Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Right Kinds of Light for Me

The right kind of light for me is soft diffuse light. Candlelight. Dusk. The inside of an heirloom armoire with the doors closed. I am not a woman of a certain age, in a sequined black dress, draped over the piano, singing torch songs in a seedy club that’s dimly lit. I am ageless! You might think I was thirty!

My home, I light with “fairy lights,” which is a fancy word for tea candles. If I plan to entertain (possibly the young Italian who moved into the next apartment) I recommend floating candles in crystal bowls filled with Perrier water for that extra sparkle that will distract him from looking closely at the crow’s feet around your eyes and possibly making a correct judgment.

Until your visitor’s eyes adjust to the sensual deep-sea darkness of your apartment, lead him by the hand. He is so young. But you are creating for him a scene, an illusion, a game of love -- and it must be kept-up! Use care! At the bar where you met him in the dark hallway, you told him you were 45. Remember: Before he arrives, pull out all the wiring in the bathroom. It is harsh and overhead. No one needs the shock.

But what can be done about the morning? It comes as rays of pink through the tightly drawn curtains of thick black velvet. It comes creeping on cat’s feet under the sill of the East-facing kitchen window that you have plugged with towels. What to do? My friends, I will share with you my secret, and that is to get up early, very early, and be gone from your own house like a Robin Goodfellow.

If last night was a success (and there is no doubt it was) the malleable boy with the body of fine Italian marble will call. He longs to be back in your dark, fairy-lit bower, to lie back on your fragrant bosom of indeterminate age, and be completely unable to see his hand.

Monday, May 24, 2010

“Where Are Your Shoes”, from Getting To School: The Opera

Alto: Where are you shoes. Where. Are. They. Your shoes?

Children’s chorus: We don’t know. We don’t know. We had them yesterday.

Bass: But where are they now. Find. Them. Now.

Children’s chorus: O help me.

Soprano 1 (forte): No!

Children’s chorus: O help me.

Bass (forte): No!

Children’s chorus (weeping): Woe woe woe.

Alto and Bass (pianissimo): We must think of DSS. They cannot go shoeless. Shoeless they cannot go. Can they? No. No. They cannot go.

So, though, you have offended us, you cannot go shoeless, let us as a family look from every balcony for your shoes, for your shoes, for your shoes, from every balcony as a family for your shoes!

Soprano (flying onstage by a system of pulleys and wearing the outfit of a fairy princess): I have done it, I have found my shoes. I am faster than him. Because of my fairy wings.

Counter tenor: Mother! Father! She is taunting me. She can’t wear that to school can she?

Bass: The issue is your shoes. Focus on your shoes. How has it come to this? My children, my children, it has come to this.

Alto (in endless recitative until the curtain falls): Where are you shoes? Your footwear where is it? The ones that I bought you. That fit you. Where. Are. (hitting a high C and sustaining it) YOOOOURRRRR SHOOEEESSS?

The End of Act 1

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Fundraising Pimp's Guide to Successful Fundraising

"Solicitation is the sincerest form of flattery."

At events, make yourself obviously available by the silent auction.

When engaging potential donor, refer to the non-profit suggestively as “the organization.”

Keep a record of touching. There’s an app for that.

Use undercover research to judge a donor’s assets.

In the event of big, big assets, you’re allowed one touch, two touch, three touch.

Then it’s threesome with the president.

Before getting down to business, you’ll be expected to talk about how very long and substantial the organization’s long-range plan is.

Trust your instincts. You’ll know when it’s the right time to turn off the lights and PowerPoint your ass off.

Almost everyone is uneasy asking for money, but honey, the more you do it, the easier it gets.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Garden Central

It was an idiot idea that raising my own food would be cheaper than getting it at the grocery store and that it would be a fun thing to do with the kids. It is of course, not cheaper: the hidden cost is manual labor in the hot sun. I tried to convince the kids that I was having a party out there, sweating in my overalls and straw hat, and that each tiny shrunken carrot I dug out of the clayey soil was a glittering gem. I would shake off the dirt and say, “Extraordinary! Kids, you won’t believe this, but this carrot tastes just like Chocolate Sprinkle Freezy Toaster Puffs!”

Of course they couldn’t hear me. They were inside, watching a movie with my mother, with their arms elbow deep in a communal bag of potato chips (the potatoes had not come from my garden.) I looked in the window and waved and made the gesture that means, come on out all of you gluttons and do your part for the Protestant work ethic, but my mom shooed me off. I could see her mouth form the words “We’re happy in here.” I went back to hoeing.

