Thursday, August 25, 2011

New Knees and Multiple spellings

As they wheeled her into the operating room where she would have her old decrepit knee removed and a shiny new knee inserted, my mother predicted that Qaddafi (the world leader whose name can be spelled at least 112 different ways, all of them wrong) would be ousted when she woke up from the anesthesia.
Who knew my mother was Cassandra?
A few hours I saw my mother in the PACU (have I mentioned how much I enjoy the hospital acronyms: NICU, SICU, PACU, MICU, FUCU and so on?) formerly known as the Recovery Room and told her that she had nailed this turn of events. (Knowing that she was unlikely to check on the actual facts, I fudged it a bit. Yes, the rebels were in Tripoli, but Qaddafi’s whereabouts were unknown and he had not quite gracefully ceded power.) This news triggered some fond childhood memories.
“Benghazi used to be a popular weekend spot,” she said, referring to happy pre-war days in Egypt. “The best nightclubs were there.”
“So did you go to Libya?” I asked.
“No, my father didn’t like the Libyans. He preferred the Ethiopians, and the Sudanese. He always went in that direction.” Then she fell asleep.

Several hours later found us in her room up on the fourth floor of the hospital, a floor lamentably without any CU’s at all. Her nurse – the charming Mike who wears different colored, but always matching, scrubs every day – asked Mom about any previous surgeries. She mentioned her appendectomy in a Manila hotel room without anesthesia.
I couldn’t help a slight correction: the appendix was already gone - it was somewhere in Indo-China then being overrun by the Japanese - and the surgery referred to was to clean out an infected incision. “They put a cork in my mouth,” Mom added with some pleasure.

The next morning we had the first visit of Brigitte, the occupational therapist. She introduced herself as Bridget, but her nametag was spelled “Brigitte”. My mother explained that her other daughter (my sister) was also named Brigitte, but she pronounced it properly, the French way. She then informed Brigitte that there are 32 different ways to spell Brigitte. I did not add that this barely comes to a quarter of the ways there are to spell the name of the former Leader-for-Life of Libya.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

In case you have forgotten what I wrote here a few years ago, today is the feast of St Mamas of Cyprus, the patron saint of tax evaders. It is also the feast of Claire of Montelfalco (no, not the Clare of Assisi who is the patron saint of television) who was so tough on herself that if she broke her vow of silence she insisted on standing barefoot in the snow while saying Lord’s Prayer 100 times. I used to find this sort of story horrific and not a little creepy. But as I get older I appreciate the value of repetition as a mantra; and just last week I heard about a sixty year old women who, in order to prepare herself for a swim across the English Channel, sat in extremely cold water for a longer and longer period each day.
After Claire died – and was presumably autopsied – it was discovered there was an image of the cross formed upon her heart. I have not seen a picture, so I cannot verify this. Also, vials of her collected blood are said to liquefy each year on her feast day, which is today. I cannot verify this either, but I cannot deny that I would like – just once – to see one of these miracles of liquefied blood.

Today is also the feast of St Hyacinth, a Polish Dominican monk who traveled a great deal; but otherwise nothing you hear about him is likely to be true, at least “of little historical value”.
Here he is getting the word from the BVM that he should carry away her statue, weighing several hundred pounds, to save it from the Vandals or Goths or perhaps the Mongols. And he did.

On the Home Front, the boiler exploded last night. There is about 3 inches of water in the boiler room. I am currently ignoring it. Later I thought I would stand in the puddle and dry my hair.

Then the oven started leaking this dark sticky stuff; I think it is tomato slime since I had about 300 grape tomatoes drying in there all night long. It is amazing how tomatoes shrink overnight.

