Saturday, August 28, 2010

I don't LIKE potstickers!

I was riding my bike to the studio last Friday underneath the elevated train, and another cyclist was coming toward me with an enormous boom box on his bike playing doo wop music. Normally I get passed by a car blasting R&B, Puerto Rican pop, or Arabic top 40, and I'm pissed off because the base makes me feel like it's going to throw me off of my bike, but the doo wop made my day.

I turned the corner to discover that the Philadelphia anti-graffiti league had painted over the mural on my wall. I paid a guy named Nunzio to paint it, and it had this great plumbob on it. Plumbob is the name of Tim's architecture firm. I was told if a reputable graffiti artist does a piece and allows the neighborhood artists to put their marks on it, the building won't get tagged. It worked for 2 years, but then it got a tag or two, so the league took it upon themselves to cover up the whole thing. The league uses a different color of grey paint every time they come by, and they do a sloppy job around door handles, etc, so they don't improve anything. It's baffling.

Tim tried to call and fight the anti-graffiti league, but that campaign fizzled. He'd already spent 2 days away from work last week researching and convincing a friend to go into rehab for alcohol, and I had another miscarriage. In the face of Ken's shaking hands and self-loathing, my problem seemed much more manageable. I'm taking the oven metaphor. My oven went into "self-cleaning" mode. So, I was not meant to have an Aries child; it's the second one that's gone down the tubes. Maybe I'll produce a Leo or a Sagittarius to get the last of the 4 elements in my brood, or maybe 3 will suffice. In the end, I'm choosing to see the miscarriage as an indication that my body is a good editor. My writing could stand such aggressive editing.

Ironically, our shaking friend happens to be a great father to 4 amazing kids. Meanwhile, Tim and I have been on the wagon for over a month now. Tim was rhapsodizing about how easy it's been to get alcohol out of our routine and how much better we feel. I know he was trying to make it seem easier, but I half expected Ken to say, "I don't know why you're having a hard time having this 4th kid; it was really easy for us!"

We all wanted to relax, so we suggested a movie. Without too much thought we settled on Half Nelson. I was planning to go to bed, but Tina, one of my best friends from Andover played Ryan Gosling's girlfriend, so I was sucked in. Ryan Gosling is also one of those actors who is stunning, but he's not stunning in every frame, so you're on the edge of your seat waiting for another glimpse of his gorgeous side. It was a slow moving film. Ryan's character was a high school history teacher in an urban high school who turned out to be addicted to crack. None of us could stop watching, but it could not have been more awkward.

Maybe a Madmen episode would have been nice. What am I talking about? A drink is poured every 30 seconds in Madmen, and there's always the chain-smoking, martini drinking pregnant ladies to contend with.

My Aries best friend sent me those flowers to cheer me up. Hot pink, orange, fuchsia and plum definitely did the trick. Steel did her part. The tantrum she pitched over the pot stickers I made for dinner made me wonder why on Earth I'd want another baby.

neon babyfood

A selection of this morning's manic blendings;
green beans don't go chartreuse the way peas and edamame do...

Before we went to Montana I had 1.5 hours to get everything together while the kids were napping. I panicked when I looked into the fridge. We'd just harvested stuff from the garden. I couldn't let it go to waste. In lieu of packing I started cooking baby food which, like my pottery, is gaudy. I added 1 beet to a bunch of sweet potatoes and carrots to make them the color of Heinz ketchup. (Tim always plants the carrots too close together, so they're x-rated. They have hips, 2 long skinny legs, and some sort of mad genitalia-ish thing going on in between) I made magenta pork, beet, eggplant surprise. Brocolli, snow pea, edamame, and cucumber juice went uber- chartreuse. The roasted plantains, corn, summer squash, chicken stock combo was mixed in the ketchupy blender, so it came out a nice rusty orange. I had them all stacked up in take-out Indian pint containers; the fridge was empty, and I felt good.

The kids had to weather the 40 degree nights in Montana with no warm clothes or socks because I forgot to pack them, but we survived, and neon babyfood makes the drudgery of changing diapers almost exciting. In the same manic "I must use every vegetable in my fridge" way, I make huge salads for me and Tim to have at lunch. I know he looks forward to Fridays when I'm at home with the kids so he can have hideous Chinese food or pizza for lunch. Mr. Pan's is the Chinese place next to the office. My employee ate there every day until he started seeing blood in his stool.

