Thursday, December 29, 2005

Best laid plans...

I'm back in New Jersey. Despite my previous posting saying that I'd be driving up, I flew.

Why, you ask? Because, as I also noted in the previous posting...plans change, sometimes quite unexpectedly.

I never should have posted that I was driving up here. Even though I made concession to the possibility of mining accidents or other fateful occurences, my declaration forced the gods to thwart me. I made it 200 miles north of my parents house before the car broke down. It's got less than 10,000 miles on it, but it's been having problems since Dad was in a front-end collision. (Which is why he's decided not to drive any more. His vision isn't what it used to be. Which is why he was giving me the car.)

So the Ford garage 200 miles north of my parents' house fixed it, and I drove back to my parents house, and they're going to continue driving it short distances until they're sure all the little post-accident kinks have been found and they trust it enough to get me 1130 miles from their house to mine.

In the meantime, I will keep applying prayer and power steering fluid to the mini-van, which may get me around another few weeks. I am relying more on the prayer than the power steering fluid, but we'll see.

I am restless. Towers of boxes overpower my apartment, so that I can't relax in any room but the kitchen. I got back last night and discovered that while I was away last week, the people who bought the house built an illegal 2-bedroom apartment in the basement. My roommate said they've been moving their stuff in. So apparently now they will really be underfoot.

In building their apartment, they blocked off my dryer. And in fact it's now THEIR dryer, though I never agreed to that and am not real happy about it. When they made the offer on the house, they asked for the washer and dryer included. It wasn't included on the listing sheet, and the realtor forgot to tell me that they wanted it. I signed the contract in a hurry, as I was literally getting in the car to fly to Florida to visit my parents at the beginning of November, I didn't read the contract (I know, I know!) because the realtor explained it to me and then said, "Sign here." The realtor admitted it was his error and says he'll buy me a new washer dryer when I move to the new house. (The two there are 15 years old, and mine was brand new.)

In the meantime-- now I can't do my laundry at home. I suppose I can drive to Vermont, 279 miles, and do it at my house there. I'm not above using a laundromat. It's just that I didn't realize I'd HAVE to because I didn't know they were illegally building another apartment in the basement, and if you go back to my posting "Occupied!" you will see that the New Owner (wife) said I was perfectly welcome to continue using the dryer. That was of course before they build a wall around it.

I don't know where to go today, but I don't want to be here. I have business calls to make but I feel displaced. And I'm sad about something else, too, a decision I have to make about a situation that brings me little joy. (That little joy it brings me is dazzling. But there's so very little of it that it just ends up confusing me.)

And I hate this time of year because like everyone else I compare what I meant to do this year with what I actually accomplished. As I was caught up in and consumed by that horrible job I quit in October, 2005 was a wash for me. I wish there was a way to do it over. But I guess there is, and it's called 2006.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Headin' Back

Because my father is no longer driving, and because my stalwart minivan back in Jersey City is doing the automotive equivalent of coughing up blood, my parents are giving me my dad's car. So I am driving from Florida to New Jersey, starting out in, oh, an hour or so, and getting back there at some point or another, probably in the next 48 hours, if the Lord is willing.

(In my family, we never say anything is definite. This because once my Uncle Gary said that he and my Aunt Rose were going somewhere the next day, and no sooner did he utter the remark than there was an accident in the coal mine and he lost his finger. It was not a major handicap to him and in fact made him really good at tricking children with that "disappearing finger" trick grown-ups do-- but it set the precedant of cautious descriptions of plans. Besides, even without mining accidents, plans change...As I'm sure you've noticed, dear Reader, in your own life.)

But I am headed north, fortified with about 32 hours of books on tape. Dad has a Ford Focus and it will be strange to sit low on the road, versus high up amongs the birds and SUVs, as I have for 5 years in my minivan. I like tall cars.

I bought the minivan in 2001 when I thought I was going to head to Mexico to live on the beach with a 23-year old Australian surfer named Cameron. There were any number of reasons why this seemed like a very good idea at the time. I'd met Cam in Athens. He was pretty and fun, but not real bright. Still, I'd recently been in a horrible car accident (think 6 inches of Vermont slush and a hydroplaning Subari crashing headlong into a speeding Cavalier)-- and I wanted to get the hell out of Dodge. First, I bolted to Greece, having heard in The Jewel of The Nile that, "When the going gets tough, the tough go to Greece"-- and there I met this cute surfer boy, and after several bottles of the local wine, we decided to move to Mexico.

As I said, it seemed like a good idea at the time. I came back, bought a laptop and a minivan (to replace the ill-fated Subaru), and was supposed to pick Cam up at JFK a few days later.

Instead, I got a rueful phone call from Perth. It seems my young Adonis packed his passport in his suitcase, which he then checked for his flight. Being as I said, not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree, he copped an attitude with the Greek immigration guys. This is, dear Readers, an ill-advised course of action in any country, a fact of which I encourage you to make due note. They roughed him up a little and held him for a night in a cell at the Athens airport. And after that the poor darling wanted his Mummy. He changed his flight and hightailed it back to Australia.

I considered going to Mexico anyway. Instead, I went to New Orleans. The accident had me pretty freaked out about snow and anywhere south of Vermont sounded better than I was going to move there. I looked at apartments and found one I really liked about the Voodoo Museum-- all high ceilings and French doors opening onto the French Quarter and one of those dark inner courtyards. But instead fate intervened again, this time in the form of a bitch named Christian Crocker (know her?) who intercepted and stole the letter containing the Postal Money Order for my security deposit. We know it was Christian Crocker, who would have been my neighbor if I'd moved to that apartment above the Voodoo Museum, because she was stupid enough to white out the name on it and put her own. She cashed it, probably at the Ritz where she worked. Although the US Postal Inspector chased her down and made her repay me the money, the landlord, having not received my letter and money order, thought I'd flaked out. He rented the apartment to someone else. So although I'd priced the U-haul and had my Casey-girl shaved for the warmer weather, I had no apartment to move. In view of recent events, perhaps Miss Crocker was acting as an angel, not an asshat. Perhaps her intervention in my destiny was a blessing. At the time, it was not a thing that made me happy. And I still am pretty sure she was just a bitch with a coke-habit, even if it all worked out for the best.