We are trying to figure out if chickens like peaches. Our peach tree has dropped a bunch of bruised peaches and I thought I would give them to the chickens; I knew they would like the bugs inside even if they scorned the fruit. But they seem to be enjoying the fruit as well.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Babyitting notes

It is 90˚ at 8 pm in August and I am reading How the Grinch Stole Christmas to Leda in bed. Even though it is 90˚ in August she is wearing her new lavender flannel pajamas. We both love Cindy Lou Who.
In another room, CSB is watching the HoH Zoning Board meeting on the local cable access TV channel with Ignacio resting upon his chest. They are both perilously close to sleep, which is a better response to the smug speechifying (think CSPAN coverage of the Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justices) of the zoning board than would be my response, which tends toward mouth frothing.(Lest you think I do not hold grudges, think again: in the matter of the barn-that-is-not, I most certainly do.) Hence CSB's delight to have someone – a 4 month old infant – willing to watching WHOH with him, because I am not.

Friday, August 12, 2011

CSB is generally considered a good-natured and equable soul, with one exception: all equanimity flees when he finds himself a passenger in a car stopped at a red light that one might have driven through, had one sped up in proper time. Hence, when I am driving, his mantra at the approach of every light, regardless of its color, is “try to make that light.” Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. I cannot manage to get worked up about it.

So in the interest of family harmony and CSB’s blood pressure, when we go into NYC and especially if time is a factor, he drives. And I take Bonine. That way he goes as fast as he wants and if he misses a light I say nothing. I do however harp on one thing: 2 hands on the wheel. You might say that I feel as strongly about two-hands-on-the-wheel as he does about making-the-light. I am convinced that the car swerves less and therefore I get carsick less if CSB drives with 2 hands. I know this. It is a fact.

This morning we headed down to the bottom tip of Manhattan for our 10 a.m. hearing with the Board of Sanitation, Bureau of Vector Control, regarding a ticket citing us for not having proper water buckets for the beehives on two of our rooftop apiaries. We left early because our friend Doug had told us the appointment times were meaningless and it was first come, first served.(FIFO) Doug has experience with the B of San in NYC because he owns a house on 104th street, and he is required to clear the litter from the sidewalk in front of his house and two feet into the street, which he does with alacrity, but it is entirely possible that immediately after he removes litter, someone else comes along and deposits more litter. In fact it is more than likely, it is guaranteed. Hence his experience with the B of San.
Our first stop was Duncan Donuts. CSB is a devotee of DD coffee. Without fail, every time he returns from a foray into DD he asks me, “Do we have stock in Duncan Donuts? If not, I think we should.” I invariably ignore this comment. (Do we have stocks? Do stocks even exist anymore?)

Then we drove into Manhattan, that is to say, CSB drove with one hand and with his other hand he drank his coffee and ate his bagel with a fried egg. (The less I say about the deplorable fact that CSB is willing to eat an egg not laid by our own hens, the better it is for family harmony. But I say it nonetheless, because what is harmony when held against the merits of fresh eggs?) I programmed the GPS to direct us to John Street; then I turned off the GPS voice (Female, American) because she was saying the obvious.
First there was the gorgeous biker-lady clad in leather armor.
CSB: Is that a woman?
Me (checking out the motorcyclist whipping past us): Must be. Wasp waist. Long braid.
CSB: The braid does not clinch it. As you know. (He is referring to my aversion to men over 30 with ponytails.)
Me: But that outfit. Nothing androgynous about it. Does Jean Paul Gaultier do biker gear?
CSB (pulling up alongside bike lady to better admire the curves): Who?
Me: Watch the road! I'm in charge of fashion here.
CSB: That must be a European bike.

By the time we approached the Upper West Side, CSB had finished his bagel and non-fresh fried egg, and that was a good thing because had he been eating, driving with one hand, and rubber necking at the flotilla of standing paddlers on the Hudson, I might have had to say some strong words. Maybe I did.
CSB: Those kayakers are standing up.
Me: What kayakers? Oh those guys. Those aren’t kayaks.
CSB: Can you read what it says on those banners?
Me: No! Please! Watch the road. Or pull over and let me drive and you can watch the standing paddlers.
CSB: Those boards must have heavy keels.
Me: I’ll watch the boards. You drive!!
CSB: I find it outrageous that you want me to watch the road when you always sightsee while you are driving.
Me: That is totally untrue. I only sightsee straight ahead.

