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Friday, September 19, 2014

Welcome to Friday

And welcome, people, to Friday! I am writing this, of course, on Thursday, a day consumed with fighting off the hangover I insisted on cultivating the night before. So far, a combination of work, writing, cooking and massive amounts of water and Fresca seem to have kept my urge to lie in the dark in the fetal position at bay.

How did I get to this deplorable state?

Wednesday night, Molly and I went to Dusty's for drinks and drinks and drinks. We were joined by others who seemed to think we were on to something.

I awoke in the morning with a headache, minus $40, and a notebook with pages of near-indecipherable notes.

Molly, RD, Vin, Ciena, Bill, and me.
Drinks and general goofiness.
The Pogues are on the jukebox! I looooove the Pogues!
RD is doing silly finger tricks to prove his sobriety. RD does not get out enough! Must speak to him about this.
The East Coast Contingency (John) knows the rules to Bizz-Buzz (drinking game). Have invited him to Misfit Thanksgiving the day after something.

The notes gradually became illegible.

Pawling in 2. Frippen on the ritley!
Shannon, Willie, Jeff and Kathy are here! Yay! Krinnen galaxy particles spinnen sideways.
Early Fano are! Turn around and there is Erin!

Clearly it was all very exciting.  Normally sparing with my exclamation marks, the pages are explosive with diagrams, underlining, and wildly effusive punctuation.

And then comes my favorite note of the night: “This will all make sense in the morning, I am sure of it.”

I’m still waiting for it to make sense and will let you know what it all means just as soon as I figure it out.

In the meantime, Happy Friday to you. Frippen on the ritley -- and take notes.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Yesterday Was a Test of the Internal Emergency Broadcast System

Had this been a real emergency, you would have been instructed where to find the remnants of my head and encouraged to send copious amounts of tequila and other possibly consoling sundries to my grieving friends and family.

I’m exaggerating, as is my wont; and yet if there was a day designed to test my fortitude, it was yesterday.

Patience is not my long suit. Hard to picture, isn’t it? Now, I’m not talking about instant pudding here (although it can’t hold a candle to real pudding – don’t get me started on the beauty of a real pudding!). I’m talking about when the normal things one does take three to four times as long as they usually do.

Take the computer for example. I often have a medium-sized obelisk-style pile of paper that must be "inputted", as they say, to the computer. I’ve gotten this sort of thing down pat – I know how many “tabs” to where I need to go next, I know how much I can enter at any given time, I know how far ahead of myself I can get before the computer gets crabby with me, and I know when I’ll be done so I can go on to the next scintillating project.

Now take the same medium-sized obelisk-style pile of paper that I need to enter into the computer, only this time put one of my arms in a sling, put the data in another language and drop some LSD into my coffee. That’s how I felt yesterday, minus the signatures of my friends on the plaster or the accompanying challenge/amusement of the trails left behind as people pass by my desk...

I’m a Type A personality, folks. I have Things To Do.

Very Important Things.

As a matter of fact, I was told, at my last review, that the only thing they had for me as a “developmental goal” was for me to “have more fun”.

I laughed out loud at that one; but at work, I guess it’s true. I can be – can be! – one of those people who responds to your question of “How was your weekend?” with “Lovely! Say, did you ever get that file I sent you?”

Don’t they know that I’m paid by the hour? Don’t they know I have Things To Do?


I need to be “fuzzier”. I need to “relax”.

Breathe, dagnab it, Pearl, breathe! (And insert bland, cow-like thoughts here.)


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Hope, and the Dispersal Thereof

I once found myself in the Caribbean with my brother.

I believe it was St. Lucia.

Have you ever hung out with Kevin? You should. He’s one of the more sincere BS artists you’ll ever meet. Kevin is the devil’s advocate, the turd in the punchbowl, the handsome man you suspect may be pulling your leg.

He is. Pulling your leg, that is.

Except when he isn’t.

Both Kevin and I tend to attract lonely people, and we did on this vacation. Perhaps it was because we were having fun, perhaps because we looked like people that would listen, perhaps because we looked like people who were drunk.

It’s not important. What was important was the moment Kevin asked Jean-Claude to sat down.

Jean-Claude was a very black man with very white teeth, a man whose face spoke of sadness. He tried to sell us a variety of cheaply made trinkets in a rush of words, more than three-quarters of which whistled into one ear, around my brain, and back out my other ear without my understanding them.

Kevin threw himself into the moment.

“What am I gonna do with this stuff?” Kevin asked. “Seriously. Jean-Claude, aren’t you tired, brother? Let’s relax. You want a beer? Here, you run and buy Pearl and I here a beer, and buy yourself one, too. You wanna?” Kevin handed him a twenty.

Jean-Claude’s sad eyes took in the money, looked at Kevin and I, and left.

I took a long pull off one of the beers we already had in front of us. “Think he’ll come back?” I asked.

