01.11.17

per our cross-country instructions to one another, joe packed my thrifted balenciaga for my grandmother's funeral and i bought him two pairs of extra-soft power rangers boxer shorts.

12.31.16

my sisters pulled me aside when i got to our mom's house in sacramento last night. we'd all received an email from our grandmother's nurse while joe and i were flying out from new york.
Katherine's Family,

Please join me in holding your Mother and Grandmother now in your best prayers, meditations and contemplations - she has stopped eating, drinking and talking since last night., the result of high fevers and decreasing appetite since before Christmas. She received the Last Rites an hour ago and is resting comfortably. Your spiritual support at this time is priceless to her, thank you.

If you wish to call in order to say something to her, please call the room phone, XXX-XXX-XXXX anytime.

May you be at peace knowing she is at peace,
Lea
i believe lea; grandma kathy is a devout catholic, and if she is lucid she knows she'll soon see her husband (who died when my dad was seven) and her savior.

i wrote her a letter on christmas eve and described our trip to germany: she would have loved the way a lone vocalist poured evensong into the berliner dom. a handful of germans complimented me on my pronunciation, i said; perhaps the family tree's roots are buckling my sidewalk at last. the letter before that touched on my health journalism and her years of nursing. she knows, i tell myself, that i am made, in part, of her. she knows that i know.

12.30.16

the local bakery's last batch of black-and-white cookies is tucked in my luggage with two boxes of fireworks, the christmas tree is watered a final time, and my last assignment of the year is with its editor. i'm headed for the west like one of tolkien's elves, though i would never wear leaf jewelry. this is how the end of the year begins.

12.29.16

the dirty dozen {work and errands in manhattan, december}

01 "i have a cauldron i'm not using anymore, if you want it."
02 "you can buy any kind of fog as long as it's water-based."
03 "that's a lot of teeth. but—why not!"
04 we have elvis wigs that could pass as greaser wigs, but we're all out of black."
05 "is that your fish?"
"no."
"yeah, it didn't seem like your aesthetic."
06 "turns out it's a $150 book, not a poster. and it's in french. no, thank you."
07 "how can you tell if a book is a detective thriller?"
08 "louisa bae alcott. i like that even better than swagatha christie."
09 "is this mouse for someone?"
"no, but it'll definitely get eaten, don't worry."
10 "i don't know if i'm relieved that i'm not imagining things crawling on my neck or disappointed that there was something crawling on my neck."
11 "do we still sell those hoodies? i always meant to get one."
"i don't know, but they gave a bunch away for free because rats chewed on them. see my sleeve?"
"wow!"
"my dad wasn't happy when i showed him."
12 "hey, thanks for special-ordering my friend's book so speedily!"
"we have our shit together."

12.28.16

the dirty dozen {12 things in my purse*}

01 sport beans
02 12" rubber garter snake
03 lipstick queen frog prince
04 plastic jaguar
05 two paper oshibori towels
06 skeleton gloves
07 two s-bahn berlin tickets
08 il duomofox
09 gehe balance multi-vitamin+mineral brausetablette
10 too cool for school fresh gore sleeping pack
11 preen knightsbridge floral sunglasses
12 the travelin' domino


*bag? it's a tote bag, but bag sounds like something one takes on a plane.

12.27.16

will it ever feel too late to talk about the end of 2016? i began december with more assignments than i've ever had in a single month, then decided to blog every day and run at least 100 miles; i've been at ye olde charity bookstore and the bird hospital almost every week. that isn't all that much, but these weeks are taffy, stretching out and sagging, is what i mean; tasks, gatherings, weird news keep on coming. i'm still waiting for christmas, somehow. my sister and her husband aren't coming to new york for the first winter in a decade or so, which makes sense, given that they have a five-month-old son (just hospitalized with a nasty respiratory bug, as it happens, along with his dad, who gave up his appendix for the holidays). we'll still see them—we're headed to northern california for new year's and to celebrate my mom's halloween elopement(!)—but it's new and strange and long, the last of 2016. we saw my dad and most of my stepfamily on boxing day. we've got a pint of organic eggnog in the back of the refrigerator. i haven't used my little crock pot for anything, but i don't want to put it away. i tracked a missing gift down the phone lines to ups, the usps, and kansas; "thank you for your spirit," kansas said when i didn't yell. who wants to end the year yelling at a stranger?

carrie fisher starred in it's christmas, carol! (2012), a hallmark channel movie about a heartless publishing executive visited by the ghost of her former boss, eve. only one cautioning spirit; budget cutbacks, &c.
carol: it's christmas eve, and you've come to warn me about if i don't change my ways. oh, what's the name of that story?
eve: miracle on 34th street?
carol: no.
eve: it's a wonderful life?
carol: no.
eve: it's not star wars, is it?
i always hated it's a wonderful life.

