Saturday, November 28, 2015


We were in NYC at my sister's on the Upper West Side (I just like saying it. Hello Joe. Hello Box Kite. Hello Zabar's. Great seafood selection from our dwindling oceans Citarella!) for the Thanksgiving Day parade, a hot dirty fabulous mess of filthy lucre, corporate culture, and helium in the shape of Paddington Bear.

We saw Paddington Bear's crotch as he floated over our heads, and no the bear was not wearing underwear, as DS, 10, raptly pointed out. "Commando!"

It was as fun as whippets, which I've never done because I believe in using nitrous oxide in the manner nature intended -- for the extrusion of whipped cream from cans.

It was as fun American things usually are: kinda bad for you (Levain Bakery song), kinda cheese-in-cans, but also big, extraordinary, golden, the kind of thing freedom means, so let's stop being afraid of each other; immigrants were my Husb.'s parents in the '60s living in El Barrio, and my 15-year-old great-grandmother in the 1900s on the Lower East Side sent to marry a distant cousin in Pittsburgh.

The leaves on the trees in Central Park were like a Paul Simon song so "Let's marry our fortunes together."

Friday, November 20, 2015


Mantlescaping is tablescaping for your mantle. Like manscaping,  it is a word I NEVER considered until Husb. said we should quote "do something festive," "how about feathers?"

I said, "Be specific, honey." "Lots of your interior decorating ideas I get confused with foreplay. Remember when when you said you wanted to 'muck out the French drain'?  That was so confusing for us both."

But no, he really wanted to adorn the mantle in a way that incited festiveness. So I put a bird on it.  The bird was not enough.

Husb. had a vision of Gilded Age opulence. Pots stuffed with ferns. Cascading pheasant feathers. The lily gilded.  I wanted to give him what he wanted -- what happy wife does not want to scape the mantle for her dear husband? -- but how, gentle reader, how? 

I found all the gewgaws in my possession, all the showy trifles -- the garlands of "pearl" and garnet-colored plastic beads, the gold plastic platters,  all the junk in the trunk, and I mantlescaped so hard with my lady lumps (brooches, mostly) that Pinterest weeps bloody jealous tears.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

My Armpits Smell Like Australia

My son, 10,  is now wearing Old Spice ("The Man Your Man Could Smell Like") deodorant in the flavor "Citrus" because Target of Pikesville (my second home) didn't have the variety he requested, and that, ladies and gentlemen, was "Mango."  Just imagine -- or rather, don't -- the tropical fruit fug in the morning in the gender bending bathroom at my house.

He's identifying as a man. Well, hooray. I guess. This makes life easier. And more complicated.

How much time has passed!  When he was a dewy-eyed toddler and gender-identified as "adorable" (sadly, a category grown-ups do not have) he thought I was the bees' knees; he snuggled in my arms and told me that my armpits smelled "wike a pwincess." I was like, This is the life my life could smell like and it does.

Now he says I stink.

So I went to --  yes you guessed it my second home, Target of Pikesville -- to check out what's new, what's changed in women's underarm odor control since the days of Smith College when I daubed myself strategically on the pulse points with patchouli and called it a day in the upending of the dominant paradigm in my Barbara Kruger t-shirt. I wore the same beret for four years.

I chose "Australia." And now my armpits smell like Australia which isn't even possible: that's a continent.

But my son is appreciative. I say, "Do I smell like the outback, a place I've never been? Koalas? I like koalas!" and it's reminding me of what irritates me most about myself as a woman: my big-eyed, clingy, land-animal eagerness to please; I survive in a narrow band of extremely specialized biome.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Experience The Magic of Christmas. Hint: It Requires You To Buy A Wand

That's seriously the tagline. "Experience The Magic Of Christmas."

This is as crazy muffins as Starbucks plain-red cups on which the company suggested that any mint mocha-loving Christians upset by the lack of reindeer (because we know Jesus LURVED THE ANTLERED) should "doodle" their own "holiday scenes."

Any time a company uses the word "doodle," somewhere a fairy dies.

Bah humbug.

However, even bad PR is good sales. Starbucks knows that. They even got me. Yesterday I went to put boots on the ground to investigate the snowflake-less red cups at my local and my mint mocha tasted of...Dead Sea Scrolls. There was a monotheistic desert tang. Why had I failed to notice that before? So yummy.

