of homesickness--or maybe she just needs some breakfast.)

My point, though, was going to be, and still is, that although we are all happy with our move, and having a great time with our East Coast Big City family and friends, and loving our new house, and exploring our new neighborhood, and going swimming every day, it's clear that we are all stressed. Here's how it shows:

E--talking lots of baby talk and has peed in her pants three times in the last week

M--chewing her hair

S--stomach problems

me--barely sleeping

It's almost laughable how predictable we are. These are exactly the ways each of us always responds to stress. It's just interesting to barely notice the stress on a manifest level, but have it be so obviously latent. (I hope I'm using those terms correctly; what I once manifestly knew about psychoanalysis has long since gone latent.) (A joke, that's a psychoanalytic joke, not proof that I really don't know what they mean.) (Not that anyone cares.)

My Other Favorite Topic

That would be celebrity gossip, of course: Michael Musto gets it exactly right.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Bush and the Supreme Court

This time Salon has it exactly right.

The Idea of Order at My House

I fantasized that in a new house, we would be new people. We would not pile up mail and papers on the dining room table. We would keep the toys in some designated well-organized space, rather than all over the living room. We would put the CDs back in their cases after we listened to them.

For a day or so, my fantasy seemed on its way to reality. I organized the girls' toys in the sun porch. I put a bowl for loose change on S's dresser. I stowed all the important papers and bills in my big work bag since the office was full of boxes and I haven't started work yet. (Note the subject of the verb in all these sentences. You can tell where this is going, can't you?)

Then I didn't pay attention for a few days. We went to New York. We finally got internet, and it took me a while to catch up with email and my friends' blogs. We went swimming.

By the time I realized it, it was too late.

Books have already piled up on the living room table. S has created a new dumping space on the shelf by the phone which is already covered with piles of coins, little pieces of paper with shopping lists and phone numbers (no names, of course), tops of pens, and cell phone cords. The sun porch is a pit of dressups. A hideous tangle of cords surrounds the TV, DVD, and stereo. The fridge contains a scary history of not-so-recent meals.

It's a nice new house, but we are still hopelessly us. I just want to scream.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Not a Sandra Day O'Connor Post

To keep my liberal feminist blogger credentials, I know I should be writing a post about Sandra Day O'Connor, replete with the requisite links to inform and inspire activism. But I just don't want to.

For one thing, as I've said before, I'm in something of a narcissistic domestic bubble. I'm preoccupied with a major career decision that I have to make this week. After that, I need to think about renovating the attic. I spend most of my time with a nine year old and a four year old, and when I encounter other adults, we mainly talk about things like the nine year old, the four year old, the career decision, and renovating the attic. When I read the East Coast Big City Newspaper, I have no idea what's going on locally, which for some reason makes the national and world news seem equally unreal. So the Supreme Court is just not at the forefront of my attention, even though of course I know it should be.

The other reason I don't want to write about Sandra Day O'Connor is that I just don't think anything we say or do will make a difference. Karl Rove believes that hard-core conservatism is the way to go, so that's the way Bush will go. I know lots of people continue to fantasize that he's a closet moderate, but let's face it, he's not. And he's never listened to us before, so why should he listen to us now? Indeed, if Kerry were president, he'd be naming a liberal regardless of conservative protests. That's how it works, at least at this level.

And while part of me has a lot of sympathy for O'Connor and believes it is her right to make her own choices, this decision shows where she really stands. Here's her son in the New York Times article about why she did it:

"There's no telling who will be our next president, and I just think, like so many of her decisions, it just kind of made sense," her son said.

"And I think in some regards, the stars aligned, and it was just kind of time," he said. "I don't think she would want to be an old 'hanger-oner.' And if she didn't do it now, she might have been there another 10 years, if you do the math, depending on what happens down the road with future presidential elections."

In other words, O'Connor was determined to have a Republican select her replacement, and she knows as well as any of us what that will mean. So much for her commitment to Roe v. Wade.