12.26.16

the missus and i, geeky tv fans both, started watching doctor who 53 years after the first doctor stepped out of his T.A.R.D.I.S. and approximately one month before all doctors disappeared from netflix's streaming catalog, which means that we've limped along with actual discs all year and that i almost always know when the doctor's going to regenerate or lose a companion, since box sets always feature main-character portraits on their covers and it's incredibly difficult to make sure you've got everything in the proper order in your queue, what with christmas specials, bonus discs, spinoffs, and animated special events (we just got to that one). i try ever so hard to avoid spoilers when preparing to watch shows and movies—i cross my eyes when buying movie tickets, i hide back issues of the new yorker from myself, i pour out the last of my tea without checking out the shapes the dregs have formed—but i always end up knowing when, say, i'm going to have to start preparing myself to let go of david tennant. (what a doctor,* that tennant! it horrifies longtime whovians to learn that i saw him in both jessica jones and broadchurch before i saw him as a time lord, which connoisseurs assured me is Peak Tennant. [i now agree.]) of course, i also know that whatever was going on with billie piper's teeth circa "turn left" resolves itself before her next cameo, and that's a relief.

we accidentally leapt into season five before watching all of the weird 2008-ish spinoffs and semiseries, which means both that i'm trying to work through complicated feelings about matt smith by reminding myself that there are still a few odd unwatched tennant episodes out there, trapped in the postal system like paleozoic insects in amber, and that i'm pretty sure i need to get a T.A.R.D.I.S. suit before we visit sarah and judd in the dominican republic in february. or a dalek suit? if one could but glimpse the multiverses swimwear decisions create.


*in pecking around for that link i discovered DT married georgia moffett—the fifth doctor's daughter in real life—after she played his daughter in the current series. overseas television romances are so much more exciting than hollywood gossip, man. (billie piper was married to laurence fox from inspector lewis! i realize i'm the last person on earth to learn that, but still!)

12.25.16

the dirty dozen {12 george michael recollections}

01 my wham! music from the edge of heaven cassette had a "hot side" and a "cool side." god, how i loved that.
02 the times didn't have an obituary on file for him.
03 he sang queen's "39" as a teenage busker on the london tube; queen later considered him to replace freddie mercury. "there's a certain note in his voice when he did 'somebody to love' that was pure freddie," brian may said.
04 my friend adriana pulled me aside as we walked to our elementary school's outdoor cafeteria. "george michael has a new song," she hissed. "it's called 'i want your S-E-X.'"
05 he chose the lip-syncing supermodels for the david-fincher-directed "freedom '90" video (in which he refused to appear) after seeing the january 1990 cover of british vogue with a group photo by peter lindbergh. "i knew george wanted everybody that was on that cover, and it had to be all the girls," cindy crawford said.
06 when my sister was a toddler, she'd walk around singing "faith": "well i guess it would be nice / if i could touch your body / i know not everybody / has got a body like you."
07 "i have the audience i deserve. or at least i have the audience that represents the kind of people that i like."
08 he called his twitter followers his "lovelies," and himself "the singing greek."
09 in 1985, wham! became the first western band to perform in china. concertgoers were given a cassette with their songs on one side and the opening act (cheng fangyuan)'s versions on the other. some of the lyrics were changed in the chinese covers:
Wake me up before you go go
Compete with the sky to go high, high
Wake me up before you go go
Men fight to be first to reach the peak
Wake me up before you go go
Women are on the same journey and will not fall behind.
10 he performed in bulgaria in 2007 in support of the five nurses jailed in libya.
11 "the time was right to strike home with sixties escapism," he told rolling stone about wham! when he was 23. "sixties presentation, sixties attitude towards the songs. that's what made us big. basically, we made everything look wonderful. wham! was a sixties pop group in the eighties."
12 he spent the '80s shooting down requests to license his songs for commercials. "there was one where 'go-go' was supposed to become 'cocoa.' imagine, 'waking up to some cocoa.'"

12.24.16

Oh it's Christmas so we'll stop
'Cause the wine on our breath puts the love on our tongues
So forget the names
I called you on Christmas Eve
In fact forget the entire year
Don't reflect just pretend and you won't feel scared
You won't feel a thing
'Cause it's all been tucked away
And once you're tucked in bed
You'll hold on to the day for the last few seconds
Your cradled face is protected from the wind
And I'll protect you I promise I will
And the rest of our lives will be just like Christmas
With fewer toys
You're a good girl I'm a good boy
So I thought

(frightened rabbit, from "it's christmas so we'll stop")
[T]ime is neutral. It can be used either constructively or destructively. And I am sorry to say this morning that I am absolutely convinced that the forces of ill will in our nation, the extreme rightists of our nation—the people on the wrong side—have used time much more effectively than the forces of goodwill. And it may well be that we will have to repent in this generation. Not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say, "Wait on time."

