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.

The Great Scallion Famine Of 2020

2020 blows in so many ways it has become tedious to try to list them all, but I can now add that we seem to be in the middle of a scallion famine.

This is no laughing matter.

See, one of the odd side effects of Phred, the space alien recently removed from my left ovary — along with the ovary itself and various other gratuitous thefts — was an unaccustomed sensitivity to hot pepper. I had simply filed it under “weird shit that happens to your body over time,” but it was yea annoying since my perspective on seasoning is that it isn’t hot until actual blue flames are coming out of your nose. Having to eat bland food or else suffer the kind of gastric explosions that usually bedevil an army marching across terrain with stagnant water sources — well, I’ll spare you.

This had been going on for a year or more, and then after Phred went into the biohazard receptacle, I had the occasional Bloody Mary I allowed myself (the Engineer makes them pretty fiery) and — lo! no problem!

It was all Phred’s fault.

Well, mostly. I still notice a twinge, but I am back to slamming assorted stir-fries in a wok full of garlic and ginger and Szechwanese hot pepper paste, and I’ve decided it’s safe to make my signature Ant Noodles. These are basically faux ground meat, noodles, hot seasonings and a generous amount of minced scallions. They are Chinese comfort food and they ROCK. It’s the only blazing hot thing the Engineer craves.

And you can’t find scallions. Anywhere.

Well, anywhere we shop. It’s now down to delivery orders from Costco (which sells everything in eighty-five pound batches, but I could probably go through that) and Harris Teeter, and no one has scallions.

No one had them last week. Or the week before. WTAF?

All my stir-fries need scallions. The magnificent Azahar’s potato salad needs scallions. Regular onions don’t work. Shallots don’t work.

I’m worried about the election getting stolen, avoiding catching the plague. not being able to practice my fucking profession, not having a gym to go to (safely), and recovering from Phred. Give me my goddam scallions, cruel Fate.

2020 blows.

The Cat Who Gave No F**ks

My post-op mileage was up to about two and a half, which is ridiculous because I’m usually good for about four or six, and then the heat hit. Apparently having big chunks of meat scooped out of you screws up your temperature regulation more than I would have thought, because the heat index seems to be the critical difference between being able to knock out the mileage and me calling the Engineer for a rescue because I’m starting to get a big head and a sense that I’m radiating heat, like a two-bar electric fire.

It’s just frigging HOT out.

I know I’ll make it home without a bailout if I can get the home of the Cat Who Gives No Fucks. He or she (a grey tabby, so gender indeterminate) hangs out in the yard most afternoons, more rarely in the mornings. A couple of hysterical dogs, probably littermates, who look as if there’s some Jack Russell in there, live at the same address and can be heard raising the rafters anytime anyone passes the yard, even if they’re inside the glassed-in porch. They have a dog bed which has been strategically elevated to the level of the window sill and  patrol the yard in all directions, losing their shit in the key of C sharp anytime anyone passes the corner of the chain-link fence. If they’re outdoors, they fling themselves against the wire as if they think they’re Dobermans in a movie and Chuck Norris is about to vault over into the secure installation. It would be cute if it weren’t so noisy.

The cat gives zero fucks.

Seriously, this cat, who typically flops on the walk leading up to the house but has sometimes been seen in a decrepit lawn chair under the one shade tree, has absolutely no reaction to all this canine commotion. The dogs are yelping, the dogs are slamming the fence, the dogs are launching themselves like sugared-up toddlers in a Moon Bounce.

The cat does not move.

My eyes are bad enough now that I sometimes can’t see the cat at first, motionless grey cat in dim shade, and sometimes the Engineer has to point it out. Most times I’m by myself, and I lean on the corner post of the chain fence, enraging the dogs, and take off my mask for a moment like someone who’s just got to stop and breathe, but I’m really only looking for the cat. There is something about that cat’s preternatural calm that I envy and wish to be granted. Maybe it can share.

I probably will never find out its name. In my mind the cat is Zerofux, after a great Merovingian war leader.

