Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The measure of love

"There she goes,
There she goes again..."

I am standing in Home Depot, talking to a guy named Louie about shellac-based primer. It is $35.00 a gallon, but the only thing you can use if you are stupid enough to want to paint over asbestos shingles instead of residing your whole house.
Most people would just go ahead and put up vinyl siding, because painting the asbestos shingles will cost about the same. But people like me, who really hate vinyl siding but can't afford to reside with wood...those people would consider painting asbestos shingles. Louie, who is a painting contractor on the side, says it will turn out fine with the shellac-based primer.

We're still negotiating my purchase of the house I made an offer on. Nothing's been finalized. Still, I thought I'd get my ducks in a row by strolling through Home Depot, estimating the cost of work that needs doing.

I am scanning the rows and rows of color samples while Louie explains that asbestos shingles are made with tar, which will seep through color without the primer. I am rapt in thoughts of the future, the possible colors of my possible new house, the one sitting on the hill above the park.

Then that song comes on in the Home Depot background music. It kicks me in the gut.

Does Louie notice that my eyes well up with tears?

"There she goes,
There she goes again."

Yes, Reader-- I have seen the feminine hygiene product commercial using that song. But long before that advertisement, that was my song for Casey. My sweet dog Casey. I used to sing it to her in the car, or when she was running in the yard, or sitting with me in the living room, lying across the room looking up at me.

She wouldn't get on the furniture if I was in the room. Sometimes I'd catch her there when I came home, and she looked guilty but I'd say, "Of course you can sit on the sofa, Casey." I'd sit there and pat the space next to me, but she demurred. Whoever had her before I did, the fat fucks that took her to the pound without concern that a morbidly obese middle aged dog would likely be put to sleep-- they must have never let her get on the furniture. Probably they were too fat to share it.

The woman who ran the pound said the people who brought her in were very fat. They said she was a stray, but the lady was pretty sure they were lying because Casey, too, was super-sized. She was so fat that they didn't think anyone would adopt her at first. Also because she was older. Older dogs have a hard time getting adopted. She was actually taken into the room where the unadoptable dogs were taken to await their final shot.

But the woman who ran the pound said before she started giving the shots, she looked at Casey and knew she was special. So she saved her. She said that even though Casey was probably 8 years old and weighed nearly twice what she ought to have, she knew that someone would come along and want her. Because she was that smart, sweet,sassy amazing of a dog. The woman who ran the pound said she'd never been tempted to adopt one of them on her own. She had enough of them during the day. But Casey-- she almost adopted. And when I went back, to say hi, three years later, just because I was in the area, she still had a picture of Casey on her desk.

My dog Abby died and I was sitting on a sofa in Boston. And suddenly I thought, "There's an older border collie mix at the pound in Peabody. That's my dog."

It was interesting because that thought popped into my head, and I lived 90 minutes away from Peabody. I called that pound and said, "Um...do you have an older border collie mix available for adoption? They said, "Yes. And she's wonderful."

I got in my car. They kept the pound open for me. The lady who ran it brought Casey out for me to meet.

And I knew she was my dog. The dog. The one.

(And FYI-- it took about a year for her to lose all that extra weight. But she did.)

So there I am in Home Depot talking to Louie, and that song comes on. She died on August 14th, and it is November 28th. And I start crying. As soon as I walked away from Louie, heading to my car, I start crying.

I was even mad at Home Depot. Shouldn't they be playing Christmas Carols or something?

The thing is, I always miss her. And I always will. The measure of love is loss.

Sometimes it seems like losing Casey is such an enormous loss that I am pulling cargo wherever I go.

I know it's silly. I've lost things before. Men I loved, and other pets, and friends, dear friends whose voices I still hear in my head, whose names I can't erase from my cell phones even though the number has long been disconnected.

It's just that so rarely is something as perfect and uncomplicated as my sweet Casey. A dog with a sense of humor. I can't even explain.

I guess I just have to expect that it will sneak up on me sometimes. The sudden remembering that she's gone.

When I die, the first thing I'm looking for is that dog.

Sorry, Grandma.

I'm not worried about offending my grandfather with that priority. He, a man who could talk to animals, will understand. He used to look up at phone wires and invite the birds there to come sit on his shoulders. And they would. (We're from the Abruzzi, a region in Italy known for snake-charmers and witches.)

