Monday, December 12, 2011

Life's A Feast, And Sometimes You Have To Eat Big!

I don't know why it is that setting your teeth into a well-browned hunk of hog makes you feel good, but it works for me. For Christmas Day I want meat, and I don't mean a measly, puny, stunted portion of veal, either. I want big, maddeningly fragrant mounds of steer, hog or bird, or maybe all three, drenched with gravy.

Holiday meats should be baked until all you have to do is gently nudge some critical joint, and the whole thing smoothly falls apart into neat little sheaves. This meat is not burned, it is charmed, and you can eat right through the coral bones.

I wonder what spiritual eunuch first banned "cooking odors" from the home? I want to smell that heavy hunters-and-gatherers food baking. Morning of the banquet day you put the standing rib roast or the big boss bird into the oven. If it's a turkey, consider dipping a length of cheesecloth into a pound of melted butter and snugly wrapping up that tom. Now he's your big gilded turkey baby. In the next hours, ragingly delicious smells expand in golden waves from the kitchen.

Then the best time of all comes. You sit down to eat the food you love the best, with those you love the best. A glass or two of crystal white wine, or potent red goes well with this--wines that are the soul of grape, that seem to kiss you back when you smack them. At the end, there are berry pies nestled in buttery crusts. In our family, there's also a hundred-year tradition of serving candied nuts in the same gorgeous, gold-and-green china bowl. I'm sure you know that there are saints' bones that are handled with less reverance than we lavish on that bowl.

Then everyone alternates sipping his or her dark, fine coffee and nibbling the brown-sugar-crusted nuts of the field. We look around the table at three generations of these faces that we love, and every one of us (including the agnostics) thinks, "Thank you, God!"

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Favorite Images of Marriage: In Book, Film, and Real Life

(Dedicated to Dr. Theodore and Kathryn Savides)

How young were you, when you first got a notion of what a marriage should be like? Maybe you were about five, if (like me) you were weaned on the Babar picture books, created by Jean de Brunhoff. Then you know that Babar was a little elephant who bravely met every challenge that an orphan suffered in a harsh world. He was helped by his friend Celeste. We, his peewee readers, went through a lot with Babar and Celeste, and so it was a huge satisfaction to see them finally in their place in the sun, complete with red royal robes and crowns with huge jewels.

Now that Babar was King, he could marry adorable Celeste. Finally! We readers (at least the girls) had been willing them to bring on the wedding for years. The ceremony was gorgeous, but my favorite image happened after the crowds had left and the trumpets were silent.

It's nighttime, and Babar and Celeste are standing together in the sweet darkness. They're side by side, and we see only their silhouettes, Babar in his great big noble robe, Celeste in her snowy wedding dress. They're looking up, silently and happily, into a vast starry sky.

For me, the picture illustrates a saying from Antoine St.-Exupery: "Good partners don't have to be always looking into each other's eyes. But they have to be looking in the same direction."

My favorite marriage image from film comes from the Japanese movie MADADAYO, directed by Akira Kurosawa. The action takes place in Tokyo, during World War II. A very old, respected teacher and his gentle wife have been bombed out of their home. They have only a rickety, three-walled gardener's shack to live in. In the next fifteen seconds, we see their next year unfold in the wheeling of the seasons. Throughout, the old couple are sitting together in the open side of the hut, peacefully looking out, in every weather: first springtime blossoming, then scorching summer, torrential rains and falling leaves and then deep snowscape. The sequence is silent, but profoundly moving. What we see is that, although this couple has lost what most people would call "everything," they are content. They have each other, and an interesting world to look at, and so they have everything.

The feeling of that scene, the closeness, was present in my parents' long marriage. They were married for 61 years. Images flash up: the two of them, young then, with three little girls, standing at dusk in the yard of the worn-out, isolated old farm they'd just bought. Before them were the blue Baraboo bluffs, and behind them the gorgeous green snake of the Wisconsin river. "Did you ever see a more beautiful place?" Dad says, and our Mother (with us clinging to her skirts, and having just seen the incredibly decrepit, ancient farmhouse with its icy drafts that would have chilled a corpse) answers bravely, "I never did."