Last week I actually spotted the cat outside the yard — it looks like it has a few years on it — slinking under the porch next door, the only shade worth mentioning on the block at the hour. Cats are famously indifferent to extreme heat (I’ve had to pull two back from the brink of heatstroke), but even Zerofux had had it.

It’s not just me. It’s hotter than Hell’s boiler room out there. And I still have a few fucks to give, but they’re going fast.

Cane Fu

You can tell the building where my surgeon has her office is a place where serious illnesses are treated, because there’s an artificial waterfall cascading down the height of eight or nine storeys. Medical buildings of a more general nature have to make do with aggregate planter boxes.

It’s on the campus of the local monster hospital complex, which probably has more than one zip code, and because people who have grown unidentified foot-wide space aliens in their chitterlings are sent to oncologists on principle, it is a cancer center, which makes some things about it peculiar.

For one thing, after you enter the atrium (where you now queue at a polite distance to have your temperature assessed with a hi-tech ray gun), you have to go up an escalator to reach the elevator lobby. I have to assume that there is something like a lift from underground parking for really frail people. A docent of some sort with a badge and pinafore was directing people the day I arrived for a follow-up, one customer per lift, and as I waved to her I deftly flung my sun visor (without which I am never seen in public) half way across the floor.

Accustomed to people beat-up by surgery and chemotherapy, she moved to retrieve it for me just as I winkled the tip of my walking stick under the strap, spun it up into the air and caught it.

“I am a seventh degree master of Cane Fu,” I explained as I restored it to my head. You have to cherish the little things.

So everything looked good, the nurse practitioner answered all my carefully nuanced and technically phrased medical questions in sentences that a two year old would have found condescending, and I come back at three month intervals because, well, it was a space alien and that is the rule book.

I am kind of on my own with workouts. The best Nurse Nancy could come up with was “Listen to your body.” No! Really? “Now it’s not only about the amount you can load the muscles after surgery, but when we haven’t exercised for a while, we experience a certain amount of deconditioning…” No, really? “Start with about a quarter of what you usually lift…”

“Okay, so a hundred and twenty five pounds on the sled press?”

You see the problem. I sent an e-mail to my Olympic Lifting Masters Champion who also trains elderly people and rehab patients. He might have something a bit more helpful to say.

There is always vulgar slapstick. The aide was run off her feet and puffed in just as Nurse Nancy was spelunking in the parts that are usually covered by black boxes in censored pictures, apologizing for lateness.

“It’s okay,” said Nurse Nancy, “I just started without you. I didn’t think you were going to come.”

“That’s what he said,” I commented from my supine, paper-draped position.

With luck they may decide not to let me back in there.

Now it’s just about building back up. I broke two and a half miles of hills this week, just in time for the godawful Virginia heat to settle over the landscape like the breath of six hung-over dragons. Send a truckload of crushed ice and a couple of industrial fans.

Blow Dried

So here I am on the day of Trump’s Masque Of The Orange Death rally, reclining on my bed attired solely in a burgundy-colored terrycloth spa robe, blow-drying my bush.

I suppose I should back up and explain.

I have been a very patchy blogger since the Orange F ck was elected — it’s like fighting your way through a massive depression just to keep going, I live right outside DC, the waves of evil and stupid pulsing out of the government district are like gouts of poison gas — and even more absent lately. See, what happened was, here I am almost all the way back from getting both hips Borged February was a year ago, blowing up a 500 pound sled, four miles of hills daily, and then thank you very much I start going through shall we say a repeat of puberty. The ladies can sort this out. I had been up on the rack for the customary fourteen-point check and oil change in January so this was weird. A month, an MRI and a bravura effort later, from an ultrasound technician who went medieval on my stomach with a — well, you remember the big foofaraw about states wanting women to get ultrasounds before ending a pregnancy because looks like a baby something something? The whole violation element involved? Think of someone using that dingus like a tire lever.

Actually, it looked like a water balloon.

Actually, it kind of was a water balloon, attached to my girl bits, only, not to drop a spoiler, it was more or less filled with (sorry) snot. This phenomenon shall henceforth be known as the “Ephraim McDowell Special,” or Phred for short. It is a young woman’s neoplasm, and I have no idea why it decided to set up shop in an actual Medicare subscriber. Curiously, the riveting tale of the first successful excision of one of these was a chapter in the History of Surgery that I read to tatters at age 10 before I realized I would make a shitty doctor because I actually like taking care of people.