We never figured out what was written on the banners flying from the escort boats.
We had no idea why the surfers or kayakers were standing up while paddling up the Hudson.
We arrived at 9 a.m. for our 10 a.m. hearing. At 9:05 we were informed that both citations had been withdrawn.We were free to go. Then we delivered honey to Murray’s on Bleeker Street and I bought a very expensive baguette and a slab of comté cheese.
On our way home, there were no more standing paddlers to be seen from the West Side Highway. Every last one of them must have made it under the George Washington Bridge by then.
The sport - which looks as silly as it sounds - is also called River Walking or Stand Up Paddle Surfing.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Broaden your horizons

The last time someone commented on the egg stains on my shirt, my wrinkled skirt and my body odor, I responded by writing a nasty letter to the editor of the local paper accusing said person’s mother of performing sex acts with circus animals before running away with the Bearded Lady to get married in New York State. It never crossed my mind to have multiple orders of pizza (not even BBQ chicken which she especially loathes) and moo shu pork sent to her house. Obviously I wasn’t thinking outside the box. See below for an example of local political action at its best. And yes,there really is a judge named Lust.He handily beat Sloth in the run-off.

HARRISON — The case against accused serial pizza sender Maria Polera was adjourned Tuesday after Town Justice Ronald Bianchi recused himself.
Polera, 53, of 3 Woodside Ave., was arrested July 12 on allegations that for the past six to eight months she had been ordering pizzas and having them delivered to Town Supervisor Joan Walsh's home.
Bianchi, a Democrat and former town supervisor, did not give a reason for withdrawing from the case, but Polera is a former Democratic district leader who lost a 2009 bid for receiver of taxes while running with Walsh on the Democratic ticket.
Bianchi said the case would be turned over to Town Justice Marc Lust for the time being.
Lust was elected on the Democratic and Republican lines in the last election and has the endorsement of both parties in this November's race.
"I wouldn't be surprised if Judge Lust recuses himself also," Bianchi said during the brief hearing, before adjourning the case to Aug. 30.
Polera and her attorney, George Galgano, had no comment as they left the courthouse.
Polera and Walsh had been friends for more than a decade before they had a falling out last year, reportedly after Walsh told her that her body odor and appearance made her unelectable.
The bogus pizza orders began a short time later. Authorities said Polera ordered the pizzas and one order of Chinese food, and had them sent to Walsh's home as many as 25 times, including four times in one night.
After calling in the orders to pizzerias in Harrison and surrounding communities, police said Polera would park near Walsh's home to watch the delivery attempts.
She's charged with six misdemeanor counts of theft of services and one harassment violation.
Polera is free without bail.

from The Journal-News

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Log in Question

We were not yet arrived at Georgian Bay’s Belle au Clair beach on the 14th concession before B - alerted us to the latest contretemps among the cottagers. A piece of driftwood is a key player in this drama. As pieces of driftwood go, it is remarkable for its length and straightness. From its top to its tangled roots it is one straight shot, uninterrupted by branches or bends. As a pivotal player in a dispute, it is remarkably unremarkable.

B -’s Georgian Bay cottage is rented out for the month of July. For the past seven years she has rented to the same family, who are also friends with the neighbors on the beach. So the renters are no strangers to the beach and its dramatis personae. This is all by way of background.
This past month, the renter noticed the driftwood that – as driftwood is wont to do - had drifted up onto their bit of beach, that is, B -’s beach. Perhaps now would be a good time for a disquisition on beach ownership as it is adjudicated in Canada, with pithy allusions to beached whales, royal prerogatives and of course the Fast Fish/Loose Fish chapter in Moby Dick. The renter – we will call her Wendy – determined it would make an excellent table and stump chairs for sitting round her children’s bonfires. She called B -to inquire about this and left a voicemail. Not hearing back, she gassed up her chainsaw* and headed down to the beach. She yanked expertly on the starter cord and the chainsaw roared into life; its metallic shriek ripped through the peaceful susurrus of the waves like unmuffled Harleys in a nursing home parking lot.
Wendy had barely applied the rotating blade to the tender wood when Odette from the Island-that-is-no-longer-an-Island came rushing down the slope, over the causeway and onto the beach. Because a chainsaw is very noisy and drowns out all other sounds, Wendy was not aware of Odette’s approach. It was only when Odette stood directly opposite her on the other side of the recumbent driftwood, bellowing, “Stop this right away. You have no right,” that Wendy jerked upright, clutching and even proffering the still-roaring chainsaw.
(I do not know much about Odette, other than her persona non grata status on Belle au Clair Beach, but I am assuming that she missed the important childhood lesson to never startle or bother someone in possession of an operating chainsaw. This is how accidents happen.)