Ove the years, as all children do, we look to our parents' faces to see what they feel. I know my mother is anxious, early mornings when our father leaves for his job teaching high school in DeForest, because he drives over the frozen Wisconsin River to save time. He leaves the car door open so he can leap to safety if the car goes through. "Dad has good reflexes," she reassures us. I can tell they're happy and content together, many Fall Sundays, washing vegetables from their garden to take to church.

They work so hard. Because they're from the city, they earnestly study government pamphlets to learn how to care for livestock. They carefully prepare a model farrowing bed in the barn for their 600-lb pregnant red sow, Dulcie. It's in a warm, clean corner with soft fresh straw, water, great feed, the works. Dad has done everything possible for that sow except knit her a pink bed jacket. Dulcie should be in hog heaven. And we see their speechless astonishment as huge Dulcie staggers over to the cold, miry, cement corner SHE had earmarked for herself. On another day a furious neighbor comes over with a shotgun, determined to shoot our dog, who'd growled at him. I know some neighbors are afraid of this man, and so am I. I want to run for the hills. But my parents go out together to talk with him. They end up drinking coffee at the kitchen table. Mother sends banana bread home to his wife. Another day a tornado hits our farm. They clean it up, our tiny mother hefting beams until Dad makes her stop. Another year Dad builds a beautiful new home, Mother helping him, learning as they go, because they can't afford builders. Sometimes the glossy new basement is flooded. They clean it up.

The time finally comes when Dad, after many years of night classes and summer school, gets his doctorate in education. It's a fiercely-pursued dream which she always encouraged. We have seen Mother typing his dissertation on the old Remington, six carbons, no mistakes allowed, incredible patience required. Dad becomes a University of Wisconsin dean. I hear a friend say to him, "Now you and Kay have everything."

Dad replied quietly, with a smile, "We have always had everything." And they did.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Doris and Rock and Me! (And With Respectful Admiration for "Augie")

An editor recently asked me for "your first literary memory." After a lot of pondering I realized it would have to be this incident.

It was a sweet-smelling, balmy summer evening in a little country town, many years ago. My sister and I, sixteen and seventeen (we were "Irish twins") were sitting in the tiny Prairie du Sac movie theater. We were watching the romantic comedy LOVER COME BACK, with Doris Day and Rock Hudson.

Because we were innocent to the point of mental disability, we saw nothing bizarre in the fortyish Doris's frantic attempts to preserve her virginity against the lecherous assaults of leering playboy Hudson. She fled his slobbering pursuit in her high heels, both flirting with him and flouncing away from him with such manic energy that she almost bounced right off the screen. She scolded sex-crazed Hudson for his base desires, shaking her finger at him and telling him off, an ash-blond well-built angel in tight-fitting suits.

My sister and I were fascinated, rooting for Doris and filing away her strategies for taming bestial, drooling, skirt-chasing Hudson--who, as became obvious later, was a much better actor than anyone gave him credit for.

The movie was well-started when a huge bulbous man entered and began fumbling his way down the dark aisle, looking for seats. He was holding the hands of two small fair-haired children. Everyone in the theater knew little Wally and April; and everyone knew their father, Augie. August Derleth was a Sauk County native son, and a brilliant regional writer. He also had the biggest girth, and the largest and most exuberant and most fearless personality in the state.

On the screen, at that very moment, Doris Day was kittenishly shaking her blond French Twist and wiggling her derriere as she showered Hudson with maidenly reproaches. Derleth paused in the aisle, looked at the screen, listened to the dialogue for a minute, snorted, and then laid down the most tremendous, awe-inspiring, roof-lifting fart ever heard.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Cee-Cee Chews Me Out

(I'm going to run again a short series of posts regarding justice matters. ACLU blood runs in my veins, and although I'm often not the righteous champion for justice that I should be...I think people should at least try.)

The background to this post is that I write letters to the editor, early and often. I like to think of these letters as bold and illuminating, but friends keep me from vanity with remarks like, "I see where you were gassing away in the paper again," or simply "blah, blah, blah."

My friend Cee-Cee (not her real name) is a retired policewoman. I met her, if that's the right word, when she called me up very late and out of the blue, to chew me out, grind me up and spit me out for a letter I'd just written. The letter concerned what I saw as a poor judgment call on the part of a police officer.

Cee-Cee is not the officer I wrote about. To this day, I don't know if she was a friend of the officer, or if she just reacted like a lionness to any criticism of a brother or sister in arms.

