Goddamn You, Pod

I suppose it is guerdon for my many sins. What it was, see, was that when I met the Engineer he lived in a group house, and in that house there also lived a Woman Of Easy Virtue ™, by which I mean not that she had many lovers (she did) but that the Official BF was a Republican cable-show host from the neighboring county. That, I regarded as a shocking lack of discrimination.

That said, he was an affable chump, the character in every group-house situation comedy who doesn’t really live there or contribute to the household but merely takes possession of one end of the couch and watches the cable he’s too cheap to pay for at his own place. I can’t remember who nicknamed him Pod, or why, but he always did look like something that would eventually yield up a life form. I was doing a good deal of local political activawhatsit then, and Republicans hadn’t manifested the level of prion disease they do nowadays, meaning we had pleasant enough conversations (he actually ran a campaign against one of the wingnuts the Former Guy eventually appointed to run something or other; yes, there was a time when Republicans-in-the-street actually begged to differ with the Tin Foil wing of the party). So when he asked if he could put me on his mailing list, I said fine, sure, worth knowing what the opposition is doing.

Fast forward fifteen years.

There is no other explanation. I can’t remember the last time I got mail from the guy, but suddenly I — having been deluged by every left-of-center entity that can compose a begging e-mail for years — am now receiving desperate solicitations from the Former Guy and all his tribe. The one who ignores molestation going on in front of his eyes. The one with a head like a breadbox. The one with hair like a pubic toupee whose neighbor beat the crap out of him, probably with cause. I assume they all bought and traded mailing lists like Pod’s.

Every fkin morning. “We’ve reached out to you SEVEN TIMES — won’t you join our movement?”

Um, no.

These things are low tech. You Click Here To Unsubscribe and an e-mail form pops up, which sounds like a great way to confirm they have a live e-mail address. Screw that. There’s a reason God made the Delete key. Like the cicadas which are making Virginia’s outdoors into an H. R. Giger Hellscape, I figure they will eventually go away.

Goddamn you, Pod. I should have known better. And tried harder the day I arm wrestled you to a standstill.

A Visit From Tango

Cats call at our house with the regularity of political canvassers and Jehovah’s Witnesses. I sometimes forget why.

We haven’t seen White Kitty, who dropped by a few times before Thanksgiving, but earlier today we got a visit from Tango.

I think Tango is a girl, and we know her name because it’s on her tag. She walked up to the porch as if she meant to knock, but by the time I’d called the Engineer down to look she was over there in the herb bed, rolling and lolling and… oh right. The catnip has started coming up.

She stayed there so long I almost worried, the way you do when you see someone order their third whisky in an hour, but eventually looked around, spied the Engineer taking her picture, and sauntered over. He checked the collar tag, and then remarked that there was a little box on her collar too, and that she appeared to be outfitted with a cat cam and was taking our picture right back.

So when Tango comes home saying “wow, look at the colors,” her people will have ocular proof of who gave her the drugs. Oh well. She looks like a grown adult.

Still plenty of nip out there. News as I get it.

Man Of Gondor

I looked up the other night and realized I was sharing a house with an extra from Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings.

The Engineer has always sported a fairly relaxed hairstyle, and a beard that… well… the term “bear” comes to mind… oh, well, he’s hairy. And I made the cardinal error, years ago, of saying that while I would like to be a good girlfriend and save him money by cutting his hair, I was hopelessly inept at it. Thus it was that, two days before we all freaked out and locked down, he glanced in the mirror and said “Y’know, I haven’t gotten a haircut since December.”

Which was fourteen months ago.

You know how in Jackson’s Middle-Earth, the Men seem never to have met a barber — no matter how nobly born? The hobbits have cute heads of frizzy or tousled curls. The Elves iron their hair like refugees from the Sixties and adorn it with dinguses probably crafted in the forges of Eregion. But in Rohan?

My Kinda Scene: The Death of Théoden | Tor.com

Among the Dunedain?