“Of course he will,” Kevin said, lifting his arm to display a dozen necklaces. “I’ve lifted half his inventory.”

Sure enough, Jean-Claude returned.

And stayed.

We had three beers apiece with Jean-Claude, or “Jay-Say” as he insisted we call him, on Kevin’s dime; and while his island patois was not easy on these Minnesotan ears, his story came out as the hour grew later and the steel drums played. His mother had just died. He had three younger sisters still in school. He worked during the day, sold trinkets at night.

He looked up. What did we think? He got by, but it wasn’t enough. Should he go back to school?

Kevin put a hand on J-C’s arm. “Brother, you need to go to school. Make yourself the go-to guy here. Work on your English, give ‘em that big smile of yours, and use that brain. It’s all going to be okay. I know it. Say it with me: it’s going to be okay.”

J-C smiled. “It’s all going to be okay.”

“That’s right,” Kevin said. We raised our last beers, clinked.

We left about an hour after that. With handshakes and hugs, J-C went his way and we went ours.

We walked away from the outdoor bar. “That was real nice,” I said, “all those things you said to J-C.”

“Wasn’t nice,” he hiccupped. “Was true. It’s all true, and I hope he believes it like I do.”

We stopped walking and stood for a moment, a streetlight overhead, the ocean in front of us. Strange Caribbean stars blinked overhead.

Kevin, a full foot taller than me, smiled down.

“It doesn’t cost anything to give people hope, you know.”

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Now With More Bone! or Tora! Tora! Tora!

A re-post from 2012, while I struggle under the weight of expectations...

I have long suspected that I am special.

The freckles, of course, were my first clue.

“Angel kisses,” Grandma said, generously.

“Wait’ll they get wet,” Kevin would hiss into my ear.  “If they get wet and you scratch ‘em, they’ll stink.”

Then there’s my ability to burn myself with a curling iron, something I do at least three times a year.  And of course there’s my uncanny knack insofar as eyeballing teaspoons and tablespoons without actually owning a set myself.

And yes, whatever I’ve just cooked is supposed to taste that way.

All of this special-ness adds up to one thing:  not being surprised when the dental hygienist mentioned the tora in my mouth.

Not the torah, even if Rosh Hashanah is coming. 

The tora.

“The what now?”

“Right here,” she says, running her metallic doohickey along the roof of my mouth.  “The bony plate.”

“Uh oh-ee eigh?”

“Yep,” she says.  “The bony plate.”  She puts the doohickey away.  “That’s why you cut the inside of your mouth so often on crunchy foods.  Am I right?”

I sit up slightly, nodding.  I run my index finger along the roof of my mouth.  There is a ridge of bone running smack down the middle of it, dividing my palate in two.  “You mean not everyone has this?”

“No,” she says.  “It’s not exactly rare, but it’s not common.”

“Other people’s palates are flat?”


I consider this.  “I have abnormal brain waves, too,” I tell her. 

“I don’t doubt it,” she says.

“Plus,” I say, “I can still put my feet in my mouth.”

“That’s gotta come in handy,” she grants, grinning. 

I like a dental hygienist with a sense of humor.

I open my mouth wide, try to see the top of my mouth in the little mirror, but it looks the way it’s always looked.

There’s so much yet to be discovered.

Monday, September 15, 2014

When I'm Not Doing Something Incredibly Useful...

“The walk to the bus may have looked like any other, but Monday was the day that changed everything.”

I’ve been known to narrate my life. Not aloud, of course, because that would be unseemly. No use in frightening my fellow citizens.

Honestly, the commentary in my head is usually more entertaining than what’s going on around me.

I don’t limit my narrations to my life, though. I’m willing to narrate yours as well.

“Little did the woman pinching the tomatoes know, but the person next to her at the Farmer’s Market, the person inspecting the turnips, then the rutabagas, was her brother Frank, the man who had left for the Navy 15 years ago only to be struck by lightning and left wandering, witless all these years, in his pursuit of the perfect root vegetable.”

My lips don’t move when I do this, so it’s perfectly normal.

Now if my lips moved

I sometimes see people’s lips moving. They’re walking down the street, fully engaged in something or other. Before Bluetooth and teeny-tiny headphones, this was more amusing than it is now. Like the 'rahr, rahr, rahr' of a dog with a mouthful of peanut butter, one could envision any monologue one liked. Now, however, rather than imagining someone reciting the “My-mother-was-right-and-I’m-leaving-you-you-cheap-SOB” speech as they push their grocery cart through the dairy section, the odds are actually much better that the words they are speaking into the world’s smallest phone are more along the lines of “I’ll be home soon! Do we need milk?”


So I’m going to continue to create little fantasy lives around them, what they’re saying, where they’re going, why they’re meeting.

Oh, if only they knew how happy they make me, these lip-moving people, or how much I love them.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Every Season is Special; or, I’m – Sob! – Cold!

