Monday, October 19, 2020

The Writer's Pandemic Dream or the Writer's Pandemic Nightmare

 A large part of me loves isolation. I don't have to see a soul--I can just play with my imaginary friends. No interruptions. That's when fiction-writing seems to be going well, in the sense that I've produced my daily quota of words. 

But when my imaginary friends aren't speaking to me--when I don't know exactly what they want--that's when the distractions I think I don't want tug at my heart. Why did I just spill 50,000 words on a heroine who doesn't, now that I've invented her, know what she wants? My heroine has to know exactly what she wants. In this way she'll be conveniently, satisfyingly, much more self-aware than I am. Sometimes she does know, sometimes not. Then there's the cast of thousands surrounding her. What am I to do with them? They can't just waltz around on their own, or if they do, my readers will be bored. They have to dance to her tunes, or in relation to her tunes, or in conflict with her tunes. Maybe even the ugly green building out the window is too much of a distraction. Maybe if I followed Thomas Mann's alleged practice of draping the windows with a dull gray cloth so that absolutely nothing could distract him would work. There's the problem that I am not Thomas Mann. But I do have a mightily interesting heroine and would so much like to see how she solves her problems. 

Hoping answers will come to me in a dream--or a nightmare.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

And Another One Leaves the Nest

In a famous German song, little Hans ("Hänschen klein") a sturdy child typically pictured with a big hat and a walking stick twice his size is cheerfully marching away from home. In the background his mother,  the family pets, even a bird and a rabbit are looking anxious, but Hänschen pays them no mind--he's on his way. Although I keep trying to cheer myself up with the thought of how much less time I'll be spending on laundry and cooking, I'm exactly in the position of the mother in this video. Barely visible in the background, leaning over her Bavarian balcony, the mom dabs at her eyes. I know just what she's feeling. She's feeling what the Steve Martin dad in Father of the Bride feels when his twenty-year-old daughter is telling him she's fallen in love. He blinks and sees an adorable child in braids tied with ribbons lisping, "Dad! I met a wonderful man and we're getting married."

My child and I are in the same position. He's walking down that road all by himself, except when he needs advice on laundry or cooking, and except when I offer unasked for advice about staying clear of COVID in a dorm. Of all this charming folksong's many incarnations, the scariest is perhaps the one in Sam Peckinpah's 1977 film, Cross of Iron, about a platoon of German soldiers in 1943 on the Eastern Front. The ironies of men and boys marching off to this tune in a doomed war are the stuff of maternal nightmare. Of course the kid is eighteen and just like his brother, who also went off right on schedule at eighteen, perfectly able to make his way in the world. I can't help still being the hen hunting around for the eggs that were right underneath me, safe and sound, two minutes ago, even as I salute my grown-up boys and look forward, but with an aching heart, to the baby's departure in a few years.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Lord of the Flies

 If I were a religious person, I might wonder about that fly landing on Mike Pence's head. "That's no ordinary fly!" I'd say to myself. "That's Beelzebub!" Yes, that demonic fly landing on his head was there to show support. Attracted by the evil embodied in his support of Donald Trump--you lie down with devils and you get up with flies--that whopper of an insect settled comfortably on his snowy pate, rubbed its little forefeet, and smiled for the cameras. 
Beelzebub has a long and honored literary and cultural history. He's best supporting devil, second only to Satan, in Milton's Paradise Lost--"next himself in power, and next in crime"--that's Milton's Beelzebub. Also, "Long after known in Palestine"(where the VP was burned in effigy a few years ago.) Beelzebub's the right hand man. In Milton's words: 
He's the one
than whom,
Satan except, none higher sat, with grave
Aspect he rose, and in his rising seemed
A pillar of state.

Friday, October 2, 2020

Vegan Feijoada with a Secret Ingredient

Before we start, here's another secret: I prefer the stuff with sausages cozying up to the beans. But I'm cooking for vegans. This, my friends, is what you need:

But I'm getting ahead of myself. This ingredient goes in last. In the order in which you need them, here are the main ingredients:

Black beans


Bay leaves--two or three. Dry is fine.

Chopped red onions and garlic to taste--lots. 