But how come no Christians are freaking out over The Magic Light Wand is what I want to know. Where are you, brethren?

It's a "wand" that through the "magic" of a remote control receiver system lights up the Christmas tree.

Christians, the words "wand" and "magic" are right in the copy, alongside "Christmas."  Don't you just want to scream? I do. Strikes me as totally pagan, waving a battery-powered wand over a folkloric tradition of a evergreen near the winter solstice, but hey. That's me. That's my perspective. Also, it looks very erect. Like an elf erection. But, perhaps I've already drunk too much egg nog.

I guess its okay because the wand isn't just plain red like the Starbucks cup. It has snowflakes on it. Oh, if it has snowflakes -- I guess I'll take my flaming pitchfork elsewhere.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Colorful Vintage Print Maxi Dress

Oh my gods -- or lack of gods belonging to me -- the shame. It has happened. I clicked on this clickbait:


I blame the rain. I blame premature ovarian failure. I blame the month of November which is my least favorite month after February. (Sorry, Mom. I know that the gods-forsaken gritty leafless grey bleakness is the month of your 70th birthday, and when the birds are choosing their mates -- it's still not enough: bird mates. Plus its a myth.)

[Birds of Paradise Mating Dance, narrated by David Attenborogh.]

I have to gather and burn all my calling cards that are embossed Will Never Consider A Maxi Dress, Shine On You Crazy Diamond.

Maxi dresses are for the vacationing suburban mom's first trip to Marrakesh and I've. Never. Been. I broke up with a man in Jerusalem, though, after a very good street felafel. Does that count? A colorful vintage-print maxi dress would have been the thing to be in. Instead I was in my '90s Grunge/Swing Revival phase (amazingly not mutually exclusive) that led to an interesting Venn diagram that included lots of international travel. Hi there Venezuela. Cute #pabebe wave.

Perhaps I am turning into a Gypsy Queen. My mom is reading fortunes with her Gypsy Witch cards aboard a student ship now nearing Salvador, Brazil and my dad says she's been swamped.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Cake And Eat It Too

It's not breaking news is that simple carbs are crap for you. Fats are back. (In other words, f-ck you, Snackwells, f-ck you Cookie Man, the Snackwells' spokesperson. You led me astray.)

Boohoo. What's a girl to do besides make chocolate cake with all the butter in the world, which is exactly what I did last night, an early November Sunday night, the night of the week and the month of the year that cries out like a caged wolf for the eating of chocolate whipped cream frosting (a specialty of mine that I just made up). The word "frosting" makes me do The Humpty Dance.


Heavy whipping cream
Cocoa powder
Powdered sugar

Whip it.

Voila. You are the best looking person in the room.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Bastos Home Design: Note The Ukulele

I'm going into new areas where there be dragons of the Owings Mills branch of the Baltimore Public Library, exploring new call numbers of Dewey Decimal System because I found myself to be in a velvet rut of Pastry, Parenting, Self Help, and Eastern Philosophy and wanted more from life. I wanted 

Home design. Interior decor. 747.9.

I've been reading a lot about "reading a room." How to arrange sticks in an urn. Or how to stack books into pyramids of descending thickness and upon them, stick ballet shoes. 

How that one might put coils of reclaimed rope in the corner of one's living room and explain that the theme is Nautical.  Wallpaper the powder room in sheet music? Why not advertise one's hobbies to the people powdering their noses. 

This forced me to "read" my living room and record how things really are as opposed to what I would like them to be: French Country Italian Villa American Beach House Sedona Mountain Retreat Rustic Pebble Texture Damask Throw Pillow Holland-Thatch in Architectural Digest. 

So I bring you Bastos Home Design. Your house can look just like award-winning mine by following these simple rules: 

Where there is open space, clutter. Where there is counter space, crumbs.

Upon the brown (I prefer the word "burnt umber") early model Ikea pleather couch (I prefer "family heirloom" because it was previously in my parents basement) is a dirty pile (some might say "Zen-like" "wabi-sabi" "arrangement") of laundry which is has been there for days along with a ("traditional Hawaiian stringed instrument") ukulele. 