In Minas Tirith?

Faramir & Boromir | Lord of the rings, The hobbit, Lotr

Combs and shears are apparently so last year.

I am living with a Man Of Gondor.

I mean, fight me. Stick him in a tabard with the White Tree on it, or hand him the banner of the White Horse, and he’s there. (Unless he leans forward and straightens up again, in which case you are looking at something more like Cousin It.) I keep telling him I can at least even up the ends and get his bangs out of his eyes, but I must have left a hell of an impression when I described how all my past attempts at haircutting looked like they were done by a third grader with blunt classroom scissors, because he just says very firmly NO.

Every so often he will come pounding up from the basement and I expect to hear “My Lord! The defenses of Osgiliath are overrun! Shall we pull back to the walls?” Of course it’s always actually something like “Do you remember where you put away the almond flour?”

A few weeks ago he had a dream with a pretty impressive Star Trek storyline that involved Captain Kirk being inaugurated as the President of the Federation and an assassination plot and Mr. Spock with a Tommy gun, and said as he finished the narration, “And do you know what the coolest thing was about it? I was able to get a haircut!”

So we just have to wait from the Third Age of Middle-Earth to Stardate something-or-other to get this situation resolved. Right.

World’s Best Boyfriend

I am ready to argue the case. Here we are going into the twelfth month of lockdown. Which we have been taking brutally seriously. No restaurant food, not even delivered; grocery and booze deliveries left to decontaminate on the porch, masks to take out the trash, no excursions into enclosed spaces that aren’t utterly necessary (like being in the hospital, that was fun).

No gym.

Alpine pole walks, yeah. There’s a couple of kettlebells in the living room and you know what they say about bodyweight exercise? I’ve been doing my damnedest, really. There are local householders who’ve become used to seeing me do push-ups and dips off their retaining walls and wave from their windows (“Harold, the crazy lady is out there again”). It winds me up tighter than a two-dollar watch and feels as if I’m levering off my joint surfaces. Give me a weight I can position and push against.

Feature your host clutching two ten-pound dumbbells in clawed fingers and doing crossbench pullovers she can almost feel, over the back of the couch.

So I walk out on the porch the day before Valentine’s Day and find this enormous box. Folding weight bench, it says. I have never trusted such things; home gym equipment is notoriously rickety and I just wasn’t going to go there — even if every day I couldn’t get my hands on a serious weight I felt like I was dying a little. Okay, I had started having crying jags about it. But I forgot I have an engineer in-house who can review the load bearing specs for equipment on the Best Of Men’s Health website, knowing damn well that the little vinyl earrings sold for “women’s weight training” are about as much use to me as paperweights.

This thing is a BEAST. It’s solid as a brick wall and amazingly folds up into a foot-square footprint, if you need to. There are benches at my gym that rock and wobble more.

A day later these arrived.

Just in case there was any doubt in your mind about what you ordered. They’re each 55 pounds with a wizzo, rugged adjustment dial that allows you to take them down to why-bother weights (already got those). One’s a little balky, but I figure the movement will loosen up.

Store your dumbbells on a level surface in front of your least-played vinyl albums.

So right now ice and dreck are falling from the sky and the white is pretty but it looks like a serious rink out there, and Mama Sled is not interested in hydroplaning and it is the perfect moment for new toys. I legit choked up. Actual bench presses on an actual bench. Real pullovers. FLYES. Intrinsic muscles that haven’t engaged in months kicking in. (I’m going to feel that, even if I backed off to about two-thirds what I’d usually push; I’ve read all those stories about junkies who get clean and then relapse and use their old dose and die of it.) The calf muscle that’s been half screwed from a nasty Achilles strain kicked in, and I wasn’t even doing calf work. Your whole body engages. It’s like a hologram.

And oh, yeah, that abdomen that got opened up like a duffel bag let me hear about it, but it did its job — rolling back onto the bench with both hands loaded, stretching out cooperatively when I got into place for the pullovers crosswise. I did need the Engineer to help me lever back up out of that, but like I said, World’s Best Boyfriend.