Olive oil in which to sauté the onions and garlic 

Cumin--preferably seeds. Again, lots. A tablespoon, at least.

Salt or a vegan veggie broth including salt

Rice--best made in a rice cooker. I recommend a mix of broken jasmine and sticky rice.

Smoked paprika

Cayenne pepper

Washed, drained fresh spinach

Manioc (Yucca) flour

Cubed sweet potatoes

Sliced oranges 

Chopped fresh cilantro and scallions

Last--but not least--the item pictured above: Laoganma black beans in chili oil. There are a number of Laoganma products--the word means "Old Godmother" in Mandarin Chinese.

Soak your beans, preferably overnight. They should be covered with water--two inches more water than beans, and might as well put a sheet of aluminum foil over them.

In the morning, or three hours before you want to eat, drain the beans, rinse them, and add almost twice as much water. Put in your bay leaves and allow the mix to boil, stirring fairly often. Turn down the heat shortly after the beans boil and cover.  Meanwhile put about a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and add your chopped onions. When they start to get transparent, put in the garlic and then the cumin. Stir and sautée; then add the mix to the beans. Cover the beans and let them simmer on low to medium heat. Put your cubed sweet potatoes in a baking dish and add salt, pepper, a little olive oil--make sure the olive oil is evenly distributed. Put in oven at about 200 for about an hour. Get your manioc flour into a frying pan with olive oil and a little garlic salt. Sauté and stir.

Keep checking your beans and stirring; when they get a little softer, leave the lid off so that some of the water can boil off. Add your salt, paprika, cayenne pepper. Stir and let simmer. Then add a large dollop of Laoganma black beans in chili oil and stir. Allow the mixture to simmer while you get your spinach into the wok--I'm assuming you've washed and drained it. Add sliced garlic to the olive oil in the wok. Stir. Somewhere in here you've made your rice. Garnish all with chopped cilantro and scallions.

Result are great with a glass of red wine:

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Defender of the Garbage Can

 One of our four garbage cans was missing. On a bright Monday morning I returned from running errands to find our Gelbe Tonne (the yellow one, for plastic) gone. Its former contents, fortunately all in plastic bags, lay heaped in a pile.

 Our neighbor volunteered that the week before, he'd seen a guy traipsing through the woods hauling a yellow trash can. The traipser was apparently lurking about somewhere taking trash cans on joy rides, abandoning them whenever he was tried of them.

"Oh, yeah," said my daughter, returning from school around lunchtime. "I thought it was odd someone had left a trash can up at the tram stop."

That's where ours had landed? My son ran up there, found our yellow trash can on the platform and rolled it home. Meanwhile the police, whom he'd called, appeared at the door, finding the trash can now where it was supposed to be. Was it damaged? No, but . . .

They'd keep an eye out for the guy, they said, and left.

Yesterday, my eagle-eyed and eared son heard a rusting downstairs and rushed out. The thief now had our "everything" trash container and was strolling up toward the tram stop. Keeping a safe distance, my son snapped photos and ran into the police along the way. They were glad to have the photos and confided that they knew who the guy was. Somebody using many recreational drugs.

Conversing with the trash cans too.

My son rolled our trash can home.

I have yet to check our downstairs area this morning but am glad that our attentive knight, Defender of the Garbage Can, is on duty!


Tuesday, September 15, 2020

On Rewatching the Harry Potters: Dinner for One Transphobe?

We're going through them, one by one, the teenagers and me--also dipping into "Harry Potter in 99 Seconds" and other charms on You-Tube (if you haven't seen this entertaining re-cap, lose no time). We utter Snape's long drawn out "obviously" before he does in the fifth one--Umbridge needling him about why he didn't get that defense against the dark arts position. We know about Emma Watson actually punching Tom Felton during the filming of The Prisoner of Azkaban, and why Buzzfeed says she did. As we eat our tacos or our fish or our tofu, chanting along with the dialogue, we forget, for very small moments, all the ills of our world. Until we start wondering why J.K. Rowling is saying what she's saying about transgender people--why she would imagine that transgender women would be a danger in a public bathroom. The notion brings me back to a story deemed newsworthy back when I was a teenager--I may have seen it on the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather, or I may have seen it elsewhere, but I saw it on some network news outlet back before CNN was founded: somewhere in Europe, at some bars, there were unisex bathrooms! Patrons of bars would enter a cubicle, do their business, and find themselves soaping their hands in a sink next to a person of what was then coyly designated "the opposite" sex. 