So since I didn't want to go back down to NOLA look for another apartment, I moved to NYC. I arrived on August 11, 2001. Got a great apartment in the West Village, with a nice view of the Twin Towers.

Need I go on?

And here I am, driving back today. If anyone's looking for me, I'll be in the car heading north on 95. Mass, I'll honk as I drive through DC to say hi. If you hear a horn-- that'll be me.

Hope you all had a wonderful holiday. I did. But I'm glad to be headed back, all the same.

Happy blogging, til we meet again.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005



I am in Florida for Christmas. My sister is here, too. Bored with Barcelona, she spent last month in a small town in France, then is moving to Thailand next week. She came back for December to spend the holidays with us for the first time in 3 years, and to do PR for her book that came out the beginning of the month.

I got here Sunday night. Mom drove me in from the airport. When we turned into the driveway, I noticed the Christmas lights weren’t blinking from the tall hedge next to the house. First December those haven’t been there.

”Where are the lights?” I asked, a little frozen, waiting for her response.

”Oh, the hedge is too tall now. I decided not to bother.”

I registered this. Mom’s eighty-one now. Things are winding down.

I came in and my father and sister met us in the kitchen, with the little Pomeranian, Fang, who I brought down here from New Jersey when my mom’s other Pom, Tyler, died. We sat around the kitchen table talking, and because I always like to have a plan (whether or not I adhere to it), I said, “Okay, so what are we doing this week?”

One of the things I wanted to do was mail a box of Buckeyes to a friend. Mom said, “I didn’t make buckeyes this year. It seemed like too much trouble.”

I can’t say I was surprised to hear this. But I still had a physical reaction to it—sort of like a small electric shock to my neurological system. Every other Christmas since I left for college, when I got home for the holidays, there were trays and trays of buckeyes taking up space in the freezers.

Buckeyes have been a tradition in our family for as long as I can remember. They’re peanut butter balls dipped in a chocolate casing. The recipe makes about 10 trillion dozen, so it takes forever to make them. (And longer before they go away.) First you roll the balls and then dip them individually into the chocolate coating. When you're finished, there are so many of them that it’s like home-grown tomatoes in August: though they're delicious, they exist mostly to be given away. There’s more than one family can possibly eat.

Let the reader know two things:
1.) That my parents were childless for many years, and then having abandoned hope of producing offspring, were suddenly surprised, late in life, by producing two in quick succession, after all. (I remind you of this because those of you good with numbers may be trying to estimate Cupcake’s age—and that’s a difficult thing to do anyway, as Cupcake has TADD, Time Attention Deficit Disorder, and as a consequence her aging process has been random, so that one year she is might be much younger than she was in the previous year, only to leap several years ahead and back again in following years. This has created a certain ambiguity in her appearance which has delighted casting directors for years, as she can sort of assume any age, as required. (Cupcake would also like to thank Clarin’s sunscreen products for their assistance in her chrono-chamileon abilities, and to encourage her readers of any age to WEAR THE EFFING SUNSCREEN, YO!)

AND 2.) Cupcake, for the first time, made the Buckeyes herself.

It was a little sad. But a little joyful. At least Mom was there to supervise, and it felt somehow like a rite of passage. Perhaps all rites of passage have an element of sadness to them.

In Swaziland,the boys wrestle a Yak to the ground when they come of manhood. I wonder if as they are doing it, they also have a sense of wonderment, at going through the motions as if watching themselves. If they think, “Am I really doing this? Is it now my turn?”

At any rate, the chocolate coating mixture in the top of the double boiler was the color of the Swazi mud in the corral where the wrestling is done. (I know because after the wrestling is done there is a ceremony, which I went to, where all the women had to stand barefoot in the ankle deep mud, the color of which I will never forget.)

So the Buckeyes are made. I didn’t make the full batch, so I only have 5 trillion dozen to disperse through the universe as tokens of Cupcake’s family holiday goodwill. If you would like some, email me and I will send you some. I like the thought of a readers sitting at their computers, reading blogs while eating chocolate peanut-butter balls I rolled, one after another, as emblems of holiday tradition. They’re very good. (Although I actually haven’t eaten one for two decades, since I noticed a long time ago that whenever I eat sugary things, I get a headache and often start to cry for no reason.)

There is surely more to come on being home for the holidays. And there’s more I could write about right now, like the fact that my roommate in Jersey City was awakened this morning by an intruder opening the door to her room and turning on the lights. She reports that when she sat up in bed and said "What the $*#@?!”, he screamed like a girl and ran away. (After saying so silly things that I don’t feel like explaining right now.)

There are reasons to wonder if perhaps this “break-in” is connected to my lovely new “landlords”, the people who bought the house from me. And I cannot WAIT to get out of there.

But that’s for another time. Right now I just wanted to let concerned readers know that the Buckeyes have been made. I may even go out and decorate the hedge with twinkling lights.

It’s great to be with the family, though. I wonder how long that will last. I hope the whole time I am down here. I hope I can get through all the days without losing sight of how precious this time with them is. Then it really would be the best Christmas ever.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Nobody lives on my street. Not even me.

I’m referring to my street in Vermont, a dirt road flattened annually by the town roller as “Mud Season” ends. A road faithfully plowed and sanded during the winter. A road that runs a mile off a state highway and offers up to the forest only four houses, all of them empty.

I suppose animals live there. It is true wilderness, though, and they are mostly itinerant. Like the bear my old roommate saw asleep in the driveway one sunny day. Or the three moose that knocked down my six-foot fence as they leapt over it. Or the wild turkey, gobble-gobbling right outside my front door one morning when I opened it. Or the pheasant that stroll through the yard at times. Or the tiny, orange tree salamanders that look like they should be in a jungle somewhere, not on a mountain in Vermont.

Those seem like random visitors, such as myself.

