Thursday, November 01, 2012
I had stepped out of the cab and I could hear, through the car door that I had left open, the cabbie’s one-sided conversation into an earpiece that didn’t deserve such spittle and anger. As I helped Alexis into the cab, however, he stopped talking, just for a moment, out of respect. The rain had paused as well, possibly just for a moment, or maybe forever. The engine clicked, rather than roared, and we sped into the night.
Wednesday, February 01, 2012
The pipes were exposed in the dry bed. The copper was green with oxidation which made them look old. The worn ends of the electrical wires that connected a junction box to the broad spotlights proved their age.
The fountain had been dry as long as I had been visiting the campus, from the middle of my HS career to now many years after attending and graduated from here.
Every time I visit I take a few minutes to sit, on a bench or on the low cinder block wall near the library. I like to think back to my time here, trying to balance so many things that were so important with a few things that were not as much. I spent so much time sequestered in the library, desperate to stay focused, trying to keep myself from thinking about coeds, trying to stay awake, trying to solve a mathematics problem. I would go from the library to the dining hall and back again, returning to more reading or chemistry with a pilfered apple in my book bag. I try to remember classes that I had in buildings that no longer exist. I wonder how old my oldest professors are now and if they are still teaching or retired or dead.
My dorm mates and I threw a frisbee when the weather was nice or stayed inside with music and video games when it wasn't. Waking up to snow and canceled classes was a magical thing.
I think about these things, old memories of youth and they comfort me not because they are from a time without stress or heartbreak or loss but because they all come marinated in an innocence that has been drained from my life as it now stands.
Inevitably, as I sit, my mind wanders and I find myself trying to picture what the fountain might look like in full repair and operation.
I can see the depth of the night that covers the campus. The lights are on and small motors rotate colored discs in front of the spot lights so that the red light morphs into blue and then into green and then yellow and then red...
I can hear the hiss of the water as it erupts from the tips of the just exposed pipes. The water arcs upwards, refracts the light and then splashed back down, not directly into the surface of the water, but against the carved stone centerpiece.
There is no wall to delineate the boundary of the fountain, but the guts of the fountain, the wires and lights and the junction box and the copper piping sit in a dimple in the concrete, intentionally formed to keep the water from running as it pleases. And, yes, I can see the wet footprint caused at first by the water waiting its turn for a run through the tubing and then where the spray drifts and settles based on the breeze and the minute imperfections of the rock that cause the water to bounce off with unknowable trajectories. The imperfections in the rock influence the water and the water, over time, influences the imperfections in the rock.
But that doesn't happen anymore. The lights are dark and the concrete dimple is dry.
Wednesday, November 02, 2011
My NaNoWriMo2011 work-in-progress is called "The Block" and it is about a block of shops and restaurants in a small college town. The novel will focus on the shop owners, their employees, their interactions, their customers, whatever.
The first two characters have been introduced:
- Kitty, owner of More Fibre, runs a knitting shop. Mrs. Asham and Alice Kindle are two regular customers of Kitty's under-performing business.
- Marie, owner of Bold City, runs a coffee shop, which is steadily successful.
Marie rolled her eyes extra hard for Kitty’s benefit and Kitty suppressed a giggle. Kitty felt that Marie was her protector, and that with Marie’s friendship and maybe some timely advice, she might just make her shop a success.
“How’s business?” Kitty knew what the answer would be, but wanted just to talk with Marie, to swap stories, share secrets, to become her friend.
“Steady Eddie. People need their coffee and luckily they come to me to get it.”
“Yeah…” Kitty’s reply was wistful. She wished that people needed yarn and thread and crochet hooks in order to wake up in the morning or to perform at work. She wished that there was some substance in the yarn that rubbed off on a knitter’s fingers and if they didn’t get a bit of that substance on their fingertips every day, they would get headaches and act cranky and feel like a zombie when 3 in the afternoon rolled around. She wished that people came into her shop every day and spent money, regardless of the economy or how many financial self-help books lectured them that one way to make ends meet and to grow savings was to simply kick that yarn habit.
Kitty wished that old friends who needed to catch up with each other’s lives browsed yarn colors while they talked about their kids and their spouses and their medical problems.