Yep. Right there between the spinet piano and the inversion table, wearing your L. L. Bean scuffs, isn’t that how you work out?

I think I’m going to make it now.

The Army Of The Potomac

A little over four years ago, after a near decade of blogging almost daily, I dried up. Every couple of weeks, every month or two, months. I had nothing to say that seemed important. I was numb, and it felt as if I were already carrying around an insupportable weight, like Rodin’s Fallen Caryatid — feelings that I believe are recognizable to anyone in the United States who has a scrap of decency. We knew it was going to be bad.

I put up this post a few days after the election, and old blogfriend Paul Costopoulos — I hope he is still out there somewhere — commented that many in Canada thought it would end in civil war.

Well, we came close. Veterans and law enforcement officers were among those who stormed the Capitol building — where I used to sit on the steps of a summer evening, listening to my father’s band play — with the expressed intent of lynching members of Congress, and other members of Congress helped them do it. (Yeah, I know you’re supposed to say “allegedly,” but after about an hour I get tired.) And there’s a modern-day Army of the Potomac bivouacked in the capital, some of whom had to be removed from duty after they didn’t pass the Treason Smell Test.

You really can’t make a complete list. Muslim Ban, fucking over DACA recipients, kids in cages, the grossest Supreme Court Justices ever nominated, you barely scratch the surface. There was no reason to be surprised by any of it. I grew up under the thumb of a malignant narcissist, someone for whom abuse and cruelty were as necessary as breathing, to whom you were the best and most wonderful person in the world until you were the worst and most despicable, even if you stayed the same person. I saw what he was entire. So did a lot of other people. I don’t know how anyone cannot. It is what it says on the can.

It’s been four years of fear and despair that I think a lot of us won’t begin to comprehend until the weight’s been off for days or weeks. Until we don’t wonder every night what fresh hell we’ll wake up to. And probably not until people aren’t dying by the thousands every day because of a bumbling and uncaring response to a virus that gives no fucks what your politics are.

I don’t know if I’ll go back to writing two or three times a week. I feel as if I’ve been on a death march, and I’m one of the people who had it easy. I haven’t worked in longer than it takes to gestate a human infant, and I’ve gone so blind that I’m working in eighteen-point type, but so far I’m pulling through, I’m signed up for vaccination, and I’m sitting in front of a newly upgraded computer listening to a service band play on the West Front of the Capitol. And I’m crying.

Oh, F**k, Here It Comes Again

Bad Drunken Smoking Santa Claus Reindeer Christmas ...

There is no place to hide.

So it is that time of year again, which means time for my annual rant about CHRISTMAS CHRISTMAS CHRISTMAS blaring from every quarter until I am reduced to inarticulate shrill screaming. The silver lining of living in Coronastan is that currently all our groceries are being delivered, sparing me the endless Yuletide crap on the store PA, and I don’t expect the underpaid service workers (we try to tip well) to carol me when they drop stuff off, so there’s that. But then there’s my beloved classical radio station, which commenced at 11:43 today with an orchestral rendering (as over a slow flame) of Adolphe Adam’s well known “Oh Holy Shit Night.”

To the bomb shelter.

Really. Every fracking year. One-twelfth of my ambient musical life (I could stack CDs, and do, but sometimes you just want to tune in and be surprised by a string trio you never heard before, instead of Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride” set for saxophone quartet). WHY DO YOU THINK I WANT TO HEAR ADESTE FIDELES SIXTEEN TIMES A DAY? I go around humming “O come let us deplore him, O come let us ignore him,” but it keeps happening.

This is on top of the dismaying revelation of last night that the station’s listeners have a taste for schlock. Most years they have  “Classical Countdown,” and people vote for favorite pieces which are ranked and broadcast starting the Monday before Thanksgiving, working up through 100 top vote getters till the winner airs at nine on Thanksgiving.