In addition to having to eat the healthy lunch, the chaos of the kitchen in the morning between salad stuff, kid lunches, cheerios and neon babyfood puts my Tim over the edge. Is it worth it? I just spilled beet juice all over my first big-girl wallet while transporting our lunch to work on my bike. For the past 8 months I've had this beautiful Bermuda blue/green Hobo wallet. Johnny's fiancee bought it for me for Christmas because I said I felt ashamed going out to dinner with her. The check came, and her manicured hands opened this glamorous, organized wallet as I dug my sticky, pink and green velcro "hello kitty" one out. Now my fancy wallet is another colorful reminder that I have no business owning anything nice.

Speaking of purple and turquoise, I took back a bunch of garish pottery from a shop in Philly. They feature me in their holiday show, and they're the hub of Philly's clay scene. They've always been snooty, but they've been selling my work well for the past 6 years, so I put up with the attitude. I went in the other day and found no sign of my work in the shop. They had piles of pottery on display. It was looking "car boot sale-ish," (Scottish expression for flea markety) so being a part of the display wouldn't have done my reputation any favors, but I'm behind on orders. Finding out I have work sitting in a closet on 2nd street bothered me. It reminded me that they'd pissed me off last summer too. They are a non-profit, so they have a fundraiser every year. Everyone donates crappy pottery, and they sell it cheap. Last year I decided to give them some nice-ish work. I left the 2 kids in the car and waddled my 9 month pregnant self up to the door with my donations. The not-so-lean woman at the desk looked at me and said cattily, "Donations go up to the 3rd floor." I said, "I think you can take them up for me." and left. What I meant to say was, "A big girl like you should be clamoring for an excuse to get your ass out from behind that desk to climb some stairs!" When you're pregnant fat, you're less likely to take lip from someone who's avoidably fat especially when they are in their 20's.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

consumer advocacy

I couldn't find one of Ralph in a serape, but this is pretty good.

My brother, mother and I take consumer rights pretty seriously. Once we've laid down cash for a product, it should be replaced continuously by the seller, for free, until eternity. I'll never forget when the VCR died. Lechmere wouldn't take it back (probably because it was 8 years old) so my mom bought a new one, put the broken one in the box and returned it. My brother is a calm, reasonable individual. When he gets pissed off, he has a list of corporations that have over charged him or taken advantage in some way. Instead of yelling at his kids, coworkers or wife, he calls one of the paid customer service drones to absorb his fury.

I'm the opposite. I pretend the customer service reps are my best friends. Of course I'm getting a new Sonicare in the mail this week. I told the woman I give people his/hers Sonicares for wedding gifts instead of pottery. My dad always said in his thick Boston accent, "NEVER tell people things are going well. ALWAYS find something to bitch about. They'll love you. I was the most popular guy in Manchester when your mom divorced me...." With this in mind, I started complaining that the second I turned 40 I became unable to read the small print in response to her request for the serial number of my toothbrush. I continued, "It's a good thing there's so much mildew down there; I can see the letters perfectly..." It almost back-fired. She paused and said with some trepidation, "Is that what's wrong with your toothbrush?"

Ralph Nader would applaud our tenacity. My dad went to Harvard Law with Ralph. Apparently the two of them developed some sort of test/note sharing that was bordering on cheating, plagiarism or fraud. My father, Ralph, and 2 other guys were summoned into the Dean's office. The 3 stood there in their identical Brooks Brothers suits, white shirts and horn-rimmed glasses mumbling that Mr. Nader would explain everything. "Where is Mr Nader?" demanded the imperious Dean having just threatened expulsion. All eyes turned to the quad. I can hear my dad telling the story, "Like an apparition Ralph Nader was loping along the path engulfed in a streaming Mexican serape!" My father says words like serape, yarmulke, taco, manicurist, and leotard with a conspiratorial emphasis as if they can't possibly truly exist and you too must see their humor. I sometimes catch him saying hand-made pottery in that same tone.

Monday, August 23, 2010


I can't believe I forgot to mention that my kids found a Smith and Wesson pistol to play with when we went to Montana. We were staying at the home of my Aunt's orthopedic surgeon, and he keeps a pistol in a fun-looking plastic case by the bed. According to Tim the gun was locked, and they couldn't have fired it, but I almost vomited. And here I am worried about raising my kids in the city. Meanwhile, my future sister-in-law is worried about my brother-in-law's inability to be on time. She's imagining herself at home with the kids all day desperate for a 6:45 yoga class, and he rolls in at 7:15. Yoga is going to be the least of your worries...