Friday, November 6, 2015

A Brief History of My Involvement in Organized Sports

BIRTH. What an ordeal. The blood, the sweat. The lack of a trophy.

Second grade DODGEBALL. Tammy Nasser is is pelting me in the face with a playground ball.  I'd honestly would rather be doing papier mache.

Fifth grade GIRLS' SCHOOL FIELD HOCKEY. I spend the afternoon with the school nurse because Katie Legget "high sticked" me, that is, she hit me in the face with her field hockey stick and my braces went through my lip. I still have the scar, Katie Legget. 

JCC SWIM LESSONS, also in Fifth Grade. I learn that the way I learned to swim
(ferocious doggy paddle against the current in the Allegheny River, or floating mindlessly as an invertebrate on my back at the cove at my grandparents farm on the Chesapeake Bay) has been wrong. Twelve different kinds of wrong.

Ninth Grade Public HIGH SCHOOL SWIM TEAM I practice with them for a month, but it's tiring, oh so exhausting. It leaves me with no time for my full-time effort which is to make a film of the Sartre play No Exit with my friends in French to get Christopher Nagy to notice me, because I fancy he looks like Julian Sands.

Briefly, CREW. 10th Grade. The club has no money; our "coach" makes us lift tomato cans and bags of flour.  At the start of the first race, I "catch a crab" meaning I lose control of my huge-ass water-beetle-leg oar and it catches me in the stomach and pitches me out of the boat and into the Marietta River.

Smith College RECREATIONAL SWIM. My house, Dawes House, the French-speaking house, is competing. I do two lengths of freestyle and I am very fast, yes, but also my heart goes tachycardic and I have a panic attack in the Natatorium.

EARLY ADULTHOOD ATTEMPTS TO BE A 420 SAILOR TO PLEASE BOYFRIEND WHO WILL LATER CHEAT ON ME ON MY OWN FUTON.  I date Mark Fallon who sails competitively with his five brothers on Cape Cod, I sail with him as "mate," he is "skipper." I don't understand any of the words that the good-looking yacht people are screaming at each other around the buoy markers -- jib, 160, starboard, fuck you, Ashburton, fuck you back Duffy -- and really what I want to know is, "Will you love me forever?

EARLY ADULTHOOD BASKETBALL FAN #FAIL "It's all too fast, and squeaky," I say to my Israeli boyfriend Itzik Segev who, on our first date, used the word "snuggle" meaning "smuggle" -- as in drugs into Ibiza  -- and that endeared him to me so much because I was totally into the trance music dance scene.  In Jerusalem, we break up. 

I get married to Javier Bastos. WORLD CUP SOCCER.  Perfect. It's a schedule of enthusiasm for very fit, very good-looking men, run by a very corrupt shadowy rich international soccer syndicate but it's just two weeks every four years, and I like yelling in French. Also see: the Azzuri, the Italian national team. Tutti gli uomini. Buongiorno. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Mothering Through The Darkness

I had post-partum depression after my son was born and ten years later I wrote about it and now that essay is in a book of essays, an anthology called Mothering Through The Darkness, which has the publication date of... today.

It's compelling to write "publication date" and be referring to yourself and thirty other women.

I feel like I'm back at Smith in Dawes House which was the French-speaking house. There's a pride. My French is middling. But I'm in a book of essays with thirty women. It has a scent like a ripe fruit.

I want to clap people on the back at the suburban Baltimore Starbucks where I hang out freelance-writer-like near the Trader Joe's, "Your double pump soy decaf iced pumpkin spice Americano is on me. Today is Publication Day!" but I don't because the topic of the book is still a stigma. The work of the book is to change this.  Me, thirty women, and essays.

There is still the expectation that all new mothers -- and maybe all mothers -- will be cheery Hallmark cards in glittery script with uplifting meaning, not sad clowns. (That's me, above, pointing with my finger to a tear on my cheek.)

Motherhood morphed and changed me. Ten years in, what I think about is not what could have been, but what is, the transience of my importance, Basho's poem translated by Robert Hass: "A caterpillar/ this deep in fall /still not a butterfly," though of course I would like to be beautiful.

What I have is that I am giving it all that I've got: jazz hands, clowns in the clown car, bear on a little bike, pratfalls, three rings, bits, the Bearded Lady, lion tamer and soft-shoe.