And this was news. People were talking. ("I mean, what would I do? A guy at the next sink? But if he's cute . . ." was the level of discourse.)

Oh, we've come a long way. I tend to see J.K. Rowling as more disturbed than hateful. The questions running through my head include "what's really eating her? Did she have some bad experience in a public bathroom?"

 Let's go to the bathroom scenes in her novels for insight. The troll shows up in a bathroom and he's a tough challenge for a bunch of first years. Moaning Myrtle messes with the U-Bend and the toilets in a girl's bathroom so unpleasant for her remarks and the constant flooding that it becomes a great place to hide out and brew polyjuice potion. And that's the bathroom with the faucet leading to the big bad basilisk in the basement. Monsters--snakes--a lollapalooza of interpretation here? Then Myrtle gigglingly appears when Harry's naked in the prefect's bathroom on the fifth floor during his efforts to solve a riddle involving an underwater egg. Not a girl to discreetly look away, Myrtle (also the animated stained glass mermaid in the window) wink and stare, making Harry most uncomfortable.

There's definitely bad stuff going on in the bathrooms of Harry Potter. We've only just finished the fifth one. Maybe I'll have an insight while watching the last three films . . . .or maybe I'll just wish Rowling would remember the advice emerging from the coy, or just lonely, Myrtle: "you're always welcome to share my toilet!"

Saturday, September 5, 2020

A Ten-Minute Vegan Recipe That's Really Easy

You will need:


A can or two of chick peas


Olive Oil

Cumin, salt, pepper, paprika, dill, and a veggie-flavored salt.

Put a little oil in the bottom of a large cooking pan. Set aside. Pre-heat oven to about 200º or a bit more, if you're willing to stir and watch. Rinse and drain the chick peas. Put them in a bowl with a dash of olive oil and the cumin, salt, pepper, paprika. Add garlic if you like, likewise onion. I would have done so, but was in a hurry and that would bring the preparation time up to a whopping fifteen minutes. Slice potatoes, arrange at one end of the pan with salt and pepper. Pour the chick peas into the middle. Lay the tomatoes at the end and add dill and veggie salt. Bake at about 200 for around an hour. And voila:

Monday, August 31, 2020

When it's 64 Days to the Next Election*


When he gets older, glues on more hair

Next year or right now

Will he still be happy 'cause he's so malign

Daily cheatings, bet moneyline . . .


 I've requested my ballot. If there's the snowball's chance in Hades that Biden and Harris can win, oh, let that happen. Please.  

*With apologies to The Beatles.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Excommunicated by Facebook

 I wonder if readers can help--so far, three specialists, two at the university and one at a local apple store, have been stymied. Ever since the end of May, I haven't been able to log in to Facebook on my own computer, the current message being that I haven't enabled cookies. Every cookie I've ever seen has been enabled, and the last specialist--who spent over an hour on the phone with me using a program that enabled him to enter my computer while I was there--gave up. I seem to be able to get to Facebook on my phone, but meanwhile, having done all that the specialists said I should do, including deleting cache here and there, I have to type in passwords for everything I do or read, even the New York Times. But no Facebook. I've tried the help center of course, but that invariably sends the message that my page isn't being displayed properly. Even tried emailing Security at Facebook and Help at Facebook and any other thing I could think of, but always got the message that Facebook.Com didn't exist. The first specialist said, "this is weird." The apple store guy, whom the first specialist asked to communicate with Facebook, said, "We don't do public relations for Facebook." The third guy, who seemed the most competent, kept saying, "let's try this . . . " but finally gave up. "This is crazy," he remarked, sounding dazed, after offering his final theory, that many people were probably experiencing something  like this because they were still on classic facebook as opposed to me. 

Any technical wizards out there? Or how about a Facebook representative?