Keep in mind that this was around midnight. I'd been asleep. Cee-Cee, a stranger to me then, has a voice of mighty thunder when upset, sort of like God and Thor combined. She said, or shouted, that although the facts in my letter were "technically correct," I had written it in a spirit of smug fault-finding and from a place of ignorance. Like most civilians, I had no idea of the thousands of judgment calls which every officer is required to make, often under severe stress. Neither I nor any other civilian would hear about the great majority which turned out to be right.

I was speechless for once. You would be too, if the side of a mountain suddenly split off and fell on your head, or if an avenging angel suddenly swooped down out of heaven and began flogging you like a racehorse. But I come from a long line of bossy teachers and ministers confident in their salvation, and those genes kicked in. I told Cee-Cee the truth. I said I admired the police, because they have such a tough job. I said that I would never say or even think a single harsh word about an officer, as long as he seemed to keep alive in the front of his mind the fact that he'd promised to protect and serve the public. He had not vowed to protect and serve himself.

Cee-Cee said bluntly, "I bet if you ever needed help, you'd be the very first to be yelling for the police to come and save your puny butt!"

"You got that right," I said, "I would be the first, and if there were some word before First, I would be that. If I was threatened by some criminal, I would stand there screaming like a toddler into my cell phone for the police to come and rescue me, to come charging up in their shiny cars and obliterate whoever was menacing me, to sweep me to a place of safety. That is their duty. That's what 'Protect and Serve' means!"

Unexpectedly I heard Cee-Cee's deep, jolly laugh for the first time. She said, "You don't expect much, do you? Just your own squad of knights. Damn, you certainly are a STUBBORN little shit."

I wasn't thrilled to be called a stubborn little shit, but her tone had warmed up. I don't know if she had decided I was mentally delayed and therefore forgivable, but the conversation became much more amicable. She even finally allowed that my letter had been "an honest, though stupid, mistake."

And a few minutes later, after a thoughtful pause, she said slowly, "Not that every single cop who ever existed has been an altar boy or altar girl. There's a story or two I could tell you--no names, though."

"Over a glass of good red," I said. "My treat."

"Deal, " she said, and laughed.

And I think that Cee-Cee is a woman who keeps her word.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

"What Were They Thinking!" Movie Moments

It was Mel Gibson who said, "Without transgression there is no story," and he ought to know.

Movie plots are often pumped up by impossible burning love, vampire thirst, bloodlust, racist outrage, leaps of heroism, outrageous gambles. If the characters just sat down and shut up and behaved themselves, there would be no movie.

So I understand, theoretically, why film heroes sometimes have shocking lapses of judgment. It drives the story. But it also drives us crazy, has taken at least twenty years off my life, and I'll give a few examples which are guaranteed to have you shouting at the movie screen.

I liked the original TWILIGHT (2008), so will only mention in passing some dialogue that would turn any parent's hair white as snow. Of course the premise is that the 17-year-old hero Edward is secretly a vampire (and he's actually more like 117), but a sensitive one. He's madly drawn to his girlfriend Bella's delicious-smelling blood, which he wants to drink like wine, but he struggles against the urge. He tries to warn her not to trust him. He looks at her with stark red irises and says, "I've killed people before."
"I don't care!" is her blithe response.
"I've--wanted to kill you."
"It doesn't matter! Whatever!"

This is the way parents are AFRAID their teenagers think. And now we know.

In Edward's favor, it should be mentioned that he seems to be a Mormon vampire virgin. All of his and Bella's love scenes are very chaste. He also has excellent manners, dresses well and is stinking rich. In fact, most parents would be delighted to have him squire their daughter to prom. But Bella's grumpy old dad Charlie just can't shake the feeling that something about Edward is a little, well, different.

Edward has pale white skin, razor-sharp pointed teeth, and staring eyes that change from blood red (when he's "thirsty") to golden (when he has "hunted"). He's ice-cold to the touch, never sleeps, never comes out when the sun is shining, and never eats food that lies still on the plate. What's not to know, Charlie?