Alternatively, she wished that she could own a coffee shop as well. Marie could teach her how to make all of those exotic espresso drinks with names like caffay oh lay and they would be best friends with two super successful cafés that didn’t compete with each other at all. Kitty would be just as skinny as Marie, although that would have to be the result of some sort of synergistic magic, because Kitty was pretty sure that she would never take up running.
The simplicity of Marie’s answer was unbelievable to Kitty. It was as if Marie couldn’t help it: the coffee was flying out of the door in spite of any attempts to stop or restrain it. The money flowed into her accounts even if she closed them and changed banks; the money would find her.
Kitty needed 100 more Mrs. Ashams. She needed 1000 more Alice Kindles.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
She started to think through what she could remember, the images scrolling across her brain like the news ticker at the bottom of her TV screen.
That was a fun night last night. Did I drink wine and gin? Oh god. At least I looked cute. We sure did a lot of dancing. I was dancing with Lisa and Jimmy and Alex… Oh no! ALEX!
She sat straight up in bed. Her black eyeshade, which had allowed her to sleep until almost 10:30, was now pushed back, holding her hair out of her face.
Her body parts complained in unison. Her dancing muscles were sore, her stomach was sour, and her mouth was like a desert. Sitting on the edge of the bed now, the clock showing 10:23am, she noticed that her husband was gone.
And thank god the kids had been away overnight, or she would have had to let them watch cartoons for a few hours. She would have spilled some dry Cheerios onto the carpet for them and then gone back to bed.
Jimmy was probably driving to get the kids now, to his parents’ house. He had always been better with liquor than she. He could function through it, and through its aftermath.
What did I do last night?
She checked her phone and it was the sweetest message, really:
“Doll – on my way to get kids HYDR8 xox.”Reading that, she melted, because Jimmy was a fantastic man, an ideal husband. He was the reason that she was able to stay home with their three kids, her three angels.
But then she thought of the poop that she had had to clean out of the carpet the day before, and her stomach twisted, so she forced her thoughts back to the night before, her birthday dinner.
She had worn her new top, the one that Lisa had helped her pick out. Lisa wouldn’t have worn it herself, because of how low it was cut. Jimmy had complimented her on it and Alex, Lisa’s husband, had certainly appreciated it as well. She could recall the exact moment that Alex had gotten a view down her top because she had let him. Or, rather, she hadn’t tried to hide anything. She knew when it had been because that was right before he had kissed her.
During dinner, the spouses sat across from each other and Susan and Alex found themselves sitting next to each other. Susan found she could not stop touching Alex throughout the meal. He would pour more wine for her, or say a joke or compliment her in some way and every time she would reach to touch his arm or lean her body into his if she was mid-bite or laughing too hard. During dessert she felt him watching her through the mirror that hung on the wall behind his wife.
After dinner, when they had moved down the street from the restaurant to a bar with cheap draft beer and loud music where she was drinking gin, Susan took Alex’s hand and they began to slow dance. It wasn’t really a proper dance. They were barely moving and the music was not really appropriate for any kind of dancing. It was more of a reason for them to touch each other again.
Both of their spouses were right there, and since everyone was friends, this sort of affection wasn’t remarkable on its own. If anyone had pressed them on their dancing, if Lisa or Jimmy had expressed any concern about the birthday girl’s behavior with her husband’s best friend, the pair could have separated themselves and claimed intoxication and bliss and, “It’s my birthday. Leave me alone!”
Susan said this last part out loud to the empty house.
The two were still holding each other. Alex’s hand was in the small of Susan’s back holding her to him. Susan had hooked a finger into Alex’s belt loop.
He said, “Did you notice the tin tiles on the ceiling?”
She looked up and saw the painted tin squares decorating the ceiling above them. Each square had a fleur de lys stamped on it and a decorative ribbing along the edge. It was a beautiful, old ceiling for such a dingy bar. The ceiling, however, had been a diversion and by lifting her head, she had exposed her neck and Alex‘s lips had found her there.
Alex had been using this move, this trick, since he had introduced it one lonely night back when he was single and Susan and Jimmy were only just dating. She still fell for it every time. He was always trying to get her to look up, this time at the ceiling but other times at a new moon or a sign on the side of a building.
“Is that food on you? Let me see – lift your chin up.” he would say.
It was a harmless prank that even their spouses could appreciate. She would giggle and she would push him away, just not too quickly. She loved it when Alex stole a kiss.
