Thursday, February 28, 2013

Buffalo Milk Mozzarella

My fantasy place to live is the Mediterranean, for the azure ocean, and the Greek boats with the eyes painted on their prows,  for all those soccer players with hair like shepherds, sure. But really for the cheese.

Years ago I was south of Rome, under a beach umbrella and my picnic was bread...and a globe of fresh buffalo milk mozzarella glowing softly, white as Aphrodite's ass. It was sweet, savory, diary. The cream dripped down your forearms. Calling it a sandwich was like calling Italian, the language of the heart-breaking arias of Puccini, sing-song-y. It was the stuff of opera.

If I could have married a Water Buffalo right then like Europa or become a cow like Io I would have done so. But I remained myself and in the morning flew back to Boston. But now when I get my suburban mother American chunk of grocery mozzarella wan and tight in its plastic wrap, I talk to it. I know what you're capable of, I say to it. I know how much more you can be. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Croissant In The Universe

We're obsessed with naming things, I think it's because we're so small in this vast universe and naming makes us feel powerful.  My daughter named the cardinal that lives in our evergreen Carlo. His mate, Carla. It all makes sense. The backyard feels orderly. Naming is how we do this. Otherwise, the world is just a jumble sale of birds and trees, but we've named them creepers and nuthatches, and cypresses and white pines and whatnot, and that makes it livable.

I often think how awesome it must be to be a scientist and find a new star or starfish or whatever, and to name it is your job, it's your job. A name gives it a home and a lineage, which leads me to my point which is that I'm French. Genetically. Mostly French. Just found out. There's some German there too, and Irish and Dutch. But.

With all my meringue-making and cheese-sniffing and oohing and aahing, and sad attempts at tying chic little neck scarves, all these years its like I've been trying leap back to my ancestors natal stream like a salmon.

I know naming something "French" is silly (what's French? Croissants? Being able to say "boeuf?") and a construct, we're all the brotherhood of man, and originally from Africa  however it makes me feel like I have dispensation to be all oh la la and to go deeper into the history of French pastry because it is mine.

Monday, February 25, 2013


You may have mused upon this in 9th grade dissecting an earthworm as I did. Life. The universe. Everything. How you could have gotten your bangs higher. (This was the 80s). Wow, you might have said under your breath. Look outside at the trees. Now back to this. Glance at your flaming unicorn Trapper Keeper. Wow.

The myriad forms life takes! Look yonder at the cabinets of sea animals in formaldehyde.

But don't get too big for your britches. Whenever I have a delusion of grandeur, I balance myself karmically with Yiddish proverbs. This is one of my favorites. Remember, God made the earth worm before He made you.

As I prep for my colonoscopy, which involves (as you may know from experience) scouring your innards so a camera can take unimpeded photos your freshly washed most internal pink stockings, I think about how tube-like we all are. How akin ato the earth worm that eats dirt, literally transforms shit into usable material and aerates the soil with its burrowing. Who doesn't want to be like that?

Saturday, February 23, 2013


The point is not the gruyere cheese strata, the fruit salad (expensive berries in winter), poached eggs in nests of spinach, but the feeling this food brings to the table. That of abundance, the atmosphere of yeast things, everything rising. Come, my friends, 'tis not too late to seek a better world is what a pitcher of mimosas says.

That is the meaning of brunch. In the midst of this world of toaster waffles and speed, there are biscuits and someone (perhaps the Goddess of Brunch, spangled in cava, twinkling in Hollandaise) thoughtfully left the butter out to soften so you (precious unique creature) can spread it with the snub-nose of a little butter knife.

Friday, February 22, 2013


I got my first-ever letter from my son, 7, yesterday, after I asked him in my nice voice to review his sight words. It said:

Why are you so bossy right now Mommy?
P.S.  Send a note back.

My son's first letter, everything spelled correctly! And with a post script! I'm kvelling, clutching the letter to my breast. My son, my son!

My artistic genius! On the note he had scribbled a portrait in blue crayon of someone with angry hair, and fang-like teeth (one assumes this person is me), picking a booger, wearing sweatpants and all I can think is, that little genius! A skewering satirist! My son! I want to knuckle his hair, he's like some kind of trickster god Loki. Genius communicator! Like Mercury, of messages. My son!

 Out of this blue, sweatpants-wearing person's head is coming the thought bubble: "Boss."

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Knuckle Dragger

Blurb's my uncle

I'm 2.8 percent Neanderthal, higher than average, according to the personal genome site 23 and me. That explains my cragulous brow ridge. On my mother's side, my ancestors were some of the first animal-skin-clad people in Europe. The Me, Grug You, Ug family which explains why I have a lower than average non verbal IQ.

I'm a knuckle-dragging dumbass, and I come from a long line of knuckle-dragging dumbasses and who were just smart enough to reproduce before we tripped on a mammoth tusk and fell into a ice crevasse. (Although I am also lower than average on Learning from Past Mistakes.)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Wintry Mix

In the space I with great optimism call my "writing aerie" there is a window in front of which I have placed my desk. (For what's on my desk see here: Earl Grey tea bag tails). 