The sci-fi movie THE THING (1951) introduced James Arness in his debut role as a violent giant carrot from outer space. It was also one of the first movies to use the plot device of an unworldly professor, book-smart but earth-stupid, naively trying to bond with a homicidal extraterrestrial
monster. Throughout THE THING, wild-eyed Dr. Carrington is always doddering around, protecting the murderous carrot/beast in the name of science as it slays not only the crew but the odd sled-dog or two. Why does the professor do this? Well, he wants to be BFF with The Thing and enjoy scientific chats with him, even as the drained corpses pile up. In the end the giant man/vegetable is incinerated, and Dr. Carrington survives, but he doesn't really deserve to.

Finally, I have a question about the famous Coliseum battle in GLADIATOR (2000). Our hero Maximus (Russell Crowe) and the other enslaved gladiators are in the huge death ring, looking very nervous since hostile giants, numchuk-swinging dwarves, Roman legions, spike-wheeled chariots and Siberian tigers are about to advance on them fast. And it's at THIS moment, not before, that Maximus asks rather casually, "Say, were any of you guys soldiers? Maybe it would help us if we used some old battle strategies..."

The results are GREAT. Everybody had been a soldier, and within about ten seconds the formerly doomed gladiators are snapping into crack military manuevers at warp speed. After five minutes of boiling excitement they succeeded in using their old army skills to save themselves from massacre. Their enemies are all either dead or on the run. It's a thrilling moment, an unforgettable scene.

So it was only later that I thought this: Why did Maximus wait until the last possible second to ask if the others had been soldiers? They'd all been hanging out together in their cells under the Coliseum with nothing to do but chew the fat. Hadn't the subject ever come up? What if they'd answered him, at that fraught moment, by saying, by saying, "Actually, I was a potato farmer in Thrace," "I plucked a lyre in Thessalonika..."

Well, I guess it really doesn't matter. What matters is that at the end of that scene Maximus is taking a victory gallop around the Coliseum on a gorgeous white stallion. The sand is littered with his defeated enemies, and he's wearing the coolest silver mask in the world, and the stands are jumping with thousands of Romans shrieking their excitement and approval.

It's a very public scene, but the most important part of it is silent: Maximus's grim and private joy, behind that mask, in the fact that the day of his vengeance is almost at hand. His stars and the gods have promised it. And so we should not inquire why he didn't ask earlier if his comrades were soldiers. He knew they would be, because they had to be.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


At first I had to force myself to do these ME!ME!ME! posts. I had to overcome my natural modesty and flower-like delicacy of temperament to blab away about Margaret. But, strangely, it was a lot more fun the second time; and now I can hardly shut up about myself. Talk about Margaret, you say? YAY, WHEE AND WHOOP-DE-DO!!

As before, the format will be question-and-answer. It seems to me that my interviewer was quite a diva this time, but you must judge for yourself.

Q: Hey Margaret, let's begin on a high note! What was your most recent heavenly experience?

M: Biking through a forest when the black locust trees were blossoming. The scent is my favorite one in nature. It's sweet, and warm spirals of fragrance drift out tenderly from the get to bike through it and live in it.

Q: What has made you smile recently?

M: Maybe it would take another pet owner, a Dog Person, to appreciate this story. It's definitely gamey, but I can't help it. I was walking my sheltie Rosie yesterday. She has the peculiarity that she won't stand still and take a nice neat dump like other dogs. She just keeps walking. So I trot after her like a dummy with my Baggie, wanting to be a good citizen, and trying to locate her offerings, which are all over the map. Yesterday we walked through a field and she started spewing forth. I frantically stuffed the Baggie with what looked like the real thing, until I took a closer look and saw that I was carefully storing little brown mushrooms. I had to smile.

(Q, a cat owner, cackles with glee) Sorry, excuse me, but it just kills me when I see you dog owners scurrying around so earnestly clutching your bags of dog s--t!

M: Well, f---k you! (The interviewer and I have known each other for a very long time.)

Q: Now, now, behave. What was your most recent experience of really good eatin'?

M: A thick slice of country-cured ham, glazed with orange juice and brown mustard and honey, roasted to a turn...ummm ummm. And with it a glass of Pinot Grigio, glinting with fruit...oh, and a slice of chocolate cherry cake, dense and moist, enrobed in shiny dark chocolate frosting. I couldn't even talk normally while I was eating it. I spoke in sighs.

Q: I hope you're aware that Gluttony is one of the Seven Deadly Sins---

M: Are you going to make me swear at you again?

Q: Speaking of sinners, who are your least favorite types?

