Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Time Travel

Readers, this afternoon a peculiar thing happened.

Had anyone been with her (and for most of the day, no one was), Cupcake could have been observed on her hands and knees scrubbing a kitchen floor. Whose kitchen floor it was shall remain a mystery. But that is not the most mysterious thing about this occurance.

No, the mystery is that in fact though it LOOKED like Cupcake was scrubbing a kitchen floor, in fact she was not. Cupcake had jettisoned through time and space. Cupcake was in fact sitting at a table in Lisbon, Portugal, some months hence, enjoying a glass of wine and a sweeping vista.

Cupcake knows with complete certainty that the Lisbon day/table/glass of wine/vista will come. And that as she sits there watching the far-off Portuguese sea, she will jettison through time and space back to the afternoon of scrubbing a kitchen floor.

How does Cupcake know this?

She just does. It's happened before.

Years ago, in the months before she took a job in Rome, Cupcake dreamt every night that she was already in Rome. In one dream, she was at a railway station. Uncertain which track her train was at. She stopped a tiny nun to ask.

"Dov'e il treno per Firenze?" asked Cupcake, who used to speak Italian fairly well. But as the words formed she focused on the nun and realized that where she'd expected to see a wizened crone, there was in fact a petite young beauty with dazzling blue eyes.

And the nun said in a sweet, clear voice, "Il treno per Firenza parte da binario sette."

Months later, in Rome, this happened. Exactly as Cupcake had foreseen.

"But Cupcake," questions a reader. "If you knew what was going to happen, why didn't you already know the train was at track seven?"

Ah. Well you might ask. Because I'd already asked the nun before I noticed she was the same one as in the dream.

Now, Readers, please understand that the basis of the new premonition is the time-travel back to scrubbing the kitchen floor. That she is going to Lisbon seems to be a done deal.

Remember the White Stag of Adventure that Cupcake suspected was about to appear before her door?

It done showed up. Last Saturday. In the form of an intriguing text message from a rich friend in England:

"Please call me when you wake up. I have a proposition for you."

Ever a fan of propositions, Cupcake called him. And he offered a job. In fact, a share in a new business he's creating. But in order to chase this particular White Stag, she has to go to London for a month, and then spend several months in Lisbon.

So in a matter of weeks, Cupcake departs. (Fear not, my animal loving friends-- Cupcake's roommate will take good care of the doggies in her absence.)

When the White Stag appears, one follows it.

More on this soon. Cupcake is tired and must sleep. Time travel is a wearying pastime, as is scrubbing floors.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

In which Cupcake pays homage

A shop window in Paris held a shirt I wanted you to wear. It was a pirate’s shirt, with open ruffles at the chest, and billowing sleeves that from the elbow to wrist, tied tight with criss-crossing laces-- the better to swashbuckle with.

A shirt like that demands a certain something. Not many people can carry it off. Napoleon, maybe. Errol Flynn. And you. You could wear that shirt. It would show, outwardly, who you are.

I didn’t know you then. I saw the shirt while I was waiting for my friend Rupert to buy a sandwich. We were walking to Napoleon’s Tomb, and we made two stops along the route.

The first stop was for Rupert to buy sandwiches. They were beautiful sandwiches, in long thin baguettes. He bought two and offered me one.

”Thanks, but I’m not really hungry,” I said.

He smiled. “I knew you’d say that,” he said. “The real reason I bought the second one is so I could eat it. If I pretend it was for you, I’m not indulging myself.” He made me take a bite of it to give credence to his self-deception. The sandwich was delicious. Made more so, no doubt, by my having already given it up.

The second stop was at a flower shop. I bought three pink roses. They were large buds, like babies’ fists. My friend had finished his sandwiches by this time, so he came in the shop with me.

The florist was a dignified elderly gentleman who wrapped the stems carefully, as though it truly mattered to him that the flowers were fortified, safe within the paper for their journey to the rest of their lives. .

“Ces fleurs sont pour l’Empereur,” dit mon ami Rupert. “Ils sont pour Napoleon.”

The florist had been quite formal, almost stern. But upon Rupert’s words, he smiled. He handed the flowers to me with a flourish and a little bow, and as we left the store he watched us, approvingly, from the window.

We walked on to Les Invalides, to the Tombe where Napoleon rests.

Buonaparte died and was buried at St Helene in 1821. In 1840, his nephew (who’d just appointed himself Napoleon III) had him exhumed and returned to France and laid in for eternity at a celebrated veteran’s hospital and war memorial called Hospital des Invalides.