Here's what I want to say:

Sometimes we lose things that are in their own way perfect and we know we will never be able to find anything that good again. Sometimes, this perfection was genuine, simple, and innocent-- like Casey's was. It was always a gift to me. I marvelled, every day I knew her, that she was my dog.

But sometimes, when I've lost other things, remarkable and irreplacable things, I have discovered in the end that the remarkableness and irreplacablity were good things to lose. That maybe from a distance I could see that I had over-valued them. Sometimes, losing something I loved that much has been like being freed. And their real gift to me turned out to be their not being around anymore, to make other things, real things, seem pale in comparison.

Usually, it's taken me a while to get to that realization. I didn't always see that at the time. Pain will insist on its own time in the limelight. However we rationalize the process, sometimes all we can do is sit with the bad feelings.

I keep thinking of getting another Border Collie. Maybe someday I will. It won't be Casey. And Casey I know was irreplacable. I lived with her for 6 years. I was not projecting perfection upon, nor was she somehow faking it to beguile me. So many "perfect" things are shams. She was the real deal.

If only Home Depot would devote itself to the darn Christmas Carols, I wouldn't get all maudlin and stuff.

Peefer said recently (in a moving post I would link to if I knew how to) that in all the stories of the world, there's only one plot: fear of losing the thing we love.

I have sometimes found that loss to be, in its own way, a happy ending. This isn't one of those cases. But they're out there. Trust me.

And um...listen, if there's anyone out there who'd like to email me, I wish you would.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Views, houses, views from houses, etc

My realtor took me in a condo building called "the Hague" after "Boss Hague", the notorious Jersey City mayor in the first half of the 1900s. For forty years, he had politics in his back pocket, not only for Jersey City but for the entire state of New Jersey and into some other states.

In the lavish foyer of the building (where he had the top two floors entirely for his mob machine), there was a photograph of a man in 1940's clothes, wearing a hat and overcoat and looking the camera directly in the eye. A small bronze plaque at the bottom said, "Boss Hague" and then beneath, "I am the law."

The foyer was all gleaming white marble and potted palms as far as the eye could see. It looked like a movie set's stylized view of heaven.

I don't know why I am telling you this. It's just that I have been consumed by real estate the last several weeks and so I was thinking, "My life is real estate." And then I started wondering about the derivation of the words "real estate" and the link between the work "estate" as property and "l'estat" in the sense of Louis XIV and "L'estat, c'est moi."

And then I realized that that was pretty much Boss Hague's mantra, and wondered if he even knew who Louis XIV was.

"Apres moi, le deluge."

I'll bet Boss Hague said that too. And he'd have been right.

My roommate moved from Arkansas to New Jersey to work in politics because she was fascinated that the Boss system still works here to a degree.

But that's neither here nor there. I wanted to talk about houses, because I made an offer on one yesterday.

L'estate de reale, c'est moi.

It's a two family house about a five minute walk from the old house, where for the moment, I am still living. It's overlooking one of those beautiful parks, the kind where people exercise their horses in Henry James movies. There's a pavillion of some sort up on the hill on the horizon. The view reminds me of the garden behind a castle in Vienna I went to once. Which is awfully special, for a house in Jersey City.

It just occured to me that from his penthouse, Boss Hague would have had the same view. Although it wouldn't have been the horizon for him. Newark would have been his horizon.

Anyway. I made an offer on a house and we should be negotiating today on price, and if all goes well I'll be moving at some point in December, probably in the days between Christmas and New Years. Hooray.

I briefly suffered some regrets last week, but I am really glad I sold this house. I never really liked it.

I hope I like the new house. I hope I get it, for one thing. And if I do, I hope I like it and that it wildly appreciates in value, which would make me like it even more. Then I can sell it in a couple of years and get a new house. Because that's what I do.

Readers, Cupcake has long been aware that her life is not a novel but rather a collection of short stories. This most recent story has been one that, given the option, she would probably skim over, skipping the last part and jumping right onto the first page of the next one, hoping it presented more interesting narrative.

Maybe moving to a new house will push things into the next installment of her life. Wouldn't that be nice?