P.S. Here's what happens every single time I try to log in, even after changing my password a zillion times:

The page isn’t redirecting properly

An error occurred during a connection to

    This problem can sometimes be caused by disabling or refusing to accept cookies.


Sunday, August 9, 2020

A Colorful, Easy Summer Pasta

 When you don't want to spend much time over a stove, a pleasant alternative is pasta with fresh vegetables. Start with some nicely chopped garlic and chives:

1. Sautée the chives and garlic and set aside.

2. Chop the freshly washed basil and add to the pan with the garlic and chives.

3. Squeeze the lemons and add olive oil (to taste--I use a lot) and pepper, and beat with a whisk. Set aside.

4. Slice the tomatoes and add to the basil-garlic-chive mix.

5. Boil your pasta. Add the veggie mix. Add Parmesan. Yum.

Friday, August 7, 2020

God Has a Tummy Ache

There's the old whirlwind, cleft in his foot not showing, orange skin heated by Satanic forces within, blond hair actually moving, slightly, in the rush of helicopter wind, yelping that Biden is "against God--against guns!"

If I were God, I'd want my Mommy and a cup of chamomile tea to ease the pain.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Tale of a Stereotype: The German Doctor

Not all German doctors are like the one I'm about to describe. His German traits--his insatiable desire for order in particular, to the point where he listened to not a word I said--impressed me. So much so that I'm cancelling my next appointment after I see another doctor who will, I'm reasonably confident, offer different advice.
I developed a pain in my knee that seems arthritic or a "a sign of degeneration" according to an MRI and an X-ray, and wanted to see whether any treatment apart from the one I'd already been trying--cross trainer, ballet stretches, stationary bike--might help. Since the doctor I wished I'd gone to initially was on vacation, I picked someone vaguely in my neighborhood who had stellar ratings on Jameda. Glancing at the disk on which every X-ray trained on my bones appeared, he insisted the one he needed wasn't there. I assured him it was; he yelled for his assistant, an efficient young woman who rolled her eyes at me when he complained that the right material was not there, when it was, and quickly found what he needed. She was seated beside him on a physician's stool with rollers. The minute she'd brought up the material he needed, he grabbed her around the waist and rolled her out of the way.
    Oh, and when he examined me, he pressed down on my kneecaps. Which hurt. I'm certain the kneecaps of a teenage athlete would have hurt, but he insisted my age was to blame.
    We talked about my cancer diagnosis, and I made clear the findings of the MRI, namely that cancer wasn't to blame.
    "Sie brauchen ein Ordner!" he yelled. "Sie sind Tumor-Patient!" (You need a loose leaf notebook. You're a tumor patient!")
    Germans love their notebooks. Every bill, every pay slip, every insurance contract, every medical form, every this, every that, gets placed in plastic pocket and filed in one of those notebooks. Most Germans have shelves and shelves of notebooks. I have around three. Notebooks, that is. Not shelves of them.
    He thought every single letter I've ever gotten about my cancer diagnosis, from 2016 on, should be filed away in a big notebook. What he thought of me, personally, for not being fond of notebooks, was written all over his affronted face.
    Every time I have a CT scan, my whole history appears along with whatever's new in my diagnosis. No need for notebooks. He did not like my pointing this out.
    "Dünne Frauen!" he yelled, shaking his head. Thin women--by his standards, I'm thin? Me with my 62 kilos and my belly fat? The very sight of me seemed to irritate him.
    On the way out of his office I noticed that his receptionist is obese.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Donald Trump's Wonderful Memory

Person. Woman. Man. Camera. TV.
Can our POTUS repeat that? You bet! How does he manage this cognitive feat, demonstrating his vast competence as Master of the Universe?
1. Who's the most important PERSON in the world? Oh, so easy.
2. What does the most important person in the world enjoy grabbing? Now this was a bit harder. He had to get from "woman" to "pussy" but he managed.
3. See #1. Easy-peasy.
4. Camera. Like a mirror, only you have to wait a little bit! But so much fun! Yes, you have to wait, and I don't like that, but then you get to see yourself.
5. TV. Watches it all the time! Gimme 'nother cheeseburger, cutie. Look, there I am. Look, there I'm talking. Look at my nice hair and my face. Oh, my face! Can you resist me? Commmeerrre, baby.

