woodstock in july

My sister and I made a 16x24" Spongebob Squarepants cake this week for Mila, who turned 4 yesterday. I’ve never actually watched the show, but I do know of him, both through Mila and courtesy of my friendly neighborhood and worldwide media outlets. Jay Leno points out that although some may not know who lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, they do know who lives in a pineapple under the sea.

I'm no cake decorator as you've perhaps by now noticed, ("practice makes perfect," says Luc) but it was fun to turn flour, eggs, sugar, and butter into a giant cartoon sponge. When asked why Spongebob and not one of his beloved superheroes, Mila divulged a greater plan; next year is Spiderman, followed by Batman. I'm glad to have a nephew who thinks these things through and plans ahead. I've got a year to practice.

I present for your amusement a picture of the finished lovely, followed by the spoils, entitled Fear and Loathing in a Pineapple Under the Sea.



I heard on NPR this morning that Iceland has applied for entry into the European Union. This makes me a little sad; as the NPR commentator pointed out Iceland has always been an ardently independent nation. The big world economic suck affected them in prodigious ways, decimating their economy and currency.

The things I love about the EU are the same things I dislike. Crossing borders is a breeze, but I miss the slowing to take notice that I am in a different country, with different customs, a different language, and different money. I miss getting my passport stamped.

Yeah, the euro is easier than having to exchange and keep track of different currencies, but I miss the individuality of the monies. The Italian lira, with its amusing number of zeros. The French franc that dropped a few zeros in 1960, confusing my poor grandmère. The one I miss the most is the Dutch guilder, especially the 50g note, with its beautiful sunflower splashed happily on the front. Here it is, in case you missed it…

I’ve never been to Iceland, except for a day spent waiting for a storm to pass at the airport in Reykjavik back when Icelandair to Luxembourg was the cheapest way to get to Europe. I’d love to really visit.

The language is complicated and permits such things as “Quirky subjects,” the idea of which delights me even though I have no idea of what it is even after reading the wikipedia entry. I'm impressed that geothermal energy supplies nearly 90% of the country’s energy needs. They were smart early on to tap this resource. We have resources too in the forms of wind and sun and we’ve all but ignored them.

I’ll get there someday. Hopefully soon enough to drop a few krónur.




“An electrolyzer built into a car would eliminate the need for a hydrogen storage tank, and with the right partnership, I believe we could have pee-powered cars capable of 60 miles per gallon on the road within a year.”
The right partnership. I wonder who that could be.


so long frankie

I read an article in the New York Times Magazine years ago about what the afterlife means for a variety of people. Fran Lebowitz will use hers to return phone calls; Ross Bleckner will have his ashes mixed with paint to be used by his favorite 10 artists for a group show. My favorite though was from Frank McCourt, who died yesterday, and whose words we still quote with amusement in my house:

“My hereafter is here. I am where I'm going, for I am mulch. It's a great comfort to know that in my mulch-hood I may nourish a row of parsnips.”

McCourt deserved a longer life and a shorter death, and I’ll miss knowing that he walks and talks among us. Speaking to a group of students after the publication of Angela’s Ashes he once said, “I learned the significance of my own insignificant life.” With that he nourished a throng of unknowns to write their own “insignificant” stories, a generation of voices that might not otherwise have been heard. Parsnips indeed.

Endpaper; The Afterlife, As I See It


winter, 1975; excerpt from something bigger

Bob P. owned the apartment building I moved into, an okay landlord as they go. Second floor on the left, two rooms and a tiny kitchen. There were four of us living there. Me, my boyfriend Danny, Jim the Greek and his girlfriend who renamed herself “Free” after escaping a violent relationship. She was Hispanic, from one of the tougher neighborhoods in NYC. Free had a daughter in someone else’s custody, with whom she hoped one day to be reunited. Jim was a smart and literary alcoholic, who seemed to have come from a background that allowed him an education. He read poetry, plays, and classics, and was funny as hell. Too bad about the alcoholism; he might have been my favorite professor of English Lit, Contemporary Poetry, or Greek Theater. Jim later was shot in the stomach and spent a long time in hospital. Lived though. Not like some of us. He wore professorial specs and a Sundance Kid mustache, and baked amazing bread in that kitchen barely big enough to boil water.

The way we lived was spare. Clothes to get through the week, a pair of shoes, maybe two, and a few of our favorite books and records. No need for furniture. A mattress on the floor was plenty. No table, no chairs, we sat on the floor and read The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus aloud, each taking a part or two. I remember a few other people there. Alfie, a local playwright, Jed, a tall guy who cross-dressed and had a sister named Julia who threatened to call the cops on Danny if he didn’t stay away from him. Jed was a junkie, and Danny was an ex and future junkie, with a few clean years between states. Jed was flamboyant and loud, another drinker, and fun to be around. Once I saw him chasing a car down Tinker Street yelling, wearing four-inch platform shoes and a pink feather boa, carrying a glass of scotch. He was chasing his sister. I don’t know why.




Now if they would just make a device that removes it from your ass and funnels it directly into the tank as you drive...

Incredible exploding pressure gauge

or, how to wreck four tires and a pressure gauge in one easy step.

I'm exaggerating. I did however inadvertently fill my tires to above 60 psi (max rated - 42) at the Mobile station in Groton, near where Old Ayer Road comes in. All that air for the low low price of $.75.

Today the car was driving funny, so I stopped at a gas station in Acton, took off the valve caps and and stuck them in my pocket, put in my $.75, and with the pressure gauge on the air hose checked the pressure of the first tire. 62 pounds can't be right, I thought. So I got my pressure gauge from the glovebox and checked it. It shoots out to 60, the highest psi measurable with this home device. Shit! thought I, and go to the next tire. 60, wow. I put the gauge onto the third tire and with a pulse the end blew off, springs and washers and little black widgets spilling onto the pavement. I used what was once the top of the gauge to release 20 lbs of pressure from each tire, but I think I need to get another gauge. Yeah that and don't go to the Mobile station in Groton anymore.

Next stop, Trader Joe's for groceries. I put my keys in my pocket and realize that I'm still carrying the vitamins that I never took this morning, so I go back into the car for my water bottle. I open it, toss a vitamin back, take a slug, and get ready to repeat when I realize that the fucking valve caps are still in my pocket, now mixed with the vitamins. I counted them. Four. Well that's good, I didn't just swallow a valve cap. I think I better add ginko to my vitamin regimen.