I realize this verges on what my Albino Ex used to call “the organ recital” (he had a friend with an unfortunate habit of sharing the minute details of an annual “Millennium Scan,” before we tied him to a chair and beat him with feather pillows, until he promised to stop before he glowed in the dark). But, well, long silence bears explanation.

Apparently when you are toned and ruthless, you can plow hills with a ten-inch-across oblate thingy inside you and only notice feeling a little as if you’ve been going heavy on the beans. Well, vegetarian.

Anyway, fast forward to the local teaching hospital, a surgeon who looks about twelve, masks everywhere, temperature checkpoints, and a chirpy, excited nursing staff who didn’t even wait for me to wake up all the way before telling me on the trip back to my room: “Everyone’s saying they took like a whole turkey out of you! Wanna see the pictures?”

Bedside manner.

Really most of them were nice. There was the one who would never shut the bathroom door after herding me in there (house rules, no one walks to the can unsupervised). And then there was the Night Of The Long Blood Pressure Cuffs, when all my chitlins coming back online after a double transabdominal nerve block hurt so frickin much that my pressure unsurprisingly skyrocketed. The medical solution to this problem is to wake up the victim prisoner patient EVERY GODDAM HOUR ON THE HOUR ALL NIGHT LONG to check it again. By five a.m. I was screaming fornicatory maledictions and threatening to break the fourth floor window and go out of it.

Does not work and play well with others.

Anyway, they sprung me about 36 hours after that, and I have been chilling at home trying to decide what tattoo to get over the 44-staple zipper they had to open up to get at Phred, who apparently was not an especially hostile alien but just wanted a place to be, kind of like when  you find a raccoon has given birth in your attic. Meanwhile, now that the staples are out and it’s just got tape on it, I am supposed to ALWAYS KEEP IT DRY. Including the part where they clearly realized they were going to have to cut further than anyone expected, leaving the last three staples in an area that ought properly to have been baldicated. Phred was ambitious.

Hence the hair dryer. I like to shower a lot. Also, walking. Supposed to help. I am in the Tidewater and it’s summer. No health club in the area has a steam room because all you have to do is walk outside, never mind walking a mile, which is the current stage. Working up.

Oh, they took my appendix just while they were in there. Thieves. I have no idea what the black market price is for an intact appendix but I’m checking eBay.

The blessed Engineer saved my life with oatmeal cookies (hospital food never changes), the divine Azahar, who’s weathered a lot worse, has been my spirit guide, and I manage to have only one hysterical meltdown a day. I want a thirty pound dumbbell so bad I can taste it (currently limited to ten, which is barely worth picking up), and threw arm shots at the mandated home physical and occupational therapists (“Why did they send us here?”), after explaining that those poles were not “mobility aids,” they were Alpine walking equipment. The OT was from the Indian subcontinent, saw my “Namaste” plaque, greeted me accordingly, and settled in to talk about pranayama and daal recipes. Shame he has no need to come back.

It takes my mind off our national creeping crisis, but only intermittently.

Send animal and garden and art pictures.


Foxes 2020

So the foxes are back. Last year we were diverted by a litter of five kits cavorting in the neighbor’s yard, probably actually living on the next property over, where a rambling, industrial-sized garden shed the length of the lot was erected, probably against code, by the previous owner. The current resident hasn’t taken it down and doesn’t use it. If I were a fox I’d consider it a luxury condo.

Banged up inside as we are it’s quite a treat to watch the present litter mature. Mamma Fox exceeded her commission and produced seven kits. Sometimes her thought balloon appears to say “God rot ’em,” and we aren’t sure if she goes up on the shed roof to watch them all conveniently or to get the feck away. They’re big enough to eat squirrel now (one averts one’s eyes from some of the truths of Nature) but for a long time, as last year, they pursued her relentlessly in search of milk.

Seven is a lot of customers. I don’t blame her for going up there.