Though Cupcake hastens to confirm that she had a very nice holiday with her cousin, though she spent the lion's share of the weekend with her realtor, a very patient man who is probably pretty ready to strangle Cupcake about now. She made him a whole lotta money on the sale of her home, but she's been a very demanding customer as a buyer, making him take her, over the holiday weekend, to the same house 4 times in 3 days. Then she made an offer on a different house.

The 4 times in 3 days house was a house Cupcake really, really liked. But it would have been a money pit. The apartment on the second and third floors was one giant apartment, too big to be an easy rent (5 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, in a transportationally challenged section of Jersey City). Cupcake would have had to deal with repeated vacancies (ergo, no rental income to assist with the mortgage, which would be irksome and worrying). And/or large families stomping around overhead (which would be irksome and annoying)-- Also, to make the house habitable would have cost at least $10,000 when she moved in, on top of the mortgage, as the seller was adamnant that she wasn't doing any more work. She was also inflexible in the price, which is why the beautiful old house, which had been enduring a half-assed renovation which mercifully sputtered out when the seller ran out of money, has been on the market for six months.

Cupcake loved that house. She would have been very happy there, despite the lack of a Viennese pavilion on the horizon. It was a graceful old Wedding Cake Victorian on a lovely, quiet street. There were trees in the backyard, and a sense of timelessness, and (Cupcake believes) a gentle ghostly presence in the basement. (Cupcake imagined the ghost hanging out with the rabbit, whose would have shared that domain.) Added up, it might have made up for legions of tenants stomping overhead.

But at the end of the day, Cupcake is a practical girl. And perhaps a lazy girl, because she likes other people to pay her mortgage for her. And the rental income of that house would have been erratic and insufficient. The house on the park has a better cash flow. So Cupcake's heart, softened by Victorian cornices and a kick-ass Kohler sink, took one for the team. She passed on the Wedding Cake house for the sake of her bottom line.

And at the end of the day, it was probably a good move. Now she will be Boss Hague's neighbor, and have a park outside her door, and maybe, just maybe, things will move to the next short story as assuredly as Louis XV took up right after Louis XIV.

Who knows what that story will be. Let's hope there's no Thirty Years War in it.(Though Cupcake would welcome M. de Pompedour, should he show up.) But whatever is ahead-- Cupcake's ready.

I'll let you know if they accept my offer. I think the realtor will be very happy if he doesn't have to keep driving me around.

"I am the law." I like the sound of that. Maybe the Viennese pavilion won't be the only view I end up sharing with Boss Hague.

Nah. Just kidding. Being that kind of estat would drive me nuts. Real estate is more than enough to amuse me.

Thursday, November 24, 2005


It's Thanksgiving.

Happily, I have something to do because my favorite cousin moved to Jersey City this week. He's cooking a fabulous low-carb Thanksgiving. And I am going to dine with him and his boyfriend at a small dinner party.

You have no idea what a relief it is to have real Thanksgiving plans. With family, no less. Usually, other than Christmas which I spend in Florida with my parents and sometimes my sister-- holidays are rather lonely times for me. Oh, sure-- there's always the friend willing to take in the "orphan" for the holiday meal. It's been interesting, through the years, to note those of my friends who invite me to share holidays with and those who doesn't. In Thanksgivings past, there have been good riends with nice families and nice children who I might have enjoyed dining with. I have sometimes hoped for an invitation but rarely received one, though I've known that if I hinted broadly enough, I would be welcome there. One does though hate to intrude. Annually, though, the offer is made by the friend whose child behaves so appallingly that I find it difficult to eat at her home. I spend the meal wishing someone would slap the enfant. I am usually to be found cutting turkey furiously, telling myself under no circumstances to put the utensils down because if my hand is empty leaving a free path between my palm and the child's face, the person who does the slapping might just be me. Somehow it seems like a less than courteous action for a guest to take even under the most justified of circumstances.

Once, for example, in the course of a grown-up's conversation, this child, then aged 5, interupted something I was saying, exclaiming, "No, No, Cupcake! I don't want you to talk!"

I was stunned into silence, and gratified when my friend, the parent, immediately responded to her offspring's declaration. "That is very rude, Bratface!" (Not the vile child's real name, FYI.) "You should say, 'Please, Cupcake, I would really prefer it if you do not speak."