Friday, July 17, 2020

We All Can't Breathe

The corona virus, the tweets of a monster, the staggering number of racist killings, make it hard for all of us to take anything like a breath. When we do, we're not relaxing, just pausing between bouts of anxiety. When Yeats wrote, 

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity,

he was living through the end of World War I, the Easter Rising, the quickly-crushed Irish War of Independence--all while his wife,  Georgie Hyde-Lees, was almost dying, a victim of the 1918 flu pandemic. She lived to give birth to two children, one of whom became a painter and set designer, the other a barrister.

There's the passionate intensity of a Trump rally and there's the passionate intensity of a peaceful demonstrator. Then there's the passionate intensity of a looter. There's a passionate intensity of Anthony Fauci telling the truth. He doesn't lack all conviction, but we are all losing hope in our ability to hear him. I'm happy to be in Germany, where most people do wear masks in public places. There's always the droplet-spraying toddler on the tram, the old guy with his mask slung around his chin and his finger up his nose, the angry young man shouldering his way through with no mask and a can of Red Bull or Beer, but these folks are not the majority here.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

The Lynching of George Floyd

I never thought things could get so bad that a white police officer's knee could lean on a black man's neck for eight minutes while the handcuffed man lay motionless.

That is what happened on the evening of Monday, May 25, at about eight o'clock in Minneapolis.
"No weapons were recovered from the scene, police said," writes Libor Jany, who has worked for the last seven years as a crime reporter for the Star Tribune

George Floyd was yanked from his car, put on the ground, and rendered unable to breathe by officer Derek Chauvin of the Minneapolis police department. Chauvin's knee remained on Floyd's neck while Floyd said, "I can't breathe. Please, Man." Bystanders begged the officer to stop, pointing out that Floyd's nose was bleeding, that Floyd wasn't moving, that Floyd was human. Floyd asked for his mother.

 George Floyd's hands were behind his back in handcuffs before the police officers put him on the ground. 

Somebody who "looked like" or "might have been" George Floyd paid with a fake twenty dollar bill, says one account, or a forged check, says another,  in a convenience store. George Floyd was forty-six, says one newspaper or forty-seven, says another.

Four officers were fired, including Derek Chauvin and Tou Thao, who remained standing and made no attempt to stop Chauvin or to check Floyd's pulse.

Another black man, Eric Garner, died on a sidewalk in Staten Island in July, 2014. It took until 2019 for Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who held him in a chokehold as Garner said, "I can't breathe," to be fired and lose his pension benefits. Pantaleo sued the police department, demanding to be reinstated. Eric Garner didn't have a gun and didn't threaten anyone. The poet Ross Gay memorialized Garner:

A Small Needful Fact

Is that Eric Garner worked
for some time for the Parks and Rec.
Horticultural Department, which means,
perhaps, that with his very large hands,
perhaps, in all likelihood,
he put gently into the earth
some plants which, most likely,
some of them, in all likelihood,
continue to grow, continue
to do what such plants do, like house
and feed small and necessary creatures,
like being pleasant to touch and smell,
like converting sunlight
into food, like making it easier
for us to breathe.

In May, 2018, the poet Sharon Olds memorialized Trayvon Martin, the unarmed African-American high school junior who was shot in Florida by George Zimmerman, who was acquitted.

For You

In the morning, when I’m pouring the hot milk
into the coffee, I put the side of my
face near the convex pitcher to watch
the last, round drop from the spout,
and it feels like being cheek to cheek
with a baby. Sometimes the orb pops back up,
a ball of cream balanced on a whale’s
watery exhale. Then I gather my tools,
the cherry sounding-board tray that will rest on my
lap, the phone, the bird book to look up
the purple martin. I repeat them as I seek them,
so as not to forget—tray, cell phone,
purple martin; tray, phone,
martin, Trayvon Martin, song was
invented for you, art was made
for you, painting, writing, was yours,
our youngest, our most precious, to remind us
to shield you—all was yours, all that is
left on earth, with your body, was for you.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

"Science Plays the Subservient Pimp": On Trump and his Beleaguered Medical Advisors

 In 1938, the world is exploding: Hitler elects himself Oberkommando (High Commander) of the German armed forces, Trotsky and Mussolini are skulking about, Kristallnacht and the Anschluss are happening. In England, E.M. Forster reflects on the widening dangers in language remarkably fitted to the roles into which Drs. Deborah Birx and Anthony Fauci are forced by the Trump administration:  

Tolerance, good temper and sympathy are no longer enough in a world which is rent by religious and racial persecution, in a world where ignorance rules, and Science, who ought to have ruled, plays the subservient pimp.