He put a song on the jukebox – a type of music she didn’t care for – heavy metal. But he had played it for her. They were dancing again and their spouses were leaning into the bar, arguing some political point. Alex explained the lyrics to Susan, whispering them into her ear as the singer sang them.
The song was loud and the guitars were not something that she had an ear for, but the song had a melodic refrain during the parts that Alex was whispering into her neck and at least it wasn’t the ABC song or the more literal sexuality of whatever it was that Jimmy listened to.
She smiled at that and kissed him quickly on the lips.
That must have been when the gin really took over because she remembered, vaguely, a different place – some dance club – and then Jimmy putting her into a cab and now here she was.
She made herself stand up. She needed coffee. She walked to the kitchen, humming a quiet melody to herself, letting her fingers trace an outline along her jaw and neck as she went.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Several years ago, maybe after September 11th or perhaps in light of the sniper that terrorized the area in 2002, all of the trees were cut down to stumps. These ashy stumps are still there, rotting, not hurting anyone except as a reminder of what had been.
Of course no effort was made to remove the stumps, because that would have been an unnecessary expenditure. Everyone knows that the Pentagon is the hallmark of efficiency.
So a bank of trees was positioned as to possibly conceal a terrorist and so they had no right to exist.
A recent flight from Philadelphia to San Francisco encountered engine trouble. Decision makers, people with homes and special needs children, people who enjoy a glass of wine with dinner or don’t or perhaps skipped dinner in favor of vodka martinis or a box of wine or a bottle of cheap tequila, decided that the plane should make an emergency landing, lest the plane make the evening news. After all, the plane was carrying people just like them: people with families and college loans, people who liked to play volleyball at the rec center two nights a week and have sex with the lights on and watch the televised broadcasts of the civic board meetings on the public access channel in the towns where they lived.
As a further safety precaution, to protect the teachers and baristas and nurses and horticulturists and professional chefs and motorcycle mechanics on board, it was determined that the fuel remaining in the bowels of the plane was too great of a hazard. As the plane completed its decent into a suitable Ohio airstrip, the contents of the fuel reservoir were evacuated into a nearby lake.
The lake was a home to a variety of flora and fauna, but because fish didn’t buy cars and because frogs have no use for iPhones , they were coated with hydrocarbons and promptly forgotten about.
Except that they had never been thought about. Decision makers, and the actuaries that they shared their office cubicles with, had no use for pond weed or lake trout or trees by the side of a road, unless these things were in a photograph in their month-at-a-glance wall calendar. They could not pin these things to their jacket lapel.
So yes, just put that half-full waxed paper cup of diet soda anywhere that is convenient for you.
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Temperature has been set and the oil is heating up. Unfortunately, the only thing the display shows is the target temperature, not the current temperature. So you just have to wait until the red light goes off.
The food is cooking. Action shot!
Tots! This is the first thing I tasted and it was amazing!
Broccoli bites and cheese sticks. Note the lack of tots in this picture. The pepper jack kind of disintergrated, but the cheddar was ever better than I thought. Like when you make nachos and the cheese burns on the edge of the plate? OMG.
The florets of the broccoli got burned. I was worried that the batter would be too think in between each little floret, but that's probably just what I wanted. Or just less cooking time.
And lastly, the fish. VERY good.
Labels: deep fryer
The fryer itself is clean and ready to go. I have it set up on the back patio table.
The oil and the rest of the wet ingredients. The batter recipe calls for beer and seltzer. The marinara is for the cheese.
The dry ingredients. The fish batter has flour and baking powder. I might make a bread crumb coating for the cheese.
- broccoli bites
- cheese sticks, 3 kinds: mozzarella, cheddar and pepper jack (OMG!)
- fish (cod)
Everything is washed. Next up - the fryer.
I hope to document every step and every delicious bite, but obviously pictures will take a backseat to me not burning the house down.
I have one data point of experience with deep frying and it was many years ago when I made tempura batter for shrimp and asparagus on the kitchen stove in a pot of oil. It worked OK, but it was dangerous and it made the apartment stink like grease for several days.
Now that I have a house with a deck and a backyard, I can do the frying outside!
This is gonna be great!
Labels: deep frying
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
When I got laid off from my job, I wasn’t too concerned at first. My wife was still working and we had savings. We didn’t have that many expenses.
And I wasn’t worried about my prospects.