It went on like this for weeks: I was progressively getting taner, living the dream (sort of) while they were snacking on tubs of high fructose corn syrup and watching daytime. “What are you doing?” My mother asked, on a rare foray into my green, bug-infested world, with a glass of store bought lemonade. A wisp of cool house air followed her. And like in the Sunday morning cartoons, the scent and coolness of that air went right up my nose like a mist and I almost tranced out and got those whirley eyes of the crazy coyote, but I caught myself.
I said, “Spraying the tomatoes with a homemade solution of essential oils and organic vinegar, what does it look like I’m doing?”
“Oh,” she said.
“But thanks for the lemonade. It might be just the thing to get the aphids off the green peppers.”

When, toward the end of the growing season, I presented to my family my “harvest” of a single radish and divided it into fourths in a near-religious act, I realized. Wow. This had not met expectations. I had had bigger plans. Expansive plans. Like canning a winter’s worth of tomato sauce and terracing my parent’s suburban lawn into wild rice paddies. I had hoped to invent a recipe for half sour pickles that was so great I would never have to work again.

What gardener isn’t a dreamer, a sci-fi fantasarian? A miniscule, dry, dead-seeming seed drills up through the earth, pushing shit out of its way. Once it’s above ground in the sun it unfolds a huge yellow jungle flower and from that flower protrudes a zucchini large enough to feed fifteen. Actually, that happened. My kids took their greasy little hands out of the chip bag to touch the vegetable’s smooth skin, green as a lizard and a full of life.

My husband said approvingly, “God that’s huge.”
I said, “God? Ha. Nothing to do with it. That zucchini was born of woman.”

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Let’s Call This Whole Thing Off: You Say Tomato, I Say Ripe Ovary of A Plant of The Nightshade Family

Salt. / Hand-harvested dry sea minerals.

Baked Chicken. / Heirloom Saipan jungle fowl in an imu or Hawaiian hot stone oven that I dug out back, naked, with a conch, in accordance with ancient Polynesian tradition.

Eggplant Parmesan. / Totally deriviative, The Italians do an “aubergine fritti” that comes closeish… first they harvest the aubergine crop according to biodynamic principles and then very thinly slice the aubergine with a mezzaluna (it takes years of discipleship to learn how to handle the mezzaluna) and --

Can’t we just eat? / Sure, give me at least ten minutes to identify all the ingredients in this broth. I detect star anise.

Pass the sliced tomatoes, please. / You mean the ripe ovaries of a plant of the nightshade family?

I did not. / But it's true, all fruit is an ovary.

Oh god. / Prude.

You're an insufferable snob. / You're a palate-less bore.

Cultured, pasture-fed asshole. / Queen fucking Corn.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Fundraiser Finger Food Don’ts

Take a crispy egg roll, dip it in Chinese hot mustard and -- while sputtering -- look across the crowded room blurred by eye-watering to see if there is anyone you know.

Choose the plumpest scallop from the passed hors d’oeuvres. Attempt to eat it in one bite, and come really close to choking to death.

Attempt to regain your footing with your fellow cocktail partyers, by suavely asking the bartender, whom you don’t know, to “Mix something fabulous, pal, to wash down that infernal crustacean.” The bartender replies, “Sure, pal.”

Some big wig eating beef Wellington, says, “Crustacean! My word! These people are amateurs! Scallops are bivalves.”

The drink you get is fabulous; it’s seventeen straws emerging from a coconut. Laugh as if you are on stage. Say in a loud voice that this drink is called The Board of Trustees.

The million dollar ask is over by the canap├ęs; but you’ve just eaten heartily of spinach artichoke dip.

On the way over, a server pushes extra-large sushi piled high with pale uncooked geoduck and orange flying fish roe. What can you do but take one, in your rush?

As you smile your most foxish, widest, and spinach infested smile, Mr. Very Important sees you coming, waves his hands and shrieks, “Get away from me get away from me, you reek of bivalve, I’m allergic! Do your research."

You snicker with your boss that when crumbs from pound cake fall into and circulate in it, it looks like vomit, only to realize the Chocolate Fondue Fountain Company is an event lead sponsor.