The tomb is on three levels. The crypt itself, made of porphyry and self-consciously grand, sits on the ground level. It is encircled by two galleries where observers can lean against the banisters and look down, standing above Napoleon. (This seems a cruel final irony to me, as we know he was self-conscious about his height.)

Rupert and I stood there at the tomb. My idol lay within a big marble Victorian box. I started to unwrap the roses, thinking to drop them, naked, onto the floor of the well encircling the crypt. But Rupert looked at me skeptically.

”You’ve come this far,” he said. His look was a dare, but it was not mischievous. It simply asked me to reckon what this gesture meant to me. His look said, “This is where you decide who you really are. What you risk shows what you value.”

This startled me. I knew he was right. But I hadn’t been thinking in such terms and was unprepared. Still. What would Napoleon do?

I glanced around quickly to make sure no guards were looking, and then climbed over the marble barricade and jumped the five or six feet to the floor below.

I laid my offering beside the tomb. I reached up to lay my arms along the marble side of it, thinking of the Little General within.

A flash went off, and I looked up anxiously, afraid it was an alarm. But it was only a Japenese tourist taking my picture.

Rupert helped me back up to the other level.

I’ve always been glad I leapt down to deliver the flowers in person. And that I touched the tomb, paid my homage to Napoleon. I admire him so.

I admire him because he dared himself to embody the magnificence he knew was inside him. Because he knew no obstacles and would not, himself, have hesitated to leap into the well. It would never have occurred to him to do otherwise. Whereas me—I have to be reminded of things like that. That’s why I keep a framed postcard of Napoleon on my desk. My office, in Vermont, is filled with prints of him—two of which I bought there at Les Invalides, right after I delivered the flowers.

The thing is, I have always remembered that shirt. The shirt I saw while Rupert was buying his sandwiches.

When I see you in my mind, you've always worn it, Pirate that you are, taking on Destiny with brilliance and courage, and the daring,relentless spirit that inspires legend.

I would buy you the shirt, if I could find the store.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Cupcake trees and cupcake racks

A lot of people find my site because they're looking for creative ideas for cupcakes. Cupcake trees, or cupcake racks.

This inspired me to do a little google search on my own for what the heck a cupcake rack is. (The first thing to come to mind was my own decolletege. And I couldn't imagine that phrase being such a popular search based on my bosom alone. A perfectly reasonable bosom, but nonetheless....)

At any rate, reader, if you are looking for a baking ideas regarding creative cupcakes, or using cupcakes for your wedding cake or birthday cake, my foray into Google suggests that the most thorough collection of cupcake trees, racks and decorations is at this website:


Feel free to come back and read the musings posted in this blog. I seem to think a lot about men and dogs. I probably should think more about creative projects like writing and cupcakes. But each day has its own pale pastel wrapper to pull off, and dogs and men seem to be what's lurking under most of mine.

Have fun with the cupcakes!

Friday, May 05, 2006

The Rubik’s Cube: or how cupcake finally admitted her Simply Ripping Qualities.

Cupcake has always admired and puzzled over people who have vast reserves of unquestioning self-esteem.

In wonderment, she has watched shows like Springer, where women Cupcake perceives as decidedly unattractive get dumped on national television but have no visible resulting thump in the stomach to their self-esteem. She has seen them say to the man leaving them (usually for her best friend or sister, or sometimes his best friend or his sister) –“Oh, really? Well screw you! It’s your loss, asshole, because who needs you? I’m hot and I’ll get a new one of you in ten minutes. A better one.”

Cupcake admires this attitude, but has never experienced it herself.

In writing workshops, people whose writing Cupcake found decidedly mediocre have extolled their own literary genius with such sincerity that though she first thought they were kidding, she went on to credit them with a laudable ingenuity, if an unfortunate lack of talent and standards.

Be it noted: Cupcake, in her rigorous pursuit of accurate self-appraisal, does concede that she's a good writer. In that way, she excels. And is confident. And is willing to stick her neck out in self-admiration. But this is because she is an excellent judge of writing, not an excellent judge of herself. And if she were not a good writer, she would admit it, just as she acknowledges sadly that she cannot draw to save her life.

(Be it also noted: Cupcake’s vanity, so rarely allowed to take the podium, demands that this blog's reading public be reminded that Cupcake is also a damn good actress.)

But other than for acting or writing, Cupcake permits herself little self-congratulation. This is perplexing to her, as she lives in the United States of America, a country that takes self-congratulation very, very seriously. (A little too seriously, in Cupcake's opinion.)

Whenever Cupcake bolts out into the world to blow her own horn, she stumbles on the front porch before she can sound a note. Her coat gets caught on the doorknob of perspective. She is handicapped and held back by her wish to examine things from all angles. So she sits on the porch and looks at the horn, and rarely does she blow it.