There was an active beaver dam down the hill when I moved here, but a few years ago they gave up that place and built another one upstream.

I suppose the mice live here full time. I encourage them to leave, but they persist, lavishing chocolate jimmies on my countertops. Last time I was here, against my animal-loving heart, I left De-con out to thin their ranks. It breaks my heart, but they’re squatters. Literally. The jimmies are evidence. All houses in Vermont have mice, at least in winter.

The first house sits closest to the road. The people who owned it (the “Goldens”, I believe the name was) moved to Florida two years ago. It’s for sale. The locals think it’s overpriced. ($285K, but with 10 acres of land and abutting National Forest.) It will probably be bought by “outtastaters” like myself, who will either come up sometimes, as I do, or try to live here full time without going stark raving mad, as I did. (That’s meant to read, “as I tried to live here, not “as I went stark raving mad.” Even though I have now cleared it up, I like the ambiguity and am leaving the sentence as it is.)

Past the Golden’s old house, there’s a little bridge. If you go over that and down about 100 yards or so, you come to Elsie’s house. Elsie’s house look like Disney built it to be the perfect Grandmother’s House. She used to sit on her screened in porch amidst her plants, watching the birds come to her numerous birdfeeders. She was rosy-cheeked and bespectacled, like one of those dried-apple dolls they sell in Ye Olde Vermonte Tourist Shoppes. I liked her so much.

She died last spring, two weeks after her 100th birthday. She lived alone until the very end.

Last time I saw Elsie, she asked me if I was going to sell my house, now that I’m living in New Jersey most of the time. I said no.

I said, “Elsie, I intend to own that house til I’m about your age, at least.” She nodded approvingly.

“What about you?” I asked. “You selling anytime soon?” She knew I was teasing.

She said, “Cupcake, when I leave here, I’m going feet first in a pine box.”

She was almost right. She went feet first, but on a gurney. She’d broken her hip, just a few days after her 100th birthday. Shortly afterwards, it was lights out for Elsie. (When you’re that age and you break something, it spirals downwards fast.)

Her family plans to keep the house. There was a truck in the driveway when I drove in yesterday—somebody doing work. I should have stopped and asked what was up. (You can do that in Vermont, and it’s called “Being Neighborly.” In New Jersey, it would be called, “Being Up In Somebody Else’s Business” or “Being An Asshole.” )

Then there’s Eden’s house. It really belongs to her family, but I think of it as Eden’s house because she’s my age and the only one in that family that I know. They live in a brownstone on the Upper East Side (read as: not poor), and their house is big, renovated with bells and whistles like Jacuzzi and granite countertops, they have tennis courts and a swimming hole (which I would like to sneak into some hot summer night, if I ever came up here with someone to sneak into it with) and acres and acres of sprawling scenery, so gorgeous that you want to put whipped cream on it and eat it up with a spoon. When there’s snow, you wouldn’t even need the whipped cream.

And then the woods start. That’s where the Beaver Pond was, in the little brook that marks where the cleared land and the forest meet. If you go up the hill about half a mile, you come to my house. After my house, the road is what they call “Class 4”, meaning “drive at your own risk.” It goes all the way over the mountain to another town, but I’ve never gone over it. I think it’s about 15 miles as the crow flies.

But where the maintained road ends, there’s a big black gate. And behind the big black gate is my driveway, which leads to my house. My sanctuary. My home.

It’s a quirky house, built in three sections over three decades. The builder was Elsie’s brother-in-law, who everyone called Uncle Tom. First it was just a hunting cabin. But he kept building and finally moved up here full time for a while. I don’t remember why he sold it to the Nace family, but he did. They lived here for 15 years or so. And then they sold it to me.

I plan to keep it forever. I don’t think I could live in New Jersey and spend all that time in Manhattan if I didn’t know that I had somewhere to go where I can decompress. As I am writing this, I think there probably isn’t another living person for at least a mile in any direction. Just me, Momo, Boss, and the mice. (They’re still here, and they’re retaliating against me by trying to poison Momo and Boss. I keep finding blue De-Con pellets around the house, in the middle of the floor, and on the sofa cushions.)
I have to figure out who can deliver firewood, and motivate myself to shovel a path down the stone walkway to my car. But everywhere I go, I am surrounded by beauty, silence and solitude, and as always, I walk around here with my heart in my mouth, reveling at the gift I’ve been given by having this refuge.

Nobody lives on this street. Not even me. But I think those of us who are not here, think of it constantly, the longing for running through us like the mice through our houses. I know Eden does. She told me. And Elsie’s granddaughter, Leslie, who begged the family not to sell the house when Elsie died. And Amy, a girl who visits my house to write sometimes. And me. And last time I was here, I was driving to town at sunset, and I could swear I saw Elsie sitting on her porch. She’d passed away several months before. But I wasn’t the least bit surprised. I waved.

I would leave either, given the choice.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Coffee, and Desire

I think I am going to Vermont tonight. That’s good.
Let me explain to you about Cupcake and coffee: Cupcake’s a tea-drinking girl. Why is that, you ask? Because Cupcake loooooves coffee. Too much. When Cupcake lived in Italy, she drank at least eight espressos a day. (Technically, the plural is “espressi.”) Coffee can be a costly habit, and Cupcake tends to be thrifty.

It was not, however, the money that made Cupcake abandon coffee. It was the realization that the pleasure of the coffee she was drinking went unnoticed. She was always looking ahead, longingly, for the next cup, and the one after that.

And let me explain to you about Cupcake and dogs: Cupcake likes dogs because they live in the moment. As a girl who climbs up into the treehouse of her thoughts and won’t come down for dinner, Cupcake finds that dogs remind her to Be Here Now. Cupcake finds living with dogs to be a valuable practice. She comes home every day to be met by wagging Zen Masters, who keep her focused on the NOW. (When she can snatch the pebble from Momo’s paw, she knows it will be time to leave.)