There: I've blogged Sandra Day O'Connor despite myself. Depressing, huh? If you want something more informative and activism inspiring, try Dawn (down below the baby and adoption stuff) or Dr. B (interspersed with Karl Rove and Pseudonymous Kid anecdotes).

[And if you want to know what's really on my mind this evening, it's: 1) how thrilling it was to watch E teach herself to swim this afternoon; 2) that we need to remember to bring a blanket when we go to the pond because the towels just get too sandy when we lay them straight on the ground; 3) how glad I am that I put the vacuum cleaner on a kitchen chair, balanced on the side of the tub, and vacuumed the disgusting bathroom fan vent in the ceiling light.]

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Accepting My Outer Tourist

For most of my life I tried desperately not to be recognized as a tourist. I studied maps in hotel rooms, memorizing routes so I wouldn't have to pull out those telltale sheets of folded paper in public. I tied my scarves like the natives and never wore running shoes. I whispered and mumbled, hoping that my American-accented English would somehow slip under the linguistic radar.

It was something of a relief to travel in Africa and South Asia where my touristic status was too obvious to be hidden. Ironically, I had some of my most intimate travel experiences in Botswana, where my American teacher friends shared a compound with the Batswana teachers, and India, where I lived and traveled with Indian friends. Yet I continued to mumble in London and loop my scarf twice around my neck in Paris.

But in New York this week, I realized that I am finally over my tourist anxieties. Perhaps it was living in London last year. You can't mumble for months at a time, and besides, I was living and working, not sightseeing, and I knew it, so what did I care what other people thought? Perhaps it's traveling with children. If you need to find the carousel in Central Park, you need to find it, and wandering around aimlessly until you happen upon it because you know it is somewhere over there just doesn't cut it with kids, so you either need to pull out a map (which I couldn't because I didn't have one because really I'm not a tourist) or ask (which I did, and at least the hotdog vendor pointed us in the right direction, though it was still a search). Perhaps it's that I finally have gained--dare I even say it?--a modicum of maturity, or maybe it's just that tourist stuff is fun.

At any rate, I took the girls to New York last week to visit C, who is about to have a baby, and my aunt and uncle, who are not about to have a baby, and we had a fabulous touristic time. We spent Thursday in Central Park at the playground, zoo (E calls it the Madagascar zoo since I took her to see the movie), and carousel. We also took a sidetrip to F.A.O. Schwartz where E danced on the piano, and we went to Alice's Tea Cup which is the most delightful treats place ever.

On Friday we took the subway to Coney Island, most notorious in our house for the time Henny got lost and the policemen gave her an ice cream cone (M: I never knew what the All-of-a-Kind Family's last name was! E: I know what it is, it's a-Kind Family). We waded and dug in the sand, rode kiddie rides, bumper boats, and bumper cars, and ate ice cream, hot dogs, and french fries.

I got to go running twice in Riverside Park which is gorgeous these days. The girls got to be doted upon by my aunt and cousin. We ate H and H bagels every day. It was simply a great time, touristicality and all. And then, it was so nice to come home to our new house.

And then, to cap off the greatness of it all, the cable guy came and we finally got internet!!

Saturday, July 02, 2005

The Developmental Necessity of the Carousel

I sat by the carousel in Central Park, watching M and E go up and down and around and around. Each time they came round the bend toward the bench where I sat, their faces were solemn, their eyes eagerly scanning. Then they'd catch sight of me and light up, waving ecstatically and turning their heads to keep me in view for as long as possible. Sometimes they held hands. Sometimes they performed balletic horseback-riding arm and head dances.

I remembered when I used to have to ride too, holding toddlers on the back of the horse, then standing by little kids, old enough to hold on but not to ride by themselves. Now there is no question that they will ride on their own, which is fine because the carousel makes me dizzy these days. But it's still essential that I be just beyond the fence, scanning the oncoming horses and waving madly when I see them.

This is growing up: you go off to the far side of the carousel on your own, and then you come back and your mother is there waving, and you wave back, and then you're off on your own again, and again, and again.