I hold a Master’s degree in business administration with an impressive and continuous work history.
We live in a large city where there are plenty of companies engaged in commerce that should be, at least in theory, interested in my skill set.
“Something will come along” I told myself.
“This may actually be a good thing” I told my wife.
A week later to the day, my wife told me that she was pregnant. A small kernel of worry began to form in me, somewhere. But still, I wasn’t terribly concerned. Nine months would be a long time. In nine months, I figured that I’d have a solid start on a college fund. In nine months, we’d have the nursery painted yellow.
At 18 weeks, my wife’s best friend from university threw her a baby shower. Friends of ours traveled from up and down the east coast for the weekend. While the women were eating cake and opening gifts, I took the husbands and my poker buddies and a few work acquaintances to a whiskey bar. We slapped each other on the back and smoked fat cigars and at the end of the evening I put the lot on my credit card.
My wife was furious with me for that. She was spending more time being nervous and angry and impatient. I told her not to worry, in order to reassure her. I begged her not to worry, on account of the baby.
From the shower, there were so many gifts that they stood in stacks in our living room for 3 days before were able to sort through all of them. There were baby clothes and bins for soiled diapers and all sorts of baby things that I couldn’t even fathom.
One of the couples that had come to the shower weekend was The Manhattan Danfritzs, William and Jessica. Will was my closest friend from university. After graduation, we had lived near each other in New York City, during which time Jessica and my wife had become very close friends as well. William was a stock analyst and made good money right away but it wasn’t until he had been at it for a few years, just around the time that I had moved from Manhattan to attend graduate school, before he received a number of significant promotions in short time and really began to make a name for himself at his firm.
Jessica, William’s wife, was an entertainment lawyer. She too was an instant star in her firm. The two of them had become a power couple amongst the Manhattan elite and when they arrived at my wife’s baby shower, I hardly recognized them. They dressed differently and they talked differently, not just from how they had used to dress and talk, but differently from anyone I had ever met before.
This had made our back-slapping reunion at the whiskey bar a bit awkward. At the end of the night, my friends and ex-coworkers tried to pick up the tab, both because I was supposed to be the center of attention but also because they all knew that I was unemployed. Will was the only one who didn’t try to help pay because, I think, he couldn’t really understand what all of the fuss over a few hundred dollars was all about.
The day after the baby shower and my night out with the guys, my wife called me on my cell phone. I felt hung over, but I was following up on a few job leads anyway. I had left her at home going through the shower gifts.
“Did Will say anything to you about their gift to us?”
Going through the gifts again, Sarah had reexamined the pair of baby shoes that the Danfritzs had given us. She knows a bit about fashion and designers and, lately, all the best brands that sell clothing and shoes for both baby and mother. But she hadn’t heard of the brand of the baby shoes until she looked on the internet.
“Hon, these are $1000 baby shoes. Will and Jessica gave us $1000 baby shoes.”
I went home straight away to see the $1000 baby shoes.
Later that day, casually rubbing the toe of a $500 baby shoe with my thumb, I realized that I had missed a scheduled job interview. I had raced home to see The Shoes. Our savings account’s balance was slipping. The winter had been harsh and heating bills were the highest in years. Sarah’s cold had turned into bronchitis and, on account of the baby, the doctor’s bills had gotten large.
The next morning I received a voicemail about my missed interview. Apparently, I had wasted some important person’s time and I was informed that I should fuck off.
And then Sarah was 7 months pregnant. I was still unemployed. The spring time was glorious and our garden, usually flush with small flowers and early vegetable shoots, was brown with the fall’s remnants. I could see mold and slime on the decaying plants. It hadn’t been turned over.
Our savings were tapped. Sarah’s parents didn’t call as often because every time that they did, I was finding a new way to ask for money. I still called my parents every few days to keep them updated on the progress of their new grandchild. They sent $20 every 5 days.
With Sarah asleep on the couch, uncomfortable with child and unable to sleep in our bed, I would search the internet for job leads, no longer limiting myself to our city or even to the east coast. I needed a job. My family needed money.
Late one night, I was at the computer and Sarah stirred on the couch. My glass of cheapest whiskey was empty, except for barely a remnant of an ice cube. On a shelf, I saw the gifted baby shoes on display. Our family needed money. I logged on to Craigslist and posted the following ad: “For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.”