(from martin luther king, jr's sermon at the national cathedral, 03.31.68)
find holiday (and year-round) volunteering referrals from new york cares here.
find a local coat drive here.
read up on the women's march on washington here.

12.23.16

IF OVA IS PERCHING IN THE GARBAGE, a post-it on one of the feeding charts noted, SHE IS FEELING BROODY. BUILD HER A NESTING BOX. yes, one of the bird hospital's chickens—we have at least three or four—is named ova. if you find yourself en route to thebes and the sphinx asks you who gives birth astride a grave, you can say the laying hens at the wild bird fund and she'll throw herself from her high rock and die. or devour herself, maybe. it's christmas eve eve.

tiny tim—we call him timmy, actually—is a robin (illegally) raised and malnourished by a family who brought him to us when his all-blueberry diet caused all the feathers on his head and neck to fall out. the adults said they'd had him for six months and their kid said he'd been with them for nine years; who can say? tame little timmy vultured around the bird fund with the rest of the summer's orphans until everyone else rejoined their flock. we figured he'd look the way he did forever.

i watched a strapping young robin serenade my friend H in the songbird flyway this afternoon. "whose call is that?" i asked. "he made it up, i think," she replied. he swing-low-sweet-charioted away on his branch, pausing every now and again to accept a morsel of food from H. "you know this is timmy, right?" timmy! he tilted his glossy black head and flung a new song at us. it's christmas eve eve.

12.22.16

'Do you hear the snow against the window-panes, Kitty? How nice and soft it sounds! Just as if some one was kissing the window all over outside. I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says "Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again."'

(lewis carroll, from through the looking-glass, and what alice found there)
Along with many other members of the Standing Rock community, [tribal chair David] Archambault has steered the encampment in a nonviolent direction. The camp’s direct-action group, Red Warrior, has maintained a discipline and humility that still speaks powerfully to people all over the world. A recently published photo of a person from that night of November 20th, covered in ice and praying, illustrates the deep resolve that comes from a philosophy based on generosity of spirit.

(louise erdich, from "holy rage: lessons from standing rock")
Although a common pain response, whether swearing alters individuals' experience of pain has not been investigated. This study investigated whether swearing affects cold-pressor pain tolerance (the ability to withstand immersing the hand in icy water), pain perception and heart rate. In a repeated measures design, pain outcomes were assessed in participants asked to repeat a swear word versus a neutral word. In addition, sex differences and the roles of pain catastrophising, fear of pain and trait anxiety were explored. Swearing increased pain tolerance, increased heart rate and decreased perceived pain compared with not swearing. However, swearing did not increase pain tolerance in males with a tendency to catastrophise. The observed pain-lessening (hypoalgesic) effect may occur because swearing induces a fight-or-flight response and nullifies the link between fear of pain and pain perception.

(r stephens et al, from swearing as a response to pain, neuroreport, 2009)

12.21.16

i had my first glühwein of the season on a perfect november day in berlin; we'd just toured a spooky east german amusement park with our friend ed and were taking the long way back to the train along the spree when it began to drizzle. the vacation rule, of course, is that one must hole up with a drink when it starts to rain, and lo, there was a riverside cafe. do germans ever put their holiday mugs away? we took a table and argued about politics for an hour while i pretended i was a one-woman christmas market. i'm still thinking of berlin, and of another friend who lived there for a few months while working on her doctorate. she posted on facebook last night:
Listening to the BBC interviewing someone about the Berlin attacks - yesterday's kick in the chest, for me - and the reporter asks some security pundit if the Germans know everything about the however-many-thousand refugees that they are sheltering. And pundit responds (in paraphrase), "of course not, but we also don't know everything about the however-many-million Germans who live in the country, and nor should we _want_ to." Stay sensible, my shaken city.
i adapted a chowhound recipe, as our local grocery store lacked whole cloves and cardamom pods and making a two-bottle batch of glühwein when you only live with one person is intense, even when you're mostly german.

first-day-of-winter glühwein

- 1 lemon
- 1 orange
- pinch of ground cardamom
- pinch of ground cloves
- 5/8 c granulated sugar
- 5/8 c water
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 bottle red wine (i used castillo de fuente)
- 1/4 cup brandy (i used grappa we smuggled on the train from milan to berlin)

zest and juice the citrus and put the zest and juice in a medium saucepan; add the cloves, cardamom, sugar, and water, then bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reduces by a third. add the red wine and brandy, then bring back to a simmer, remove from heat, serve in mugs, and make merry. i leave the zested citrus in there; it reminds me of fallen leaves in the spree.