When Cupcake realized that drinking coffee kept pushing her out of the present, she gave it up for years. She now drinks it only on special occasions, while muttering a warning to herself to be on the lookout for repercussions of unwarranted desire, which inevitably follow. For Cupcake, coffee is an addiction. She recognizes the defining maxim of addiction: “one is too many, and a thousand isn’t enough.”

As Cupcake says to herself when she is eschewing the siren’s song of coffee: “Anything I want that much has to be bad for me.”

Desire is fine, when it’s a pleasant tug on the sleeve of happy anticipation.

That’s the way Cupcake feels about tea. “Oh, goody! Let’s have a cup of tea, shall we?” That’s the way the thought of tea approaches her.

Coffee slides its hand up her thigh and says, “You know you want me.” She squirms, hoping to get away from its intoxicating scent, its guile, its practiced, expert seduction. She wants it desperately. But knows that if she succumbs she will give up her soul to have it; she will become slave to it. It will overtake her life. Again.

She must be guarded against it, despite her passion for it. It is a passion that will never be satisfied. Cupcake knows that one of the secrets to a happy life is to avoid, as much as humanly possible, desiring things that will lead to disappointment in the end.

There was something I wanted to do this weekend, something that never manifested. The entire weekend was about this thing (which is somewhat complicated, and inexcusably ridiculous, and too revealing for me to name). As I sat in the café staring into space over the newspaper, or listlessly packed another box of my possessions for my imminent move, or stood in the four-person-deep line at Tiffany’s to buy a present, this thing I wanted to do pressed against my head like an external migraine.

This thing offers no polite tug on the sleeve sort of anticipation. This weekend, Cupcake’s desire for this unnamed thing was arm-wrestling her roughly, practically tearing the cartilage in her rotary cuff. And it failed to find fruition, as such rough-tugging desires so often do. Cupcake was forlorn and weary of wanting, til about 3:30 am last night when she felt suddenly elated, for reasons she still doesn’t understand, seeing the humor in the situation and suddenly relaxing.

Her metaphorical arm hurts and bears a number of bruises, but she is otherwise unscathed.

Still. I am going to Vermont. It tends to reset the meter of my mind, and I think I need that. My brain turned over thousands of miles this weekend. I was not in the present, and the place where my mind took me was not a pretty or comfortable place.

Anything I desire that much has to be bad for me.

Oh, and bad for me it is. Time to hit that reset button, and drive.

Friday, December 09, 2005

About the dogs...

Okay, I know that the dog thing in the last post was silly. You'd have to know Momo (aka "Frecklebelly") for it to make sense. He's an imperious little dog with a split personality, alternatingly kissing your ass with the most adorable noises and facial expressions, and then growling and muttering through curled lips, threatening to call in the ASPCA because you didn't put the right amount of Blue Cheese Salad dressing on his kibble. He won't eat the kibble without the salad dressing, you see. He's a little priss.

Boss is a sweet good ol' boy, a rescued beagle from Georgia. In March he was scrawny and sick. Now he's fat as an overstuffed sausage, partly from eating the kibble that Momo turns his nose up if I haven't prepared it properly. Boss came to me from my old job-from-hell, where he lived in the Alzheimer's unit. He got confused and peed on the floor there. (Just twice, but it got him fired.) He was confused because some of the residents were were doing the same thing. That's also where he started getting fat. Nobody there could remember if he'd already been fed. He ran with that like the puppy in the toilet paper commercial.

Enough about dogs now. I just wanted to explain. My roommate apparently was the only one who thought any of it was the least bit funny.

Should you have wondered, yes, I do keep a drawer full of sugar free strawberry Red Vines for moments of angst. They seem to do the trick.

Actually, I used to keep them for Casey. They were her favorite treat. When she died, I started eating them myself.

Enough about dogs, already, Cupcake.


This weekend...have to see a play, have to pack some boxes. Hope to avoid the inevitable Al Quaeda meeting that will be held in my basement. Have a little present shopping to do. Have to back Seven-Layer Bars because the oven at the cafe is broken and there aren't enough pastries to sell. Every now and then I make Seven Layer Bars because Leila, who owns the cafe, only makes yuppie stuff like croissant, scones and madelines, and damn it, the people want junk. Sometimes I'll be sitting there struggling over Su Doku or my novel, people will come in and look at the pastries and say, sadly, "Isn't there anything chocolate?"

It was under duress that Leila, the owner, started making a few chocolate croissant. She's not big into sweets.

The Seven-Layer bars are nothing but sweet, and they sell flatteringly well. And the cute barrista-boys eat them, too.

It snowed last night. I wish I was in Vermont.

Have a great Friday everybody.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Cupcake Answers More Readers' Questions

Again, dear Readers, I cannot thank you enough for the constant influx of mail. Nothing sets Cupcake's heart quite a pitter-patting as when she clicks on her e-mailbox to discover dozens of friendly epistolary greetings. Your collective generosity is exceeded only by your collective curiosity, and therefore Cupcake has decided to answer several frequently asked questions all at once, publicly on the blog, hoping to save other inquisitive readers the effort of typing more than is absolutely necessary. She wishes carpel tunnel syndrome on no one.

So, in no particular order-- let's see...

Cupcake, you often refer to "the dogs", and yet other than the late departed Casey, you've given us no descriptions of these creatures. What's up with that?

Well, reader, you've landed on a very sticky point. The dogs I presently live with have a very sharp lawyer, who made me sign a confidentiality agreement when I adopted them. For this reason, I have to be very careful what I disclose about them until it is cleared by their canine PR department. What I can tell you is that both are small and male, one is a purebred and one is a mutt. One is very sweet and goofy, and the other is deceptively "cute", but has the heart of Baby Stewie from "Family Guy" and is undoubtedly plotting the destruction of, if not the entire human race, at least the humans living in this house.

Hang on a sec.

What? I can't say that? Crap.

Okay-- scratch that. I'm just going to say this: While Cupcake confirms that she does presently live with two dogs, she can offer no further information about them at this time. The press will be notified when a statement has been prepared. Thank you. No further questions on this topic.