Through this window I look out today at a February landscape that includes a pine tree and a low-slung shed, a wintry mix if ever there was one. The pine tree's branches, though not boughed down with snow nevertheless droop like the eyelids of a Basset hound, and so does the shed. Its roof tiles are tattered and covered with moss.  But this moss is absurdly violently acidic '90s-Seattle green

It's like Mountain Dew green that my sister and I used to slurp and see who could burp the alphabet. It's graphic. It's rude boy. And so freaking appealing. A punk rocker next to  the sad donkey of the pine tree, and tremendous caving introspection of the shed.

I read that looking at the color green makes us creative and happy. Something about our origins and acacia trees so I have plans for a window box in the spring when the earth is not hard as iron, but right now what keeps me it's this moss like a LephrechaunProving that it is the little things. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Valentines For Parents of Young Children

It needs repeating how their eyes locked lasciviously over a couple of BPS-free plastic sippy cups.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Body Electric

Walt Whitman wrote, "I sing the body electric," but I don't. I supposed I should, but.

I did a body scan meditation in which you focus your kind attention on your body. Starting with the toes of your left foot, Jon Kabat Zinn on the CD said, "If you can't locate your toes, feel what it feels like not to be able to locate your toes."

Failure is what it feels like.  Failure. That is, until the pit of my stomach. I blessedly could feel the pit of my stomach because it was almost time for lunch.

I realized with sadness that, instead of singing the body electric at all times joy, rapture O me! O life!, I only notice (as we used to say in the '80s) the bod when needs something. Lunch. A spackel of makeup in a color called Almost Porcelain. Perhaps, after turtling for hours on the computer, a stretch? No. Push through into the usual roachy muscle-bound tense.

Other than a little blush my body is on it's is on its own to gurgle and catabolize and pump and synapse and lubricate and other words that make me kind of squeamish like relax, let go, and enjoy.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


Kishkes is Yiddish for intestines, innards, gut, or hara, in Japanese. Seat of the soul. The entrails, from which conclusions can be drawn.  Biblical.  "And my bowels were moved for him," is from the Song of Solomon.  Recesses, intersticial spaces, within.

These excesses should alert you to the fact that I am having to schedule a colonoscopy.

Yes. I have reached that age where the young doctor with luxuriant hair peers over his glasses and says, "Mrs. Bastos, you really should you know." And I say, "Wasn't it enough for you people that I gave birth screaming naked and shitting myself that now I must indulge a well meaning paparazzi camera up my keester?"

This is what getting old means; fewer people want to look at you, while more people will line up to look inside you, specifically up your ass, or into the shining white image of your squashed breast on mammography film, or to snip a little tag off your eyelid; there and then they will make extended and, in a way, loving eye contact with you. While you are unconscious, while you are an interesting specimen.

I imagine the bright mane of this doctor hunched over my zonked out cupboards, fascinated, closer to  my kishkes than anyone I've ever loved, calling to his compatriot young lions, lathered up with thrill. "Oh boy! Wow! Phew. I'm speechless, really. Gather 'round, lads. This lady's got a hemorrhoid that looks just like the Virgin Mary."

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


In a paper gown somewhere in Georgetown my sister is waiting. Mammography. You know how it is when you are in one of those paper gowns; you  start reading Sports Illustrated  or a National Geographic about a tribe of head shrinker Amazonian shamans or whatnot, poison darts, and that actually seems preferable?

I think, if given the opportunity, I would lick the back of a treefrog to have a hallucination of feathered snakes talking to me like this one anthropologist did after drinking some weird plant in Peru I listened to it on the To The Best of Our Knowledge podcast. It's called "participatory anthropology." I think we're all involved in some form of it.

He said the feathered snakes made him aware in a way that he had never been before that he was just a human. And that changed his life.

How would one of those last remaining uncontacted people, a Flesheiro, or People of the Arrow react to being in a paper gown? I wonder about that sometimes. Like, is this normal? Perhaps we should leave uncontacted vast swaths of internal Amazonia.

In life there is a lot of down time. Weird, consider-your-options, twiddle-your-thumbs time, between catching a glimpse of a disappearing human form in the jungle, then having the arrow whizz past your ear.

Monday, February 4, 2013


My daughter, 5, has drawn for me a new totemic animal. The unicorippopotamus. It's (as you might have guessed) a riparian creature, a creature of the banks of the Nile where the papyrus grows,  of galumphing on land but being surprisingly agile under water for its size and emerging, ear-flickingly adorable, from underneath lily pads and duckweed. Amphibious napper.

At the end of it's tail there is pink pom-pom sort of thing which, when asked, my daughter says, "is for banging things, like tambourines." I didn't even know she knew the word "tambourine." Hooray for school, I say. At the front end is a single horn "for spearing things" and "showing off." "Like a male impala?" I asked.  "Yes," she said, "but better, for s'mores."

It has a platypussian bill, and a curl in front of it's horn like a Kewpie doll. "Is it fast?" I asked her. "Not at all," my daughter said, "because it doesn't need to be."

Like the most Interesting Man in the World or a Chuck Norris joke, "Things don't run after it."