Ahmaud Arbery gets shot for jogging while black. Meanwhile, POTUS works hard to prevent citizens of Muslim countries from traveling to the U.S. In our medical meltdown, he  wonders whether disinfectant, which "knocks it out in a minute!" would "do something" by injection or ingestion. Randy Rainbow sings: "Just a spoonful of Chlorox makes the temperature go down," and deep in the bottomless dark, we're whistling along with him.

Like so many writers, Forster was trying to find truth in an age that, like ours, seemed devoted to the reverse. 

At least Fauci and Birx are now wearing face masks. Standing behind Trump, they are portraits of common sense and symbols of the ways in which Science has been muzzled, leashed, forced to heal--indeed like a subservient dog, if not a pimp. The two have drawn the line at pimping for POTUS: they just won't say it's okay to open the country, and I'm wondering how long he'll let them stick around. His version of the story will be that they're disgruntled employees, their message "not acceptable."

In Forster's essay, "What I Believe," the portrait of Science as the submissive procurer, tiptoeing around the despot, seems visionary. Forster wasn't just writing about the despots of his day--he was looking to a future  he knew would be marred by a similar set of events. And in that seminal essay, he offers the sad perception that,

Tolerance, good temper and sympathy--they are what matter really, and if the human race is not to collapse they must come to the front before long. But for the moment they are not enough, their action is no stronger than a flower, battered beneath a military jackboot.

It's an odd metaphor: tolerance, good temper, and sympathy as soldiers rushing to the front to defend truth. These traits are so often defined as non-combative, but Forster's right to activate them, and equally right to see that the ruthless jackboot of a demagogue--it's almost as if Forster had looked into a crystal ball and seen the current American president--is almost certain to crush the good.

Now is the time for all good people to come to the aid of their world. I'll take Forster's prescription at the end of the essay too--he rejects religious faith for Montaigne and Erasmus. Fight the good fight, whether books or religion give you strength. Support Fauci (thank you, Brad Pitt!) and Birx (who epitomizes style, substance, and fantastic scarves). I love you both so very much.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Gorgeous Garbanzos

Yes, beans again, but these beans are so pretty. I'd always enjoyed chick pea salads with any old thing we had around--chopped cucumber, cherry tomatoes, scallions, oranges, but I settled on this version since one of my kids didn't want raw onion in the salad. You will need:

Olive or canola oil--any oil you like. Not butter, though.
Red onions
Cherry tomatoes 
Limes (Lemons will do)
Balsamic vinegar

Heat oil in a pan, add chopped red onion and scallions:
While these colorful aromatics are sizzling, juice an orange or two, and add the liquid to the pan. Same with the lime or two:
Swimming in orangey-limey juice

Rise and drain the cherry tomatoes and add them:
After that, drain and rise the garbanzos and put them in a large bowl. Add salt, pepper, garlic powder. Pour in the tomato-scallions-red onion mix. Slice and add chunks of oranges, zap in some Balsamic vinegar, taste. You might want a bit more salt. Enjoy!

Worthy of Some Women's Magazine!