I wrote this a year ago when I only had 2 kids:

Next time you’re in the bathroom alone, appreciate it. I got a 10 minute shower this morning by myself. I felt like I’d been to a spa for a week because I got to shave, condition my hair, and put on lotion. I'm at my mom's house. It's a new parenting ballgame for me because my kids have figured out how to get out of the house via the dog door, and my mom lives on a cliff. Luckily I’m pregnant, so it’s rare that I have to poop, but it does happen, and I can’t just quietly go do it when I have to closely watch 2 kids. (No one told you pregnant ladies are constipated? Now you know.)

So the kids followed me into the bathroom as they normally do, but this time they spotted the ceramic toilet brush holder and toilet brush. Only a potter would give her mom ceramic toilet brush holders. My friend, Paola made them. They have stylized toilets painted on them, and they say, "Made by Italian hands" on the bottom. Who doesn't need one of those? Our toilet brush at home is hidden above the washing machine. I really look forward to the day that we can have toilet brushes near the toilets as we have these super-green, low-flow toilets that seem unable to remove ALL of what goes in them.

I panicked as they grabbed the brush envisioning Steel using it to brush Jack Peter’s teeth. In the scuffle the holder smashed and cut my hand open, so there I am spraying blood from my hand with two kids running around with a toilet brush. Don’t forget, I’m still on the toilet. My mom is a mini-tornado in general, but when someone is bleeding she really puts it into high gear. Blood is all over the yellow bath matt, my pants, the toilet, towels, wash cloths, children. Pregnant ladies have way more blood than normal people, so they really bleed. This is the bathroom that my mom sponge painted after taking a faux-finishing and decoupage class. “It looks just like Monet’s water lilies!!” she gushed. Despite the impression that one is in a French garden, the bathroom is not big enough for 4 people and a fountain of blood. I’m trying to get to the sink with my pants around my ankles, my mom is trying to open band-aids and screaming at her boyfriend to get peroxide. At that, I am frantically gesticulating to the cupboard where I know there is peroxide: gesticulating because I am unable to be heard above the wails of my children and mother, frantically because I was desperate to avoid his coming in also.

Meanwhile every band aid mom gets onto my finger becomes so saturated with blood it won’t stick. Her hands are becoming too bloody to negotiate the subsequent band aid wrapper, and both of my kids are screaming at the top of their lungs, “I WANT A BAND AID!!!!!” All of my mother’s maternal instincts have kicked in, and my kids are merely an impediment to her helping HER baby, so she’s screaming at them to wait their turns, and I’m fully expecting her to kick one of them.

A possible disruption of your yoga practice? My whole life is a disruption of my yoga practice.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

lollies in the hood

I've always been good at doing what I've been told to do. The word "coachable" was common in my athletic reports. I've noticed it lately because I'm so used to the beep of my Sonicare toothbrush when I've completed the 2 minutes; yesterday I manually brushed my teeth for 6 minutes waiting for the brush's permission to stop. Am I coachable in my ceramic work? One of my professors told me my cups aren't pleasant to drink from because they go in at the top. "They aren't inviting." It bothered me for years. I can't tell you how happy I was when a friend cuddled his cup and said, "I love that it goes in slightly. I never spill when I go up the stairs!" Thanks Rene...

People constantly coach me to leave the city. (for the kids!) I worry about it sometimes. Over the summer the body of the 19-year-old hostess at our local burger joint was found naked and strangled 4 blocks away. I was enormously pregnant the previous summer when the place opened, so we were there a lot. Burgers and pregnancy go well together. I'd always stared at the girl, Sabina, because she had a really interesting shape, and something about her reminded me of my grandmother. I still keep thinking I see her every couple of days. She was raped and killed for the bicycle someone had lent her to get 4 blocks home from a party.

We went to Sabina's memorial; the kids danced and had fun. We didn't explain anything to them, but we had to go to a wake a few weeks later, so they are now death-obsessed. I can't blame the city for that. Jojo was in her 80's. En route to the viewing I told the kids, "We are going to say good-bye to Jojo. Her body will be lying down in a pretty dress looking asleep, but she's not going to wake up. She's up in the sky with Grandpa Jack and Aunt Erin." Moments later I heard Jack Peter say to Steel in the back seat, "It's just going to be her body...NOT HER HEAD!" By mistake we'd taken them to a open-air screening of a Twilight vampire movie. Jack Peter's little body jolted when a vampire lost his head. "What happened?" he asked, perplexed, but not upset. I said, "He was beheaded." thinking a new word would further flummox him and it would all go to the "does not compute" part of his brain. Our sa-nanny-ty said the next day, "Why does he keep talking about

Steel was apparently shocked to see Jojo's head still there. She stood back from the coffin waving "good-bye" with an uncertain look on her face as Jack Peter ran right up to Jojo's face and started chatting away. Steel went through the receiving line asking every other person, "Why is she dead?" None of the answers was acceptable. I was just mad that I'd not gotten around to glazing the sugar bowl I'd made for Jojo.