For example-

Suppose Cupcake says to herself:

"I am very intelligent. That’s cool."

She then says, "“Ah, yes, but what have you DONE with said intelligence? By their fruits shall you know them. Your accomplishments fail to measure up to your potential. And so, at the end of the day, Cupcake—isn’t that a sign that for practical purposes, you (or I, for that matter), are pretty DUMB?"

So I lay that assertion on the table.

Then I say to myself,

"Cupcake, you know you are an extremely loyal friend.”

To which Cupcake answers, “ Oh yes. Oh, undeniably so. You stand by friends come hell or high water. They sleep with your boyfriend—you stand by them. They offer small poisonous barbs at your self esteem, you stand by them. You show no discretion in your loyalty, Cupcake. In fact, one wonders if it's loyalty at all. Perhaps, my dear, the correct term for your brand of loyalty is CO-DEPENDENCE.”"

At this I sputter a little. I begin to assert that most of my friends are wonderful, that the examples mentioned were outside the norm— And then I think,“Yes, but that’s where loyalties are questioned, isn’t it? When there is a challenge to them? When one must choose to stay or to sever? Like a gardener who carries both the watering can and the pruning shears to work.

And so I lay that on the table, too.

I consider many qualities. Ambition becomes selfishness. Generosity becomes a way to deal with guilt. Being laid back becomes laziness. Honesty becomes a lack of tact.

All the virtues twist themselves into vices if you look at them too long. Even the intention of perspicacity can be seen as a failure to committ.

So this is the problem: Cupcake tries extremely hard to be fair in her assessments. Especially when assessing herself. And because I look at things from so many angles, I sometimes forget my own point of view.

Like, am I living my life in the first person, or is Cupcake living hers in the third?

But the Rubik’s cube is solved. From now on, I will simply choose the point of view that makes me happy. And if I am slightly unfair, well—indulge me. I have been such a harsh judge of myself that I deserve a little leniency for a time. (But I still reserve the right to write in the third person. Because I like it. And for the record, it stems from literary playfulness, not psychosis. Honest.)

And so, friends, Cupcake bows before you and most humbly asserts that she is a Simply Ripping girl, full of admirable qualities. And that anyone who wishes to contradict her in this may email her, putting in the subject line: Contradiction. And Cupcake will delete your comments, because she's decided to stick with her own opinion on this one, in the most blatantly self-congratulatory way.

Otherwise, the terrorists win.

Or something like that.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Rise and Shine.

It’s morning. That undeniable fact is— well, undeniable. Your unopened eyes sense the presence of light. It’s as if someone hovers outside your door, waiting to knock. And then it does knock, does light, blazing into you the understanding that if you opened your eyes, there'd be no going back. Like it or not, you are awake. It is, indeed, morning.

But you lie there, wishing that it weren’t. You keep your eyes closed, your arms wrapped tightly around the pillow. You wish consciousness away.

Sleep slips out like the tide.

Hug the pillow though you might, pretending that its part of you, the part sailing in unconsciousness, keeping eyes closed with pure intention— you are awake. The day takes no refusal.

Someone elsewhere is making coffee and its fragrance calls to you like a siren.

The eyes—all on their own, they open. Traitors.

The pillow reminds you of its separate self.

In your bed, you are cast adrift. The flotsam and jetsam of dreams scatter, float off, irretrievable now.

And so you rise, and it’s a new day.

Like it or not.

Sorry I’ve been incommunicado. I’ve been drifting in such a holding pattern as those days when you just don't want to get out of bed.

Listing my Simple Ripping Qualities was a Rubik’s Cube. I’ll tell you about it later. It took some doing, organizing my thoughts on that topic.

And in the middle of that, a friend died. And that was, understandably, sad. (The good news is that my house has never been cleaner, as I've been dealing with grief by scrubbing the be-Jesus out of every surface. At the Vermont house, too.)

In this last month since I've posted, each day, I’d say, “Hey Cupcake, why don’t you blog or something?”

To which I’d answer myself, “Hey, Cupcake, sod off.”

Then, last week, I went away. I went to another country where I looked at a city I hadn't seen in a while. I walked streets where the chatter around me was in a language not my own, and frowned over calculating the cost of things in another currency.

But it was after an amazing lunch, sitting in a patch of sun stretched out through a restaurant window, that I sat drinking port and smoking cigars with an old friend, the sort of friend one knows well enough that the conversation can aspire to silence. We sat and sipped and puffed, and in that post-prandial tranquility, I clicked the final squares of the Rubik’s cube together.

So now I’m back.

And in the life of my blog, it’s a new morning. Rise and shine.