Tell us about your sister's book, Cupcake.

How timely of you to inquire, Reader, as my sister's new book is being released only this week! It is called What Every American Should Know About Who's Really Running The World, and is published by Plume. My sister's name is Melissa Rossi. And in case you're wondering, for various reasons that usually end in an animated family faux-argument, Cupcake does not share her sister's surname.

As for the book, it's timely, well-written (Cupcake edited several chapters herself)- and contains information which is available to everyone but which has not, to Cupcake's knowledge, hithertofore been assembled in one tome. Generally speaking, the further one reads into the book, the more one raises one's eyebrows at the bizarre happenings of the political and business machines around us. Cartels everywhere, and not a hero to turn to, to ride the bad guys out of Dodge. Let's just say that Cupcake's family encouraged Cupcake's sister to email chapters to friends as soon as they were written, as there was some concern that she might be snuffed out during the book's writing. Perhaps paranoid, it and judge for yourself.

Did you contribute anything to the book?

Oh, Reader-- you had to ask, didn't you? I blushingly admit that yes, one or two sidebars were my idea and composition. (Cupcake curtsies low to rumbling applause.) Thank you, friends. Thank you.

Cupcake, would you say you are happy?

Oh dear. How to answer that one. Overall? Yes, I'd have to say yes. My days pass pleasantly enough. I have family and friends that I love, a little intrigue here and there, and a desk full of sugar-free strawberry Red Vines, which, at only 1.125 net carbs per Vine, offer a compensatory pick-me up if something tweaks Cupcake's heart and leaves her momentarily blue. So, yes, overall, Cupcake would affirm that she is happy. Though like many people, sometimes she longs for something more.

Something more than what?

That's just it, isn't it? Something more than sugar-free strawberry Red Vines, even--- some great quest of love or adventure-- something like when Cupcake was younger and traveling through Africa with a handsome Canadian rake whose boundless zest for life made him simultaneously the most fascinating of companions and the most maddening of them. It was a time like Jackson Browne's line, "When the roads were as many as the places I had dreamed of, and my friends and I were one."


Cupcake still dreams of those nights in Swaziland, with the fog tiptoeing up the hill, seducing everything to soft-focus, and convincing Cupcake and the Canadian to drink more whiskey and play chicken with lit cigarettes. (Cupcake won.)

Now, life on the edge has subsided to a desk drawer full of Red Vines. Only a few months ago, Cupcake used to think, chewing on the edge of a Red Vine, "I'll just pretend I'm in New Orleans, smoking a cigar and staying up way past my bedtime over a snifter of some expensive brandy, while listening to a brilliant guy explain like pure poetry the physics of a bullet's trajectory ---the way it presses forward, flying, moving up until it falls. And fall it will."

Now, even that dream of escaping to a brandy-swirled New Orleans is gone. Because, of course, New Orleans is gone. Cupcake has enough morbid curiosity to want to go to New New Orleans. But she sadly reflects that it is likely to disappoint, the way she suspects that Swaziland now has turned to a series of strip malls, built up with KFC and Taco Bell and Dollar Stores. Before, when there was just a KFC in the middle of nowhere, it was kind of funny. She suspects that, now, it would be kind of sad.

And the snows of Kilimanjaro are melting. Soon they will be gone, before Cupcake can get there. With or without the Canadian, who long ago promised that they'd ascend that peak together someday.

Cupcake's heard a lot of promises from a lot of men. That one, you know, she kind of did believe. But no matter.

The trajectory--- the bullet always falls.

Damn. Something more than what, you ask? More than Jersey City real estate. Though, now that she's dug the Red Vines out of the desk, Cupcake concedes that perhaps she's just being sentimental about the past.

Why don't you post a picture of yourself on the blog? What do you look like?

Hm...yes. I do keep meaning to do that and then I think of reasons not to. Like that I enjoy being a woman of mystery. And that I hate commitments. I'd feel like I'd actually have to look like the picture. Which is hard for me, because every three months I look different. It's always been like that.

If you want celebrity references, then I'll tell you this: I am sometimes told that I look a bit like Natalie Wood (presumably before the boating accident)-- and I am frequently told that my mannerisms and diction remind people of Jeanine Garafolo (hopefully before she became the embarassingly strident co-host of Air America's evening show, Majority Report).

What? Oh. Yes, I'll read it.

Okay, guys. I've just been handed a memo from the dogs' legal and PR advisors. Let's see what it says:

To the Readers of Cupcake Central: It has been determined by the parties of the First Part, hereafter referred to as "Boss" (a beagle) and "Momo" (a dachshund/poodle mix)that the party of the Second Part, hereafter referred to as "Cupcake" or "that bitch who said we're getting pudgey and halfed our kibble portions at dinner tonight"- ahem-- the party of the Second Part-- where was I? -- oh yes, has permission only to reveal at present the name, breed and sex of "Boss" (beagle, male, neutered) and "Momo" (dachshund/poodle mix, male, neutered)----

What? Well, it's written here-- RIGHT here: "neutered" -- See? I was just reading the memo--- Then you shouldn't have put it IN the memo, if I wasn't supposed to read it--!

Fine!!! I'll just cut the posting short then.

Bye everyone.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


I am occupied.

No, not in any “keep busy, for the Devil finds work for idle hands” sense. (The Devil, believes me, tosses plenty of bad behavior balls my way. I catch as many of them as I can, but I have a short attention span and often wander off, even on him.)

I am occupied, as in occupied military zone. The invading force? The people who bought my house. They keep coming over and trotting around as if they OWN the place.

Okay, so--- they do own the place. But I didn't think they were going to be all up in my face so quickly. I'm thinking that I'd better put 911 on my speed dial, because if it escalates, there might be an INCIDENT.

The agreement was that I was staying in the house til the end of the year. That was part of the offer. They asked if, pretty please, we could close early. They’re doing a 1031 Tax-Deferred Exchange, whereby clever real estate investors like myself get to deprive the IRS out of a whole lot of money. But there are time limits and restrictions, and to comply with theirs, they had to close before Thanksgiving.