M: Bullies and liars. Oh, and Peeping Toms must be pretty sick freaks.

Q: Do you believe that, in the end, truth and justice prevail?

M: Yes, I do. I believe this saying: 'The mills of God grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly small.'

Q: I agree with you. Now let's talk about movies. It's well known that you adore Japanese films, including those that some people might consider a little...just slightly...well, morbid. So tell me about one that's all upbeat and sparkly, maybe with some romance--

M: There's this movie called THE SAMURAI I LOVED, which is great. There's one romantic scene which I think you'd really enjoy. What's happened is that a noble samurai has been forced to commit hari-kari by his corrupt lord. His young son has to collect the body, and carry it home on a tragic little cart. As he's making this sad trip he's shunned and spat on by cruel villagers. He reaches this high hill, and he just can't get the cart up it. The corpse keeps sliding around and the hill is too steep.

"The poor son is in despair, when suddenly through the forest branches he sees the girl he loves running toward him. She's been ordered to shun him, so she's risking everything to help him. She helps him push the cart up the hill, although the cadaver's feet are practically dangling in her face, and because of her, he's able to bring his father home. Isn't that a beautiful moment?

Q: Well, it's,'s very, err.....yeah, that one sounds special, I'm sure I'd enjoy it a lot. (Makes vomiting motion when she thinks I'm not looking.) Can you think of some romantic scene where nobody dies?

M: (Carelessly) Well, I guess that would have to be an American film...In the movie GREEN CARD, with Gerard Depardieu and Andie MacDowell, there's the world's best kiss at the end. It's just magnificent. He's built sort of like a human polar bear, and she looks like a fairy princess, but they have fantastic chemistry and the kiss is so intense they almost go up in flames.

Q: Nice! Now, that is the type of romantic movie scene I like, the kind without a death cart! To move on, What is a de-stresser for you? What do you do to relax?

M: Oh Jeeze, this makes me sound like such a peasant...but I like to scrub my kitchen for a few minutes in the morning, while the coffee is brewing. While this rich dark fragrance is filling the air. The cleanser has bleach in it, and very slowly and beautifully, day by day, the walls and cabinets are becoming more pale and fair. It's sort of like an ongoing art installation. I have curtains and dish towels with rich red flowers on them...

Q: I'm sorry I have to ask, but when did you notice this fetish for stroking walls?

M: I think of it more as the kind of Zen exercise Mr. Miyagi taught Ralph Macchio in THE KARATE KID. You learn balance and tranquility as you scrub, and it develops strong arm muscles.

Q: I'm still trying to recover from the romantic cart-pushing scene in that hari-kari movie. Tell me a joke!

M: My friend Evelyn, whom I was very fond of, had a favorite joke. The joke is really short and very subversive, and probably goes back to Adam and Eve. You have to picture a meadow. A macho jack rabbit is putting the moves on his rabbit girlfriend. 'This is going to be GREAT,' he boasts, 'wasn't it?' Women always laugh very hard at this joke, males somewhat less so.

Q: (Laughing hard) I like that one! Thanks for the interview. And I'm wondering, do you happen to have a copy of that GREEN CARD movie with the fabulous kiss...?

M: Actually I don't, but I have an excellent Director's Cut DVD of THE SAMURAI I LOVED, it has wonderful extras like longer versions of the Suicide and the Death Cart scenes, in fact we could watch it right now!

Q (Hastily gathering her belongings) Oh dear, I'm devastated to have to pass up this treat, but I need to rush home and cut my cat's toenails. Have a great day! See you soon!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


This scene, from the Jim Jarmusch movie DOWN BY LAW, was recommended to me by a dear relative who's a lot better dancer than I am. The actors who are gloriously cutting a rug are Roberto Benigni and Nicoletta Braschi. They're married in real life, which makes this scene especially sweet. And do they look as if they're having fun, or what!!???!!!

YouTube-Down By Law-It's Raining

Monday, March 7, 2011

"He Likes It Like That": Famous Guys Tell What They Fancy, From The Sublime To The Ridiculous

There's no accounting for tastes, especially if they belong to Iggy Pop. So let's at least BEGIN with the sublime: Dante Alighieri,the stupendous Italian poet who wrote all of his life about a girl he met exactly twice.