I did have a pang about kids in the city recently. We went to a family wedding in Big Sky Montana 2 weeks ago, and everyone there is so fit. The Sweet Pea Parade in Bozeman began with a kids' 1 mile race. There were thousands of them younger than my kids running a mile. I came back inspired wanting to bring country clean living to my little urban family. I instigated a run on Sunday. After 45 minutes of fighting over running shoes they each ran about 14 steps. Steel demanded to be carried, and Jack Peter said it was time for a rest. It was a multi-tasking run. We were going to pick up high-fat yogurt at the Jerusalem shop to keep Toby at her fighting weight.

It's an Halal meat shop run by soccer-watching Egyptians who often give my kids blow pops. Ages ago I took my mom there to buy a leg of lamb. There were 3 flayed lambs on the counter and a lone head on a table. The woman in front of us said in a thick accent, "I want the head." Unflappable lollipop guy started to wrap up the head, and she shouted, "NOT THAT ONE; I WANT THAT ONE!" pointing to the middle dead lamb. He refused. She berated him for 10 minutes, and when it was clear that he wasn't going to budge, my mom said, "I just want a leg." He merrily went about hacking the leg off of one of the lambs. The woman went apoplectic and ran out screaming "WHY SHE GET THE LEG?"

So our "run" turned into a lollipop-in-the-ghetto fashion shoot. I didn't realize the lollies were going to look like cigarettes.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

clicker nicker

I sent an e-mail out to 10 people last week demanding to know the whereabouts of a garage door clicker. The clicker nicker turned out to be one of my new tenants, the intended recipient of the clicker. At one point I had 4 clickers. I doled them out labeled "Tim" "Pat" "Stroller" "Car" so blame could be appropriately allocated. "Stroller" is the only one that remains which means that our 19-year-old former nanny and my 22-year-old former tenants are the only ones in the group with their shit together. Who am I to worry about entrusting it to the 23-year-old new tenant?

The first day the new tenants moved in I went up there to lecture them about smoking marijuana during office hours. "Please go to the bathroom on the east side of the loft to get high during office hours and blow it out the window. If a group of bankers is coming in to my husband's office and the place smells like pot, it's not going to look good." I felt like Miss Drew, my dormitory counselor at boarding school. She seemed relentlessly uncool. We attributed our constant escapes from discipline to her being too lame to know we were breaking rules. In hindsight, she was probably too cool to want to deal with a bunch of remorseful, weeping 15 year olds and their possibly-retribution-seeking, pissed-off parents. The encounter was especially humiliating because I tracked clay dust throughout the loft, my Dansko clog footprints self-consciously meandering all over the dark wood floors.

On a cool spectrum I thought I was doing OK. I'm a potter. I have an edgy loft/studio in a ghetto. My husband is a design/build architect. (Love it that he's not too white collar to do some plumbing; check out the clump of hair-muck he pulled from the tenants' drain.) My children do funny things like get on a plane and stand on their seats to get in the faces of an entire row of women behind us and demand, "Are you FAT?" (One of the women looked at me and huffed, "Her seat is back. She needs to pull it forward for take-off.") or they make up dinosaur names like Predatorknockeroverkiller without previous knowledge of those homophobic dinosaur names that went around in the 90's: Lickalotopuss and Igotasoreass.
If I'm e-mailing about garage door clickers and lecturing people I don't know about smoking pot during business hours, my cool rating is plummeting...not to mention that I'm typing this still wearing high-water mustard, chocolate and brown striped pants purchased in the early 90's despite the fact that they have a big clump of banana baby vomit on them, and I just poured a nonalcoholic drink for me and my husband and got really excited about using up 3 different bottles of liquid a day before recycling, and I'm currently freaking out because my Sonicare toothbrush won't go out of massage mode. Shit. I could spend the rest of the night giving examples of how uncool I am.