It’s almost always Beethoven’s Ninth. This year, the station took Beethoven out of the mix because they’ve been doing  a month-long Beethoven retrospective (six different performances of the headlong, coked-up Seventh Symphony: that I can take). And I was afraid what I’d learn from that, and I did.

Brahms and Mahler, with their meticulous contrapuntal construction and wrenchingly Romantic themes? Way down in the mix. Mozart’s sublime, heartbreaking Clarinet Quintet? Even further down, barely squeaking in at 90th place. The epically narrative opium dream of Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique? Almost fell off the boat at 98th.

The final evening? While I’m dressing for dinner, they’re playing Gershwin’s pandering garbage Rhapsody In Blue. Lookie me, I’m an American Composer! I can make cool noises and insert unearned climaxes and make the tempo start and stop! Tenth place? Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, aptly described by my late and ex husband, a walking Schwann catalog, as mostly “deedle music” (in which the violins interminably run up and down the scale or repeat an eighth note figure over and over, deedle-deedle-deedle). I realized that this was one of the handful of pieces known to people who don’t know music when some idiot in my massage class, assigned to make the choice because someone had hear her play guitar once, selected a bouncy movement that sounds like a hopscotch rhyme as processional music for our graduation. Who the hell can process to boop-de-boop-boop? (But they used it. Christ.) I braced myself for nine p.m., after a nice interlude of Respighi, not on the Countdown.

The New World fucking Symphony.

Don’t get me wrong about Dvorak. He was amazing. The 8th Symphony? You get out of your chair and dance in places, feel like bowing down in others. The A Minor Piano Quintet? First time I heard it was an epiphany. But the New World? He tried, as an hommage to his experience in the US, to string together something that “sounded American” (fun fact: he did not use the tune of a spiritual, he wrote a melody that he thought sounded like a spiritual, and succeeded well enough that it’s now sung in churches because someone set words to it but… he was a Czech guy on sabbatical in Spillville, Iowa, people).

It’s corny. It’s tired. The New World, the war horse that every sixth grade class breaks out in Music Appreciation because it’s simple-minded enough for kids who only know what’s on pop radio and don’t have much patience for a complex piece of music.  Those kids grew up without ever paying much attention to a single other classical piece long enough to remember the title, and voted it top of the list. You know it.

Here I am in the “most educated county in the nation” and their tacky soul is laid bare. They vote up Beethoven’s Ninth when they can because they’ve been told it’s Great Music, and dang if it ain’t, but they really want cheap movie music dressed up with an orchestra. They want something that’s ‘MURRICAN ’cause ‘MURRICAN.

They want a month of droning Christmas carols. Apparently. I don’t know why else the station plays them.

I think I’ll slap Elektra, Salome and maybe Tosca on the barbie and listen to blood and mayhem for awhile, to cheer myself up.

2021 Calendar

Every year in this house there’s a bit of a ceremony of the Buying Of The Calendars. I am a little queer for calendar art and it isn’t a new year until  there’s a cat calendar on my desk, a lunar calendar (little glow in the dark moon phases on every date square!) over my bed, and an art calendar for me to glance up at while I’m working on clients.

This year I just… didn’t when I usually do, right after the new ones come out. I’ve been trying not to spend money, and it felt as if there wouldn’t be that much reason to have them — I haven’t worked since March, and don’t dare until the vaccine has proved itself and my clients and I can get it. It was hard to believe in 2021.

And then I got an e-mail offering a discount, which usually doesn’t happen this close to Christmas, and I realized how depressing it was to give up on a whole year and just said what the fuck and bought them all.

Calendar 2021

We have to at least try to believe there’ll be a 2021, don’t we? With — you know, places? And people?