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

The Cancer-Patient's Guide to Finding Out You Don't Have Covid-19 in Ten Steps, Most of Which are Difficult

The catch is inevitable--this method is the last you'd like to try. But it's effective!
First, have some condition like cancer requiring you to get a CT scan every few months. 
Second, go sip that cocktail of radioactive somethingorother, chalk and water, the stuff that lights up your insides so the CT scan perceives lurking carcinogens, in case they're there. 
Third, reflect on the fact that you've lifted your face shield and mask to drink that stuff, but have done so in an empty waiting room--how it ever emptied out, you'll never know, but wish that someone were Watching Over You in a good way (but if they are, they never talk to you--which is unpleasant). 
Fourth, lie on the scanner --the technician asks you to close your eyes, but you think she says hold your breath, and do so. You can still see. No harm done?
Fifth, see your oncologist, who's sitting less than six feet away, but your mask and shield are back on and you somehow think "she doesn't count," and lean further forward to see your scan.
Sixth, perk up when she says, "your lungs are clear!" And that's the first thing she says, after giving you the thumbs up sign.
Seventh, listen with alarm and interest to the story she tells: some physicians--but not in this hospital!--ordered scans and found, while looking for cancer cells, the characteristic signs of COVID in the lungs. Yes, in asymptomatic persons, persons manifesting no coughs, no fevers, nothing. But your lungs are just fine. 
Eighth, reflect: unless you've contracted the illness while sipping your CT cocktail and the bug just hasn't shown up yet.
Ninth, head home happy you're COVID free and also, for the moment, cancer free.
Tenth, Schedule a Zoom virtual cocktail hour with your pals. As you lift a goblet of red wine to your lips, consider how much better it tastes than those two liters of Chalk De Luxe you drank for the CT scan.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Olive-Lemon Meatloaf

This is easy, fun and delicious. Assemble the following:

About half a kilo of ground pork (or a little over a pound. Or more)
One large egg
A bunch of scallions
Garlic cloves (lots--to taste)
Purple onions (or red)
Olive oil
About 300 grams of Feta cheese (Around 5 ounces)
Grated Parmesan (about the same amount)
Container of cherry tomatoes
One large lemon, washed
Medium-sized jar or can of black olives
Garlic powder, cayenne pepper, the salt of your choice

This is not one of those recipes requiring precision. A little more of this, a little less of that--you're fine. I make this in a big round casserole, but you can use a loaf pan.

Pre-heat the oven to about 190º. Mix the meat and the beaten egg together; add pepper, salt, the feta cheese broken up. Use a fork to break it into bits and mix in the meat. 

Set aside. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan. Chop and put into the pan the scallions, the garlic, and the red onions. While they're cooking (and you're occasionally stirring) grate the rind of the washed lemon onto a plate or cutting board and add to the onion-garlic mix. Keep stirring. Squeeze the lemon and add the juice to the pan. Keep stirring. Drain, rinse the olives and add. Pour the contents of the pan into the meat mix into the casserole. Sprinkle grated Parmesan over the top. Add the tomatoes. Bake for about an hour; you can kick the heat up at the end if you like the Parmesan crispy ant the tomatoes imploded. Just check to make sure nothing burns; depending on how much meat you use, the meatloaf may be done sooner or later.
Just before the Parmesan and the tomatoes

Sunday, April 26, 2020

The Critical Mom Posts More Poems

They're part of a series about my husband.

Waking at Night

This nighttime sky holds winds, waters

A distant plane—

The moment goes on,

Another moment enters,

Exits, yet another

These moments

Continue coming,

Continue going,

Beside me, you are not.

Ancient, forgotten feeling,

So long gone, returns.

Three a.m. outside

Winds rushing,

Waters running,

Clouds waiting,

No voices, no dreams

Bedside Table

Your photo is beside me,

I pick it up, talk to it,

Hold the white frame with both hands

Kiss the glass face

Your smile, your eyes,

Your tie, some little piece of dust

In your hair? I’m actually

Reaching to brush it off?

Every part of you is there but you

I do my usual bedtime thing—

Pick it up, talk to you

As if you could hear me

But the more I tell you things,

The more you’re not there.

Going the Stairs

He was a bit out of breath,

I was the nagging wife:

“Lose a little weight,” he was

Tolerant, slapping his

Beer belly, we were still quite


Halfway up, he paused to breathe, brought

One foot up, waited, then the other,

Hand gripped the banister.

Unable to complain, he let me pretend.

Long past what the point of

Endurance, he would not

Let me carry the tank

When he did,

I still didn’t know

A day would come when

He couldn’t walk—when

He would say, “The

Dying process

Has begun.”