I’m an easy-goin’ gal. I said, “Sure. Why not?”

I’ll tell you why not. Because as soon as the papers were signed, they started breathing down my neck. The day after closing, Cupcake comes trotting happily down the stairs to let the dogs out the backdoor. She is wild-haired, half-asleep, and wearing (THANK GOD!) a ridiculous set of PJs that she got for Christmas last year—sky-blue satin boxers and top. She releases the dogs to the great outdoors to perform their ablutions, and then discovers that the new Owner (husband) is standing next to her. Where did he come from? Why, the basement.

It’s a bit jolting to find a virtual stranger that close to her when she’s wearing PJs. Usually, when Cupcake awakens to find a stranger next to her, she’s in her birthday suit.

Just kidding. Those days are gone. (Ah, the 80s. You kids don’t know what you missed.)

But Cupcake had been known, occasionally, to trot down those stairs wearing a thong and t-shirt. Or just a t-shirt. Or even just a thong. Those days, too, are gone.

Apparently, the basement is a veritable Aladdin’s Cave of treasure and mystery. At least, so it appears by the interest the new owners show in it. They keep coming over and hanging around in it. In the two plus years Cupcake lived in this house, she used the basement for three things: 1.) Storage; 2.) Laundry; 3.) Cavorting with the delightful rabbit-in-residence.

The basement also served, briefly, as rehearsal space for The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, a play Cupcake produced and starred in. (With the help of a heck of a lot of makeup to make her look older, she adds hastily, for the benefit of anyone who’s read the 1971 Pulitzer Winning play by Paul Zindel.) The play is the reason that Cupcake acquired the delightful rabbit-in-residence, but nothing, nothing, nothing could persuade her to part with that rabbit, whose charms Cupcake was quite unprepared for. Cupcake is smitten. She admits it. She’s in bunny-love. And highly recommends rabbits as pets. Cupcake herself never thought it would be all that interesting to own a rabbit. She asserts emphatically that it is.

The basement, you must understand, has for the past nine months been the domain of Miss Clover Bunny. Last year, while Cupcake was on a long trip to Vermont, a previous roommate staged a coup on behalf of Clover, liberating her from her hutch and giving her free reign of the basement. (Perhaps “rein” is the appropriate spelling, but from Clover’s point of view, it’s “reign.”)


Last week, on the afternoon of the sky-blue satin pajama incident, Cupcake was accosted again on the back stairs by the new Owner (wife). While she seems well intentioned, no one has ever accused this woman of concerned with tact.

New Owner (wife): Oh, Cupcake—about the basement. I’ll just arrange to have all your things down there thrown away, shall I?

Cupcake: What?

New Owner (wife): I’m assuming that you don’t want any of that old stuff. Don’t worry about a thing—We’ll be having a dumpster come, so we’ll just pitch it for you.

Note to reader: the stuff in basement consists of boxes of old documents like tax returns, etc (approx 6 of those), suitcases containing Cupcake’s summer clothes, two chairs and a futon Cupcake isn’t using at the moment, and various stage props, laid out on a table: a plaster skull (Hamlet), the skeleton of a dead cat (Marigolds), an old rotary telephone, a piggy bank, etc. And power tools such as befit being in a basement. Not an overflowing basements full of crap that would take a huge amount of work to deal with, or anything indicating that Cupcake confuses basements with garbage dumps. Largely, it was a vast terrain of emptiness, suitable for a happy bunny to hop through.

Cupcake: Um…what are you talking about? I’ll go through it before I move out. But thank you for the offer. But I have plenty of time because I am staying til the end of the year, as was agreed. In the contract. The end of the year.

N. O. (w): Oh, no. Oh, no, no, no, no, no. We said you could stay IN THE APARTMENT for the rest of the year. The basement isn’t part of that.

Cupcake: Actually, the agreement was that I could “stay” til the end of the year. And as I USE the basement every day, and my rabbit lives there, I took that to mean the basement, too.

N.O. (w): I made it very clear to everyone that I would need to get into the basement as soon as we closed.

Cupcake: Well, um… this is the first I’m hearing of it.

N. O. (w): As I said, don’t worry about a thing. I’ll just have someone come next week and throw all your things away for you. Don’t trouble yourself over it. Although you’re PERFECTLY WELCOME to continue doing your laundry until you move out.

Cupcake: And if I give you the Sudentenland, do you promise we’ll have Peace In Our Time?

N.O. (w): What?

Cupcake: Nothing. Just…I need to think about this.

N.O. (w): Well, I have an exterminator coming next week. Just in case there’s some sort of vermin crawling around. You know, with the rabbit down there and everything, heaven knows what’s crawled in. The exterminator will be spraying the basement quite thoroughly. Just so you know. Spraying the basement. Thoroughly. The rabbit—well, just so you know.

I went upstairs and called my lawyer, who heaved a heavy sigh and looked at the contract and told me that “stay” was not defined, and it was the first he’d heard that I had to vacate the basement, too. Called the realtor. Ditto.

But she kept calling about it. And coming over with no notice. Twice she's brought her mother, who only speaks Arabic and who walks through my apartment pointing at things and shaking her head, clearly telling her daughter in loud, shrill Arabic that the place is a dump. (Yes, the floors need to be re-done. That's one of the reasons I'm moving. And I hate the layout of the kitchen, too.)

The new Owner (husband)keeps showing up and "fixing things." Twice now, he's "fixed" the back door so that it won't open at all. And once he "fixed" the front door so that it wouldn't open, either. Mercifully, he never fixed them at the same time, so one or the other has been usable. It's just a matter of time til they lock me in or out completely. Accidentally, of course.

I swear to God there was an Al Quaeda meeting in my basement on Sunday. There was a large group of Arabic people in my basement for five hours. With my rabbit, no less.

I bolted, coward that I am. I abandoned my rabbit and dogs and fled to the café. When I came back, they were still there. FIVE hours later. When the back door slammed behind them, I ventured down the stairs to de-brief Clover about the experience.