At the end of the evening, you’re elected to be the one to go home with the leftovers, mostly carrot sticks.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Le Snacking

America’s obesity problem starts with mothers like me who reward good behavior with peanut butter cups, and mountain range-sized banana splits. My pediatrician said, “Motivate them with stickers, not food.”
I said, “Stickers? Kit Kat bars. Now, those are motivating. All I have to do is to get the kids to clean their rooms is open a 2 lb. bag of Kit-Kats, releasing the breath of food-grade wax and high fructose syrup.”
"Good god," my pediatrician said. "Consider their little arteries!"

I considered their arteries, and my over-reliance on Oreos, chocolate milk, and MSG- laden and artificially flavored Cool Ranch Doritos as parenting tactics. And I thought of my kids growing up, nourished by food-grade wax. What kind of mother was I? So I devised a plan: We would stop being American, we would become French -- at least when it came to breakfast, lunch, and le diner.

French people eat. Hell, they eat brioche, oozing cheeses, and the mashed up livers of force-fed geese. “French mothers probably bribe their kids with food, all mothers do,” I whispered my husband. “But in France, it’s French food, and the kids: Et voila! They don’t get fat! ”

“From now on call me Maman,” I said to my kids, puffing out my lips and wearing a chic little scarf. “From now, on we don’t snack on le crap.” Tears were shed over the last sherds of Doritos, but in a matter of weeks, they were cleaning their rooms for home-made brioche au chocolat. In exchange for a slice of tarte tatin, I could have peace for an hour, while I rearranged my now extensive collection of chic little scarves and vintage Yves Montand records. When I made pate, they tried it, which made me inordinately proud. They tried pate! I crowed.

When they whine and squirm at restaurants, I say, “Tut tut! That’s what les enfants Americans do. Now what would the French do?” And miraculously they fall into line, putting their napkins into their laps and asking me politely to order frites for them because fries sounds better in French. My daughter, who is 2, believes that the French are a subclass of fairies. There are brownies, and elves, wood elves, fairies, and now, the extremely well-behaved French.

The chores they happily do for French food have far exceeded any expectations; they even bargain with me. “I’ll walk the dog and take out the trash, Maman, if you make coquilles St. Jacques again,” my son said. My husband said, “If you make Julia Child’s coq au vin. I’ll take over doing the laundry." So I did, and I haven’t folded a pair of underwear since: behold the mighty power of le cuisine.

I’m raising my kids on baguettes and butter, like French kids and they're doing fine, watching French New Wave cinema, puffing out their little lips and saying "bouf." Just don’t tell my pediatrician. When we went back, he asked, “So how are the sticker charts going?” I said, "Oh, tres, tres bien."

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Menus From The Date Nights of The Long Married

Steaks on the grill

Wine in a box

Pepperidge Farm Mint Milanos

A little kissing in bed, then as soon as something more might happen, one of the kids wants a sip of water.


Microwave popcorn

2 Liter Coke



Both asleep on the couch as the opening credits roll.


Panko Salmon

Pinot noir

Frozen Molten Chocolate Cakes

Internet porn

A fight


Flirting all day via IM

Coming home early, excited, only to find that the dog has thrown up on the floor.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cocktails for Mother’s Day

Old Fashioned Guilt: Into a glass pitcher, stir in vermouth and all the cards you meant to send, but didn't.

Modern Guilt: To an Old Fashioned Guilt, add a bottle of specialty vodka that you ordered off the Internet. Garnish with an endless loop of plaintive unreturned messages: I need another lesson on the computer. Call me back. I want to learn to work the computer. Call me back. How do you turn the printer on, again? Call me back.

Night Terror: Make a slurry of cold sweat, and the Periodic Table and add her voice from way back in high school saying, This B you got in chemistry looks like a D that someone has drawn a line through with felt-tip marker, mmm?

A Good Memory: Put on your kitty cat costume from when you were 5 years old and drink under table from a bowl of creamy whole milk.

Reverie: Serve Long Island iced tea in little teacups to your collection of stuffed animals and plastic model horses.

Heirlooms: Traditionally served with a long-winded story, schnapps, and spritzed with dust. Best unrestored.

Matching Yellow Rose-Bedecked Soup Tureen and Gravy Boat
: When filled with 150 proof grog at the annual winter solstice party the flowers won’t draw attention.

The Summer Prodigal: Re-read A Catcher In The Rye, outside, on a hammock, with a peppermint stick stuck into a lemon, drenched in soda water, and when you require a new lemon, call out, Hey, Maaaa! Where are the lemons? This place is so disorganized.

Birth Pang: In an IV bag mix saline solution, Pitocin and life as you knew it. Serve with a Dixie cup of crushed ice and realize, you and your mom have a lot in common now, including Sidecars.