DANTE (13th century creator of the DIVINE COMEDY) first set eyes on his Beatrice when they were children at a May Day party, both bedecked in flowers. He thought about her every single day after that, until he saw her for another brief moment when they were teenagers. The gorgeous maiden, wrapped in a golden haze of honey-colored hair, was with friends, and greeted him by name. This flooded him with a joy so ecstatic, so paralyzing, that he thought he might die. In response he acted like an idiot, and scurried away from her immediately so that he could obsess about her quietly, in private. He never saw her again, but wrote about her until the day he died. This is completely typical of the way writers behave.

BOB DYLAN, musician, ran into his early love SUZE ROTOLO when he was still a scruffy, crazy-haired, penniless kid scrambling for gigs at coffee houses in Greenwich Village. He was 21, she was 17. "I couldn't take my eyes off her," he wrote forty five years later in his autobiography. "She was the most erotic thing I'd ever seen. The air was filled with banana leaves. She had a smile that could light up a street full of people. She was extremely lively, had a kind of voluptuousness." And Rotolo was not only a hottie, she was cultured. Dylan absorbed knowledge about books and classical music and political causes from her like a starving wild child meeting civilization for the first time. In the end he married someone else, and so did she. But they never forgot each other.

We can't avoid Iggy Pop (musician) forever, so let's just get this over with.

IGGY POP: (Talking about anything female wearing low-cut jeans) "They are trying to show they're ready to breed, that they're alive in that sector. If somebody has a nice butt I am always interested to take a look at it--that's the monkey in me. I'm there, you know what I mean?"

(Sigh.) I'm afraid we do, Mister Iggy.

Next we have a startling quote from JAVIER BARDEM. As an actor he's definitely on the Sublime side (NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, BIUTIFUL), and as a person he's a raving heterosexual. His wife is Penelope Cruz, now glowingly pregnant. But he's also a very cool, very fearless European, and had this to say about Brad Pitt: "I had a great opportunity to meet Brad Pitt a couple of times, what a beauty! He is beautiful and his physicality is so amazing to see. But the beauty comes from different places, the way he talks, the way he's interested in what you're saying. And that body of his is like--WOW! It's amazing, no? He really made me feel very, like...I could fall in love with him! Like a teenager girl getting crazy and going--" At this point in the interview Javier screamed loudly.

I can't imagine a straight American actor being brave enough to do that, can you?

Next we have a comment from TERRENCE HOWARD, actor (HUSTLE AND FLOW, THE BRAVE ONE)that strikes me as a little, I don't know, weird. But maybe it's just me.

The ELLE interviewer asked, "What one item could you find in a woman's house that would prove you weren't compatible?"
TERRENCE HOWARD: "Toilet paper--and no baby wipes--in her bathroom."
Interviewer: "Wait. I don't understand."
TERRENCE HOWARD: "If they're using dry paper, they aren't washing all of themselves. It's just unclean. I explain this, and if she doesn't make the adjustment to baby wipes, I'll know she's not dainty. We have no future. "

Hmmm. Let's cleanse the palate with a refreshingly brainy quote from a great religious writer.

C.S. LEWIS (THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE) was a brilliant English scholar who married his Joyce late in life. She was a feisty, Brooklyn-bred Communist writer, and none of his University friends could stand her. But when he lost her--far too soon, to cancer--he never recovered. "She had a mind as supple and muscular as a panther," he said. He missed everything about her, but above all he missed his companion of the mind.

KEITH RICHARDS (guitarist, pharmaceutical marvel and indestructable old guy) has never known despair for long. He was quite the love man in his younger days, but after marrying Patti Hansen settled into monogamy with a sort of exhausted relief. And this is what he wrote in his notebook a few days after he met her:

"Incredibly I've found a woman. A miracle! I've had (sex) at the snap of a finger, but now I've met a WOMAN! Unbelievably she is the most beautiful (physically) speciman in the WORLD. But that ain't it! It certainly helps but it's her mind, her joy of life and (wonders) she thinks this battered junkie is the guy she loves. I'm over the moon... She loves soul music and reggae, in fact everything. I make her tapes of music which is almost as good as being with her. I send them like love letters. I'm kicking forty and besotted."