It was not reported what exactly was Wendy’s initial response to Odette’s exhortation. Versions differ. Gloria from two cottages down swears that Wendy told Odette to go back to the Island of Dr Moreau and stay there. Hugo says that Wendy reverted to her native Hungarian and emitted an aria of Slavic curses. According to Mr. Mitch in the pale green cottage, Wendy wordlessly brandished her still-roaring chainsaw in Odette’s direction.
Whatever was or was not said, all agree that Odette stood her ground.
Eventually Wendy switched off the chainsaw’s engine, to better enable the beach to hear the discussion.
Odette said, “That log is on our part of the beach. You are violating our property.”
Wendy said, “Look carefully, O-dette. The log is on the Barley’s beach and B - doesn’t give a flying fuck if I carve up a piece of flotsam.”
Odette said, “Please don’t use that language in front of my children.”
Wendy said, “I’ll say flotsam any time I damn well please. “ She mimed scanning the horizon and then said, “I don’t see any children.”
Odette said, “So long as you and your tools of destruction stay off our beach, your language can be as vile as you like.”
By now Gloria, Mr. Mitch, Hugo and Mrs. Hugo had ventured from their sections of the beach and stood at a safe but audible distance from the log in question and the interlocutors.
Wendy said, “It is the Barley beach and if you want to file a lawsuit over it, feel free. I am sure the judge will be delighted to see you guys back in court.” (For reasons that shall be explained later, this barb was particularly well-aimed. For now I will simply say that Odette and her husband - for whom lawsuits were mother’s milk, bread and butter, and their raison d’être -had recently lost an expensive battle over beach rights with their neighbors on the other side, and their loss was the cause of much merriment and glass-clinking up and down the beach.)
Odette retorted, “You are wrong. This part of the beach is shared property between ourselves and the Barley’s. Notice our tire tracks.”
Wendy said, “You are the one in the wrong. Again. Just because the Barley’s have allowed you an easement to drive to the island is no way means you have property rights. Where did you study law? Transylvania?”
Odette said, “I am not going to allow you to make this spectacle, and threaten me with your vile machine.”
Wendy said, “Who is threatening whom? Did I order you off the beach? Think again.”
Odette stood taller and said, “Until you can show me legal documents that prove this is the Barley’s sole property and that you have permission to destroy this piece of driftwood, I insist that you stop what you are doing. Immediately.”
Mrs. Hugo, who spoke so little that no one on the beach even knew her first name, interjected: “Do you really care that much about a piece of driftwood? Is it worth all this aggravation?”
Both Odette and Wendy ignored her reasonable question. Mr. Hugo patted his wife’s shapely buttocks as if she were a donkey.
Wendy gripped the chainsaw’s starter cord as if she might yank it into life again.
Odette said, “I will have the police issue a Cease and Desist order if you do not put that down immediately.”
Wendy said, “Just because you have a sleazy trial lawyer at your beck and call doesn’t give you the right to harass your neighbors.”
Mr. Hugo piped up, “I don’t think anything is being accomplished here. Why don’t you both go into your respective cottages and have a few cocktails to calm down. “
Odette’s final shot, spoken as if to the rapt audience at the Royal Theatre, “The last time Wendy had a few cocktails they could hear her off-key Marseillaise all the way to Penatanguishene.”
Wendy brandished her chainsaw once more but found herself at a loss for words. She strode over the dunes back to her cottage. Up on the sweeping deck she started the chainsaw up one last time, and revved it to make sure the sound carried all the way to the island.

*You are no doubt wondering, as did we, about the likelihood of a family arriving at their summer rental with their personal chainsaw. We can neither explain nor verify this detail.