I stared at her in horror, enraged. I shall let the reader guess if, during the remainder of my visit to their home, I used more than 20 words and if the mother, absorbed in her own matters and in worship of her Devil's Spawn, even noticed.

Several weeks later, when I had calmed down enough to speak rationally to the doting parent, I repeated the exchange to her. She seemed puzzled at my invocation of the incident.

"But, Cupcake" she explained, "I want her to grow up speaking English properly, not sounding ignorant. And you of all people must know the importance of phrasing things well."

"Um, yes, Person Who Was My Friend For 20 Years Before She Created This Monster" (not her real name, FYI)--"Yes, I do understand the important of diction. But you did in fact validate your 5-year old's telling me to shut up."

Even more confused at my lack of understanding of the arcane skills of parenting, she stammered, sincerely, slowly, as if explaining to a dim-wit, 'But Cupcake, I would never invalidate her opinions!"

Ah, yes, Readers. This is why Cupcake shudders when people tell her that the children are our future.

And this is also why Cupcake has, for many years, spent Thanksgiving alone. Usually she has spent it in the car driving to Vermont, happily scheduling the drive to take place when most Americans are seated at the bosom of their family, so not only is there no traffic but also so she can avoid the fact that she has nowhere to dine.

But this year, Cupcake has family to dine with. Other people too, guests at her cousin's house, which will be nice. But for a change, Cupcake will feel like she belongs somewhere, she belongs TO somebody. That where she should spend the holiday is obvious, possibly even obligatory.

That's a very nice change. A very nice change indeed.

And for that alone, along with many other reasons like that she made a decent amount of money on the sale of her house, and that she has good health and a fun working situation and all her teeth, Cupcake gives thanks.

Happy Turkey Day, everybody!

Thursday, November 17, 2005


I have been doing a lot of house-hunting. And maybe some soul-searching. Mostly the former, but the latter sneaks in as I'm driving around at night looking at neighborhoods and streets and jotting down "For Sale" sign information on the back of envelopes in my car.

Anybody want to buy drugs in Jersey City in the middle of the night? I can tell you the best corners for that.

Not to imply that Jersey City is rough. It's impressively gentrified since I moved here three years ago. In fact, I feel like Laura Ingalls Wilder in the Little House books. I remember her describing one day when her father heard someone else chopping wood in the Big Woods, so he knew it was time to move further west because civilization was encrouching.

When I bought this house, it was the frontier. They'll be putting in Starbucks here soon.

My work here is done.

I don't have to move immediately, and I have ideas about places I'd like to go. I found a place I like, just a leetle tiny house for tiny money, which I was thinking of buying to live in for the moment and then rent out when I find another house I might like better. It's not just that as part of my committment-phobia a move a lot (though that is true)-- It's that to defer taxes, I have to spend as much money as I am selling this house for. So I may end up buying two properies in a bad part of town that looks like it wants to improve itself. And then I'll sit and wait for Starbucks to find me there.

Of course I still have my house in Vermont. And though I can't live up there full time without starting to type "All Work And No Play Makes Cupcake A Dull Girl" over and over again, it's nice to know I won't be, technically, homeless, even after I've sold my house in Jersey City.

So that's why I haven't been posting much. I've been preoccupied with real estate and strongly doubt any of my five readers are interested in my comparing the various benefits of Jersey City's diverse neighborhoods.

But I miss hearing from people, so feel free to drop me a line. Perhaps it will inspire me to write something nice.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The ravel'ed sleeve of care...

Oh, Reader. Has Cupcake ever mentioned that she doesn't sleep very much?

Yes, yes-- she believes she has mentioned that once or twice.

Every roommate Cupcake has ever had has at one point or another said, "Do you EVER sleep?"

Yes, Cupcake does sleep. A couple hours a day seems to do the trick. Tonight it was- and with the help of Tylenol PM no less - 90 minutes. From 11:30 to 1:00. Wide awake after that. No problem with it. Just catapulted from the arms of slumber into a sudden consciousness with no purpose.

It's not a problem, exactly. Cupcake has friends who suffer from insomnia. Cupcake doesn't suffer from it at all; she rather enjoys it. The one pang she has about the situation is that it baffles her that, in the course of 21 or 22 waking hours, she doesn't get more accomplished.