Al Quaeda had pulled all the ceiling tiles down. The rabbit was sitting in a pile of ceiling tile rubbish, washing her face.

I’m not even French, but I surrendered. I called a friend and we brought all my boxes, power tools, summer clothes, and stage props upstairs. And I brought Clover upstairs, too. And now she’s in a hutch. And she looks very very sad.

I can’t let her run around upstairs because of the dogs. (She calls them “the predators.”) So she’s in a different room with a closed door, surrounded by boxes and in her hutch. (She calls it “prison.”)

When rabbits are very scared and upset, they pant. You never want to hear a bunny pant. It’s like having a child with a high fever. There’s nothing you can do. And it’s agonizing. Clover was panting last night.

I took her down the basement for a while, and she seemed okay. But I can’t let her play down there, once the exterminator comes. I’m afraid she’ll step on poison and then lick it off her paws. Rabbits are very clean, like cats.

Vermin, indeed.

The original sales agreement gave me the option to rent my apartment for a couple of months. The new house will not be vacant til mid to late January. So there’s a months gap.

But I am not staying at my old house. It would end in bloodshed. I might go to Vermont, but my roommate and I were talking last night about maybe subletting a place in the City for a few weeks, because it would be fun.

What have we learned, Reader? We have learned (again) that clean breaks are the best. That as it would be foolish to, for example, divorce someone and then remain living with them, it is also foolish to sell your house and then remain living in it. Blurry lines = no good.

So I am occupied. I wish there were street signs to change. I dream of putting tiny, invisible pin pricks in the plastic pump of the washing machine innards, the day before I leave. (But I won’t.) I think of Penn and Teller bringing a box of cockroaches onto the David Letterman set, and I wonder where they got them.

Vive la Resistance!

I hope you never have to hear a rabbit pant. It’s a sad, sad sound.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Winding Roads of the Heart

There are some people I will always love, no matter what they do. And some of them are strangers.

Prince Charles, for example. I feel very affectionately towards him. Am I the only person who saw Diana’s charm but nevertheless sided with Charles in the divorce?

It’s not his public side that I feel connected to, though. I feel like I know him, like we’re friends. Sometimes I dream about him. Once, I dreamed that I was Prince Charles and I was digging sod. It was a very vivid dream. I remembered it when I woke up—the feeling of the spade in my hand, the way after a while it begins to burn, even through gloves. The sensation of pushing the blade through the sod, the crunch it makes, satisfying movement of shoulders and upper arm. Later, that day I heard on the news that he was in Scotland at spending the day working at a peat farm.

That seemed a touch coincidental.

In The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck says that love is when we extend our egos enough to include another person. If someone hurts my friend, I get angry. That’s because the person I love sits within my ego’s boundaries.

Sometimes, those boundaries of mine seem rather randomly set. It’s like the erratic winding roads of Boston, following the paths of early citizens taking their cattle to graze on the Common. (Thus it is a city designed, not by urban planners, but rather by bovine ones.)

The roads of my heart wind like that, circuitous, random, and sometimes defying logic. My affections include some very perplexing people, both known and unknown. Where unknown, it's just that my awareness of their existence is imbued with adeep and inexplicable tenderness. This is bewildering enough when the object of my inexplicable tenderness is a celebrity— the aforementioned Prince of Wales, and others. Bono, for example, who I feel I know- not through his music, but because years ago I had a series of dreams that I was his girlfriend, waiting in his hotel room for him to get back from shows. In the hotel, I watched CNN, I called friends while hanging upside down from the hotel bed, I flossed my teeth and scrutinized my face in the hotel bathroom. I put on make up so I'd look dazzling when he got back. I ate peanuts out of the mini-bar. Eventually I’d hear the boys all coming down the hall, shouting and stomping in the corridor, and I’d run to the door, or he’d open it, and I’d say, “Hey! How’d it go?” And then we'd hang out, either with or without the rest of the band. (That Edge guy has B.O., by the way.) And then we'd end up very satisfactorily in bed. (Though the dreams usually end before the R rating was jeopardized.)

This makes sense to me because if I WAS dating Bono, I’d be unlikely to go the shows. I like U2 (who doesn’t?) but I don’t particularly like concerts. One of my earliest memories is plugging my ears and shouting over deafening music, “Daddy! Make that black man stop playing the guitar so loud!” Years later I would realize that the black man was Hendrix, opening for the Monkees at Cincinnati Gardens in one of the freakiest musical combinations of history.

And there are others I feel connected to. Minor Kennedys. Not the big players. Rarely-heard of Shrivers and— I don’t know. It’s weird. It seems random.

But sometimes this inexplicable tenderness is for non-celebrities, ordinary people I’ve never seen before. When I meet them, the feeling hits me over the head. Usually, the first time I meet such people, it's like I am recognizing them. The recognition is different from the tenderness. Some people I just “recognize.” But others are not only strangely familiar but already beloved. As though my love for them preceded my awareness that they actually were alive.

The boy who is probably the great love of my life was one of those. He was Australian, and his name was Robert. The first time I saw him, he was walking up my driveway to come over for coffee. He was my roommate’s girlfriend’s roommate’s houseguest, and she said, “I think you might like this guy. Let’s invite the boys over to your house.” So she called them and did.

There he was, walking up my driveway, and I looked at him and had an immediate reaction. I turned to my roommate’s girlfriend and said—I remember this quite clearly—“What on earth were you thinking? He’s not my type at all!”

So much for love at first sight.

Then he walked in the door and our eyes met. My first thought then was, “Oh, THERE you are.”

Our first conversation was about whether I should marry him so he could stay in the US. We had a thing for 2 years, though we never saw each other in the same country twice. It started in the US, then I went to Australia, then we met in Belgium and finally Norway.