I stood at the bus stop this morning, a chill in the air and a suspiciously autumnal look to the sky and thought to myself, ‘Now where’s my mittens?’

Wait.   Mittens?

It’s a full 30 degrees colder this morning than it was just two weeks ago.

Oh, September, you sly little thing you.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, I stand before you, a woman covered fore to aft in layers upon layers of thick, weather-defiant clothing. 

In September.

The Farmer’s Almanac, always disturbingly accurate, predicts another dreadful winter, much like last year’s dreadful winter, only with more snow.

I have cousins online comparing SAD light boxes. 

“This is the first year,” my son says, “that I’m not looking forward to winter.”

“Me, too,” I say.

“There just wasn’t enough summer,” he says.  “I’m not sick of it yet.”

And ain’t that the truth.

Of course, it goes against the code, living in Minnesota, to face an upcoming season in this manner.  We’re a hardy people, dammit, and buck up, won’t you?  Why, our great-grandmothers hung wash that froze on the line!  They subsisted on animals they butchered themselves and root vegetables they kept in a root cellar!

They wrested a living out of the land – frozen and unfrozen – with nothing but steely determination; large, well-muscled sons; and the knowledge that there was nothing they could do about it!

It was 42 degrees at the bus stop this morning. 

If you need me, I shall be in a hot bath until spring. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Seet. I Make You Coffee.

We are standing in the kitchen.

“So this coffee,” I say.  “What makes it Turkish?”

Maryna shakes her pretty little head.  “Watch,” she says.  “Don’t ask questions.”

I raise my hands, one of which is holding a wine glass, and back away silently, sitting on a stool at the breakfast bar.

“I am not going to tell you how to make,” she says, “you watch and you see.”

I give her two silent thumbs up.

Maryna moves about the kitchen.  Coffee. Salt.  Pepper.  Honey.  Garlic.

I open my mouth, think twice, and shut it.

“First,” she says, “grind coffee.  You have grinder?”

“I thought we weren’t talking,” I say.

She frowns at me briefly.

“Yes,” I say.  “I have a grinder.”

She bustles, grinding this, squeezing that.  She lays the blade of a large knife against a medium-sized clove of garlic, hits it briskly with her hand.

I am always impressed when people do this.

She turns on the burner, and a flame rises.  She spoons the ground coffee into a very small copper vessel.  It has a long wooden handle.  She sets it on the stove.  The smell of coffee rises.   She adds salt, does several twists of pepper.  She adds the garlic, squeezes in two streams of honey. 

It makes a hissing sound.

“You see how ees small?  Because make one, maybe two cups.  We don’t stir.  When we make, cup ees for you, just you.”

She pulls a bottle of water from the fridge.

“Water must be cold,” she says.

I leave my stool, walk over to peer into the small pot.  “What do you call this pot?”

She frowns.  “Pot?  Maybe I call eet ‘pot’.  I don’t know.”

Maryna stares into the waters in the small pot.  “Now we stare,” she says.  “We stare at the water.  No bathroom, no cigarette.  Just stare.”

“A watched pot never boils,” I say.

She looks at me briefly.  “You say that?  Ees very good.”

I consider telling her that it’s an old saying, then decide against it.

I have so little. 

The water rises, and she removes it from the stove.

‘That ees one time,” she says.  “We do two more times, like thees.  Water say ‘shhhhhhh’, and we peek it up.  Two times.”

We stand and watch as the water says ‘shhhhhhh’ two more times.

When the water rises for the third time, she removes it quickly from the stove, pours it into a cup the size of an aggressive thimble, then sets it on a saucer.

“Drink,” she says.  “Ees cup only for you.  When you are done, we teep cup on saucer.  Your fortune.”

Fortune?  “I didn’t know you could read fortunes.”

“Me?” She smiles.  “No, but someone else?  Maybe.”

I blow across the top of a tiny little cup.  “I love you, Maryna.”

She smiles.  “I love you, my dear.”

And the coffee?  Absolutely delicious.  And of course she sent me home with the pot, six cups and saucers, and a garlic bulb. 

Maryna’s Recipe for Turkish/Ukrainian Coffee
Makes two cups

Two heaping teaspoons of ground medium roast coffee
Half teaspoon salt
Half teaspoon ground pepper
One small clove of garlic, smashed

Heat on stove over medium flame.

Add two long squirts of honey.  It will hiss.

Add cold water with enough room at the top so as not to boil over.  Do not stir.

Stare at it.  Don’t go anywhere.  Don’t go to the bathroom.  Don’t have a cigarette.  Don’t let it boil.

Let it go up.  Shhhhhhh.  Remove from heat.
Let it go up again.  Shhhhhhh.  Remove from heat.
Let it go up one more time.  Shhhhhhh.  Remove from heat.

Pour in cups.  Drink hot.

Don’t drink the grounds.