But that's another matter. What Cupcake wanted you to know is that it's just strange, experiencing the world when most other people are sleeping.

There are things that occur because of this regular purposeless consciousness.

It means that Cupcake knows every 24-hour restaurant and store in Jersey City.

It means that Cupcake knows infomercials better than most people. Or she used to, anyway, before the TV started making a weird slanty-flickering that drives her crazy to the point that she can't even watch Law and Order. But it doesn't bother her enough that she ever remembers to go buy a new television, even when she does have enough cash to do that.

It means that Cupcake wishes she had more friends in other time zones.

It means that Cupcake can really super assiduously check out the nocturnal activity in the ghettos of Jersey City where she is considering purchasing a home, circling blocks for hours to determine that yes, there really does seem to be a lot of drug trafficing on that corner, and huh, it really does seem like that young lady in the garrishly blond wig and super tight hot pants has a lot of men friends in various cars.

It means that Cupcake is usually available for friends who are suddenly arrested, or themselves unable to sleep. (File that away, Reader, should you be prone to drunk driving or spousal abuse in the wee small hours of the morning and need someone to bail you out.)

It means that Cupcake gets to spend a long time admiring the sleeping visages of men who might want her to grace their beds. (If it's not an admirable visage in the first place, she's unlikely to grace it. But knowing that she's going to be lying there staring at that face does in fact change the prospect of such supine intimacy, creating a greater need for asthetic selectivity.)

It means that Cupcake has plenty of time to do laundry, poke around the house looking for stuff to throw away now that she's moving, go down in the basement and play with the delightful rabbit (also a nocturnal creature).

Cupcake just wishes it weren't so darn lonely all the time. The rabbit is indeed a pleasant companion, but not much of a conversationalist. As the clock moves towards midnight, Cupcake sometimes catches herself guiltily engaging her roommate (who is as delightful as the rabbit but not as nocturally animated) in late night conversations that are probably ungenerous if not downright greedy. Cupcake hoards every word of them, knowing she will be starved for companionship later in the night.

Yes, yes-- of course Cupcake could devote the time to her writing. And sometimes she does. Tonight, though, what with the house being sold and no clear plan as to where she is going, Cupcake has been pacing, stopping to lift weights, and pacing some more. Eventually she will go back to bed with a cup of tea and flip through a book, mostly to be out of the way of the aforementioned delightful roommate while she gets ready for work. And then around 9 or so Cupcake will propel herself out of the house and down to the artsy Jersey City coffee shop where she is wont to spend her days since she quit the Job From Hell.

Dunno. This is probably a very dull posting. Which is why I don't spend every sleepless night writing. Sometimes I might be awake but the Muse isn't.

Anyone else have -- not a problem with sleeplessness as much as an expanded waking time? How do you fill those hours?

Oh well. I'm going back down to play with the bunny.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Leaf people in late fall

I'm in Vermont, hiding out at the cafe above the bookstore.

Earlier, I was at my house listening to the autumn rain on the metal roof, loading logs into the woodstove and staring at the orange intensity behind the glass. When I come up here and embed myself in the quiet, the wheels in my head turn differently. I don't know so much if it's wishing to live deliberately or just discovering that in the quiet, slow pace of this life, and in the solitude that wraps itself around me on the mountain, that deliberatation is inevitable. Shaking myself out of it and realizing that I'd accomplished nothing all morning because I stop and think about things rather than just doing them, I loaded the dogs into the car and came to town. I figured that if civilization didn't restore me to the innured state I usually experience, a triple shot latte would at leave revv my engines into a higher gear.

But, deliberate or not, today the drive down the mountain seemed to go in slow motion. Today is weighted with the aching descent of late fall into winter, and each tree, sad and wet as if its waiting for a bus without an umbrella, filled me with acknowledgement of our human condition of longing. Or at least, my human condition of longing.

Today is crisp with a new cold, and forlorn piles of shriveled leaves gather like the homeless outside a subway station asking for spare change. Grass appears uncertain. Should it persever in being green, in growing? There's a beauty to all this that cuts me. Change, decision-- things turning a corner.

Dunno. The church bells outside are ringing against the cafe's Gypsy King music. And at the end of the room, the window is open and the drumming of the rain patters through the top of maple tree pressed against the glass. A few orange leaves cling to the upper branches like guests who won't go home.