It ended, as such things often do. But it ended very amicably. Having loved him before I met him, it wasn’t like I had any choice in the matter. In fact, I did the ending, because under the circumstances (that he was living in Norway) I thought he'd be happier without worrying about me. I suggested we date other people. The circumstances changed, but the emotions were ever constant. I always only wanted him to be happy. And by all accounts he is, married to a Norwegian girl, now the father to a baby daughter named Hedda. I know this because when I met his family, we all felt the same sense of recognition and affection for each other, as if we’d always known each other. They keep, occasionally, in touch.

Robert's someone else’s husband, and we haven’t spoken in years. And yet I love him with that sincere inherent tenderness. How could I not? I delight that he is happy. Though I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I hadn't been such a jolly good sport about everything. Still, God, who does seem to have a sense of humor and of justice (who knew?), winked at me by having Robert develop a sudden, intense, adult-onset allergy to dogs. I’m sorry about that for Robert’s sake.But I think that's God saying, “See? He wasn’t the one. We’re still working the plan here. Not to worry.” ('Cause in case you hadn't picked up on this, I kinda like dogs.)

But back to the original thought: the heart has its own agenda. Why? Why are there people whose souls I cannot help but love, even if I’ve ever met them? And why is it that those people seem to be able to do anything without my affection for them changing one whit? My affections have a logic all their own, that my ego (such as it is, poor, small bruised thing) does not challenge.

But Cupcake, why do you say your ego is a small, bruised thing?

Oh, I don’t know. Maybe because it is. Sometimes that’s a blessing and sometimes it’s a curse. Like, if you have only a tiny ego, any injury to it is, ipso facto, also tiny. Objectively, I know I am a good person. At least, I try to offer kindness and live within my own moral code. Yet sometimes I seem to be untouched by the ravages of self-interest. It's perplexing because I see it's unusual and I wonder sometimes if I'm like those people with no sense of pain, who put their hands on hot stoves and only notice when the smell of burning flesh fills the room.

We could look at psychological scripting and make up theories about how I was warped by certain things in my childhood. But actually, it was a very nice childhood, sans trauma or abuse, involving lots of weekends at the lake with the boat and noodle salad. But obviously something went amiss, for me to be like this. And I don’t want to theorize about where that may have happened. What's the point? (Besides, I don’t remember who has my blog address and who doesn’t. And my sister once posted some rather harsh paragraphs about me in her blog, the discovery of which caused me a few weepy hours. I don’t want to inflict that on anyone else.)

Anyway, it doesn’t matter why my ego has faulty wiring. What matters is what I do about that. I force myself to build it up. I try to take up space in my own life. (Hence this blog.) My New Year’s resolution for the past several years has been “Be Selfish.” I never manage to keep it. Although I had a breakthrough yesterday when, shopping at the 24/7 Ghetto Mart, I took the last TWO Purdue rotisserie chickens, which get marked down to $1.50 each after midnight. At first I took only one of them, thinking perhaps someone else would be happy for the other. But having made my rounds and seeing that chicken still there, I forced myself to wheel my cart back there and grab it. Trying to live a low-carb lifestyle can be expensive, and a girl needs all the $1.50 rotissrie chicken she can get.

Yet I was talking about inexplicable, undeniable, inherent love. That tenderness that I feel for certain folk. It's puzzling- I suppose in a good way, like Su Doku.

Here are some non-celebrity people I felt inexplicable tenderness for from the first moments: Two girls, Laurel and Charlene, I met on the train from Kyle of Localsh to Glasgow once. A 14 year old boy named Paul whose family was on a 2-week tour of the Alpine Countries when I was a tour guide in Europe. An old man named Otto, ditto. (Different tour group.) Someone whose blog I read but don’t correspond with at all. A guy named Nick Lynn who went to Oxford with a guy I briefly worked with. My high school friend Bryan’s Freshman year roommate, Simon. Someone I met on the internet who should have been a fling but keeps turning up like a bad penny, or a leit-motif. A lisping, eccentric waiter at a diner near Union Square.

Um…Cupcake, do you have a point here?

Yes, Reader. At least I think I do. I suppose it’s just the observation that love is like life, and sometimes there are odd twists and the road takes us strange places that we didn't know we were headed for. (“Hey! What the----! How did we get to Boston Common?”) And sometimes things happen in such a way it seems as if they were meant to be, with familiar characters making entrances as if we were waiting for them all along. Our relationship precedes the introduction.

And maybe that’s just the way it is. Maybe certain things are predestined, certain people are supposed to show up in our lives to teach a certain lesson or something.
Maybe there is some sort of plan for it all.

If Hendrix can open for the Monkees, anything is possible.

Friday, December 02, 2005

The Potsdam Guard

King Friedrich Wilhelm I, father of Friedrich the Great (contemporary of Louis XV and why I started thinking about Friedrich Wilhelm, after my musings on Les Louis the other day--)

Anyway, Friedrich Wilhelm I was an odd little man who beat his children and suffered from deep depression. His greatest interest in life was his army, especially a special group of soldiers called The Potsdam Guard. These men were all giants. He had spies around Europe whose jobs were to keep the ear to the ground for stories of exceptionally tall men. These men would then be scouted to join the Potsdam Guard. If they refused, they'd be kidnapped and forced to be in the Guard anyway.

Many of the men were cretins who didn't really understand what was being asked of them. He brought them from as far away as Spain and Russia. He dressed them in designer uniforms of blue with dashing ribbons and sashes. And on his darkest days of depression, the only thing that could cheer him up was having them march single file through his bedroom.

When Freidrich Wilhelm died, the Prussian Guard was disbanded. And suddenly the streets of Europe were glutted with very tall morons, all trying to find their way home.

I've always thought that was an interesting story. I love those crazy Brandenburgs. I liked them ever since I learned that Friedrich the Great, a great lover of dogs, made sure that there were royal graves for his dogs, next to his own at the palace of San Souci.

And I like the thought of rosy-cheeked Friedrich Wilhelm, chasing away the blues by lounging on his bed in powdered wig, watching his soldiers and marveling at each of them.

That image struck a chord with me. It reminded me of something. But I couldn't figure out what. Then it came to me, one day. It reminded me of --myself.

There's been a slow single file parade of idiots marching through my bedroom for years.