Now he is kicking seventy and still besotted with Patti, as she is with him; and that's the happiest possible way to end this post.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


A few months back I crept out, a shy blossom, to timidly and blushingly post my first ME!ME!ME! entry (September 11, 2010). This is a special entry that all bloggers must do at least once, in which they gas on about themselves endlessly...and ONLY about themselves. Somehow or other, God knows how, this turned out to be huge fun for me. Almost as if I was a big flaming ham and not a wee modest posy at all, although that is impossible, of course. In fact I got used to that ME!ME!ME! stuff real fast. So here is the second installment, again in a Question and Answer format.

Q.: So, have you learned to love cilantro? You were sort of struggling there for awhile...

A.: I just hate that nasty ditch weed. You might as well take a stinking moldy corpse-white plant growing above a grave, and roll it around in your soup. The flavor is not just bad, it's EVIL.

A.: What do you feel about cosmetics? A lot of women are going totally bare-faced these days...

Q.: I adore lipstick, and wear it all the time. The colors are so pretty. And a little eye-pencil can be fun. I live in the type of Green and rabidly PC city where a lot of the women feel really smug at going bare-face. They're like, 'Look at me, I don't give a crap, and that's great!' I always want to say to them, 'Where's the virtue in looking like a bleached steer's skull all day? For God's sake prop up the ancient bones with a dot of blush!'

Q.: So you think we're too casual, careless?

A.: I think we're thinking like Popeye: 'I yam what I yam.' But why? At home we put on clothes so dumpy we'd hesitate to donate them to a Salvation Army bin, and we wear them in front of the people we love best in the world. We should do better. My ideal is the French writer Colette. Even when she was 80 years old, she wouldn't let her husband see her in the morning until her hennaed curls were all fluffed up, and she had her eyes lined with kohl and a silk ascot on and the perfume he liked the best. We should take more trouble for each other. We'd be happier.

Q.: I remember you said you talk to yourself. Are you still babbling away?

A.: Yup. More than ever, since the election. Overnight, our nice Blue state became as Red as a maniac's eye.

Q.: I'm sorry I have to ask this, but are you making any headway regarding the Forgiveness thingy? As in forgiving your enemies?

A.: Not really. (Sigh.) I'm afraid the truth is that I don't want to forgive assholes. I want them to suffer.

Q.: Jesus is going to be so mad at you!

A.: You think Jesus likes assholes? He is way too smart for that.

Q.: I've heard you love Japanese movies. Why?

A.: They speak in a clear voice to our minds as well as our hearts. But be warned, a Kyoto ending can rip you up. I just saw a movie whose cheesy American title is THE SAMURAI I LOVED (Japanese title, Autumn Rain of the Cicadas.) The hero and heroine are childhood sweethearts who love each other their whole lives. Because of family tragedies they can never marry. They make heartbreaking sacrifices for each other. They can never embrace until the end...briefly...when they have to part forever. One kiss. Then he's in a canoe and she's in a palanquin, going in opposite directions. He's in agony because he knows he'll never see her again, but he holds himself together--because he doesn't want to hurt her with his pain. Then his canoe floats around a bend in the river. In the next shot of the canoe, we can't see him. Now, did he fall to the bottom of the canoe as though he'd been shot in the heart? Or in his anguish did he jump in the water and commit suicide? What a noble puzzle! And that's the end. Isn't it beautiful?

Q.: Well, it's, umm...I mean, it, ummm...well, it's definitely no barrel of monkeys. One freaking kiss, you said? For their whole lives? I have to ask: What did they get out of their love?

A.: Knowledge that the other person was alive in the world. That someone existed who loved them completely. And a profound, nourishing respect for the other person's---I guess I'd have to say, honor.

Q.: Well, that ain't no Hollywood ending, all right. Let's get back to food. What is one of your happiest mealtime memories?

A.: Wintertimes when I was a child. You have to understand that our state is a real mean sumbitch polar bear in the winter, you don't live here unless you MEAN it. I'd run into the house after school, late on a blue-black icy Friday afternoon, and that polar bear would be roaring after me. Then I'd be in the kitchen, and it would be warm, with a golden light, and would have this ragingly delicious smell of well-browned pork roast. On top of the refrigerator would be sweet rolls and coffee cake rising. My sisters and brothers and I had the whole fine weekend opening up broad and shining before us as we sat down to the table. And our mother and father would be there. So I know about heaven, or as close to it as makes no difference.

Q.: And there was no cilantro?

A.: No cilantro, at all.