In this town (the big one, population 4,000, that's next to my town of 243)-- there's a tradition called "Leaf People."
In October, people bring the leaves they've raked and dump them in the town square, where the children, supervised by the 147 artists who live in this town (no joke)- stuff old clothes and create scarecrows which are hung around the town-- in front of shops, where you'd expect them, and at the edges of town, like one masquerading as a hitch-hiker which has year after year surprised me when my headlights hit it.
There's something very T.S. Eliot about it, very "We are the hollow men." But then, I've been accused of being rather dark sometimes.

It's just for the tourists, not a grim reminder of mortality.

And frankly, I don't find anything all that grim about mortality. As Patch Adams said (or at least as Robin Williams said in his role of Patch Adams)-- "What's wrong with death?"

At the moment, the only thing I can think of that's really objectionable about death is that it might take us away from all this beauty. This change, the heartbreaking quality of fall seceding into winter, of youth conceding to middle age, of life taking these turns so that every day is different from the one before in small, unimaginable ways. What an amazing process. Does death put all that to a screeching halt? Are there degrees of being dead? Because I'm not sure that the same thing over and over again would have the same impact.

But then again, life surprises me. Repeatedly, like the damn leaf hitchhiker. It always gets me, leaves me chuckling that I fell for it, again. Maybe death will be just as mystifying in the best of ways, like someone we love but have never really figured out.

Strangers on a train

One day this summer, I was very sad about something.

I put on my favorite brown chiffon dress and went into Manhattan to have dinner with a friend. He was sweet and consoling and it distracted me for a few hours. But around midnight, I took the train back to Jersey City. And I sat on the train realizing that my sweet Casey was dead and that I hated my job and I’d messed something up with someone I cared about, and that there were several other disappointments swirling around me that I couldn’t fix. I sat there on the train, staring into space and trying really hard not to cry.

The next day, on Craigslist Missed Connections, I saw a posting that said, “To the sad girl on the PATH train.” Someone wrote, “You were a brunette in a beautiful brown dress. You got on at 14th Street around midnight and got off at Grove Street Station. You looked like you were fighting back tears the whole time. I just wanted to say that I hope everything works out.”

I don’t know who wrote that Missed Connections posting. I hadn’t even looked at any of the faces on that train that night. But it made me feel better about things, if only for a minute. It made me feel like maybe the universe is a caring place.

And even though Casey is still dead (that sweet, soft face against my knee, that expression of mischief and wisdom, that really horrible dog-breath)- truthfully, things are better now.

Pain is the place where our hearts are arguing with What Is So. (I was thinking last night about that little book, “Who Moved My Cheese?” which – I admit through embarrassment- taught me a lot when I read it years ago.)

If I were on a train of some sort, and I saw someone that I thought might be feeling very sad, I probably wouldn’t make the effort to post on Missed Connections. I don’t think I’d take the time to write anything unless I was reasonably sure my words would be read. Missed Connections seems like such a long shot.

I don’t know though. I think if I thought the person might read my words, maybe I would take the time to say something, even if I wasn’t quite sure what to say. Knowing even as I wrote something that the bad feelings WILL demand their due time. And what do I know, anyway, about the hearts of strangers? Some people are braver than I, keeping on the game face despite feeling rotten. Maybe it’s presumptuous for me to assume things.

It’s just that life sometimes feels very hard indeed. And although there are people it would be totally inappropriate to accost with words about feelings, change, pain, and moving cheeses-- sometimes a girl just wants to send a shout out. To say, I know I appear to be a stranger on a train, but I am with you. I send you good thoughts from the best part of my heart.

Maybe the connections that matter are never missed.

For what it’s worth, from a stranger on a train—I wish you well.

Monday, November 07, 2005

A Fabulous Weekend

Every now and then, exciting things happen all at once. This weekend, for example, was one of the best weekends I've had in ages. A friend came down from Vermont and so it was great to hang out with her. An old friend was having a party, so we went to that and met some fun people. I also ran into an old friend who had some very amusing and interesting stories to tell. Then, leaving the party we ran into another friend who pulled us into a bar and kept us laughing our asses off til last call, when he put us in a taxi. We got home at dawn.