Guest Cat


I looked up from my typing chair (actually a small milkstool; something about my back doesn’t do chairs) to see a tail-shaped flicker of white retreating across the front walk in the direction of the shrubbery. Every now and then we get a guest cat — which is how we eventually acquired Torvald, of blessed memory — and it’s always a bit exciting. The last one was probably a mamma cat with a litter in the shrubbery, because every time she crossed the walk in exactly the same way she had a small rodent of some sort in her jaws. We left food and water out to lure her but after a week never saw her again.

I expected this one to be gone before I could get to the front door to look, but not only was the cat still there, she (?) was inspecting each of my porch steps carefully, one, two, three, finally ascending to the screen door to press her nose against it. May I come in?

She was white as a fresh sheet of typing paper and silky-fluffy, wearing a light green collar — no tag — that matched her eyes. She hesitated in proper cat form when I opened the porch door, then pranced daintily into the screened enclosure, which right now is full of Amazon boxes and booze deliveries. It’s month 8 in Coronastan, don’t @ me.

She let me pet her. She inspected the porch. I called the Engineer.

We had a real issue when he came down, because now she wanted to come inside. She was like the neighbor’s little kid with no sense of social boundaries who wants to see the inside of your house. Unfortunately, Agatha the Terrible Tortie was just inside. (Agatha is not really terrible and seems to like other cats, but she is sort of the Xena Warrior Princess model of cat and they are all afraid of her.)

The Engineer finally sidled out (he is a big boy, and it was a tricky sidle) and investigated. Two humans was a bit much and nothing would make her sit still for a photo to shoot out to the neighborhood list, in case anyone was looking. Well, a little kibble (it’s polite to offer food to guests) got her attention, but you don’t bother people while they’re eating.

But I did get a quick farewell shot when she started to get antsy enough that we let her back out.

She had some serious business in the yard next door. I don’t know what it was.

I hope she comes back. In our eternal Now, it was an Event.

PS. Just before I posted — she did! Definitely a girl. Clean and healthy looking, but happy to sample the kibble and very eager to come up in the porch again and get petted. This may be the start of one of those cats-with-a-circuit stories like you read about.

Smart Arse Engineers

No one knows how I suffer.

“Where,” I said in exasperation, scrubbing the dish drainer, the filter pitcher and the kitchen taps, “does all this mildew come from?”

“Well.” said the Engineer, “billions of years ago, the newborn planet gradually cooled. About a billion years later, the first life arose…”

There are not enough middle fingers in the world.

Seriously, we’ve been up each other’s butts for about six months, since the world went to Hell, and this is about as bad as it gets.

Rosh Hashanah In The Can

We paid a visit to The Godson ™ last weekend, bearing pies for his best friend’s birthday. It’s a tradition, founded on both the young men’s love of pie and the Engineer’s passion for baking. Ben always gets Key Lime, and the Godson gets a pecan pie because he doesn’t really like the lime ones so everyone gets to party.

It’s a little weird to do this in Coronastan. The Godson has grown up a lot since I gave him my old wreck of a car in 2011, and these days is sharing a group house with two other technogeeks like himself. Until we all started living in hell, we were going over every Sunday for movie night in the enormous magnificent home theatre they have because they are all audio/video technicians and have made the finished basement magnificent with control screens and instrument panels which cover just about everything but the bar.

Now the Engineer and I take the pies (or whatever else we might have brought) up the first flight of the steep front steps and place them on the walk, like an offering, and then retreat to lean on the hood of our car.

The Godson, unlike me, is working. Sometimes he does jobs in a hazmat suit, which I gather is a hot thing to wear while carrying video equipment; sometimes he’s able to keep social distance. I worry, but then I worry about everybody

Currently he’s filming remote services for a local synagogue, which are recorded and edited in advance of the actual date. A veteran of the Israeli Army, he is the right lad for the job.

“I’d love to hang out and talk more,” he said, after we’d exchanged a quarter hour of pleasantries — it feels so awkward when you’re all but shouting at each other, with planes going over, and The Godson is a hugger, so it seems all wrong — “but I’ve got to go back in and get Rosh Hashanah in the can.”

Coronastan is a weird place.