This was particularly gratifying because my friend who was visiting is a full-time working Mom and usually goes to bed before 10:00 PM. She said she hadn't been out on the town like that since her kids were born. It was great to see her doing shots at 3:45 AM. We had a blast.

Then, the next afternoon we got up and went driving around looking at houses. (Because that's what I do. The way some girls shop for shoes.) I recently stumbled on another great Jersey City neighborhood that's taking off like wildfire, and real estate pioneer that I am, I'm always looking for ghetto on the brink of gentrification. This is slightly more of the former than the other neighborhoods I've been looking at, but there are reasons why I really like it. So I'm going to go see a house there in a little bit.

For readers who are wondering about the Secret Garden House-- I just don't think I can swing it. The parking issue is truly an obstacle, as I keep strange hours and really hate having to circumnavigate the globe just to go home. (My friend who had the party on Saturday lives in a loft above a comedy club, and sometimes has to stand in line to go home. Which is pretty funny.)

But the best part of the weekend was last night, when we went to see Barach Obama speak. My friend and I were swooning like bobby-soxers before Elvis. I stood about 2 feet away from him, and got a great photo of his back that I'll put up here if I ever figure out how to email pictures from my phone.

So all in all-- it was a really great weekend. I'm still on the Barach Obama high.

And tonight I'm driving back up to Vermont-- with my friend in the car, thank heavens- and I get to see my dogs, who have been staying with a friend up there while I went to Florida and entertained my visitor this weekend. I'm pretty happy about that. Casey won't be there, of course. But dogs is dogs, and my ones that remain are pretty darn sweet too.

Look for Barach Obama later. He rocks.

Friday, November 04, 2005

The Devil.

Readers, Cupcake sometimes feels that she watches most of the game from the bench. She was once told by a psychic that most of her past lives had been spent in religious seclusion, more than once as a cloistered monk.

For the record, Cupcake's thinks reincarnation is a sensible idea. What Cupcake thinks recycling of any sort is a peachy idea. And she knows that energy is neither created nor destroyed and all that. And she has also observed that the trees stay the same while the leaves change every year. So reincarnation makes sense to her, as a proposition. She not particularly invested in the idea-- although it has crossed her mind that it would be rather nice to come back as a cat and have better night vision--but she is content to wait and see.

However, when the psychic said that she'd spent most of her incarnate existances in quiet contemplation, Cupcake thought that sounded just about right. If reincarnation happens, that's likely the way she would spend her time. The psychic's theory was that this life, Cupcake was attempting to see what all the fuss was about, having observed other people living more participatory existances. This time around, Cupcake was going to try to jump in the game. Just as an experiment.

Whether the psychic was right or not, one way or another, Cupcake watches things with the surprised eye of someone who has spent a great deal of time in sequestered contemplation.

And one thing that she's come to realize is that the Devil walks among us.

The Devil is the thing that shows up in beauty but leaves you with ugliness. The thing that promises but never performs. The person who calls to invite you over, but doesn't answer the door when you get there, so that you stand there, uncertain if they're in there laughing at you or had to dash to the store for a minute to pick up some Camel Lights and will be right back.

It's hard when the Devil shows up because sometimes he is wearing the features of someone we know is not essentially evil. Where is the real person's good self when the Devil is pulling the strings? Cupcake does not know. And maybe that's what Free Will is all about-- the ability to say, "Get thee behind me, Satan!", which translates in modern terms to "Kiss my backside, dickwad." Maybe the point is that when the devil shows up and tells people that it's okay to mess around with other people's heads, God wants us to tell him to take a flying eff at a rolling donut.

But people don't always tell him that. Even good people.

I watch for this. I watch it happen to my friends, and I watch it happen to me. In others, I usually observe a healthy intuition of when to back off, when someone is acting like the Devil's Howdy-Doody.

For myself, this isn't always the case. This life is an experiment, remember? This is where things get interesting for me. I sort of poke at the Devil's embers, wondering what will happen. I want to know the next part of the story. I stand there on the metaphorical doorstep, ringing the damn buzzer and scanning the street expecting to see my friend skipping up the sidewalk with a 7-11 bag.

Objectively, I can see that this probably isn't such a good idea. And sometimes I am able to resist it. Other times though-- I feel like THAT's my work, THAT"s why I'm here-- to follow these things, to see where the Devil will go. Maybe it's a test of what I can take on without getting upset. Or maybe I just really want the end of the story. Or maybe I trust too much that people who let the Devil drive them for a little while are actually still good people.

I don't know. I'm only halfway though the experiment. I can't say it's going swimmingly. But there are moments of beauty, and kindness, and confirmation that whether we only go around once in this life or we go around a lot more-- Life is worth living.

I feel sorry for the Devil. If he were around, I'd buy him a cup o' Joe. Oh, sure-- he'd order the most expensive drink at Starbucks and then ditch me. But I'd shrug it off and go work a crossword puzzle or something.

The game's just not all that important from the bench. Or at least not the one I am sitting on.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

"...And know they love you."

I'm in Florida, visiting my parents.

Dad has this thing about fruit stands. He loves them. When we used to take family vacations, we stopped at virtually every fruitstand we passed along the road. My sister and I would groan, "But we just stopped at one!"

Dad would say, "Let's see what this guy has." I sort of associate long car trips with the smell of peaches and nectarines.

My sister and I believe it's the legacy of this passion for fruitstands that's the basis for a contemporary ritual we call "the food interrogation." This ritual traditionally takes place in the car, when they've picked one of us up at the airport and we're driving to their house.

Shortly after the customary "How was your flight?" questions are taken care of, at a lull in conversation, Dad will begin to carefully inquire about our fruit and vegetable preferences.

This drive from the airport was no exception. This time, he began with vegetables.

“Do you like vegetables?” Dad asked.

“He’s joking, right?” I asked Mom. It is always comic when he begins. He doesn't realize that we expect this interrogation, that he has asked us these same questions dozens of times.

“No, I don’t think he is.”

”Joking about what? I only wondered if you like vegetables.” He looks slightly injured.

“Yes, Dad. I like vegetables, “ I say as patiently as I can.

”What about fruit? Do you like fruit?”

“No, Dad. Not so much. It’s a carb thing.”

”Oh.” A pause while he considers this grave omission from my diet.

“What kind of vegetables do you like, then?”

I list my favorite vegetables. Tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms.


Yeah, onions.

Spinach, broccoli, green and red peppers.

I'm not a big fan of string beans.

Asparagus is good.

When he was driving-- (and he only stopped recently, after a car accident--) He frequently came home laden with small plastic bags containing zucchini, bananas, and for my sister -who has an intrepid palate-- the hottest hot peppers he could find. He took real delight in bringing things to us.

"Cupcake, look-- you said you like zucchini! I brought you some!"

His enjoyment in bringing us that stuff is so sweet. Yet the ritual of the food interrogation never fails to annoy me. I list the vegetables begrudgingly. I think, "Why doesn't he remember, ever, that I don't like fruit that much?" And I wish that weren't so.

Sometimes when I am with my parents, I feel like I am two people. The adult in me looks at them with an indulgent, loving appreciation-- so aware that I am lucky to still have them, so grateful for who they are. But the lurking teenager in me still sulks, wishing that Mom would puh-lease stop asking me if I want some Soy Milk, as I gave up my Non-Dairy phase in 1997. That even though I think her hair looks great, I don't want her hairdresser at JC Penney's to do my hair.

Yesterday, driving my father somewhere, I snapped at him when he said, "Look out!" as I was about to turn into a busy street. A truck had pulled out about 300 yards away. It was no threat to us. So I said, rather snottily, "Yes, Dad, I see it!" In a tone I wish I hadn't used.

Immediately, I put my hand on his soon to be 83-year-old arm and said, "I'm sorry I snapped at you." But the words couldn't be unsaid.

I no longer have the luxury of acting out my inner teenager. Every moment with them is precious. Every word they say, every experience shared, I try to etch indelibly in my memory.

They're wonderful people. They have been bewilderingly supportive parents, loving kind parents whose bounty of wisdom and unconditional love has baffled me. It's almost God-like. Having no children of my own, I don't know if I could ever find that wealth of forgiveness, of unquestioning respect and affection.

I'm trying, now, to find it. They deserve it.

So, yes, Pops-- I like vegetables. I like them fine. (And I love you and Mom.) Anything else you want to know? Just ask.