28 September 2004

Aqua vita

I really resent it when weather forecasters assume what kind of weather I prefer. Who decided that everyone's idea of "a beautiful day" was the same across the board? And who said they could make their cutesy little newscaster grimaces when it looks like rain and fog are on the way?

Who doesn't love rain and fog???

Once again, we are the recipients of the older and wiser version of a formerly angry, young, reckless hurricane, so today we are engulfed in the fog and rain of Miss Jeanne, past her prime.

I love this weather because it always feels like you've been given a pass for the day, like it's totally OK to be forgetful and dreamy and slow-moving yourself. Nobody seriously expects you to be productive, or go out and run errands, or finish cleaning out the shed.

Sunny days want something out of you, the sun demands an accounting of your time and whereabouts. The sun watches you, and you can never please the sun.

Rainy days say ssshhhh, relax, don't sweat it, just relax, you're cool.

I love it because I get paid to read books, and nothing goes better with a book than the sound of rain.

When it rains all day this close to the ocean, the fog rises up from the sea and the kettle ponds and the rivers, and the rain comes down from the sky and the clouds are only feet above your head, a tall person could touch them easily, and everything is water, within and without. A watery embrace, but not like hugging someone you just broke up with, and not like Davy Jones's locker. Like you're walking through water, meeting no resistance, and all the water molecules in your body are singing with the joy of reunion.

27 September 2004

The end of the earth

Ahhh, I love the glory that is Provincetown, that endearing terminus of Cape Cod, that swaggering shanty town that turns into an imported carnival every summer... even though every time I have an admittedly sumptuous dinner there, the consistently snooty, obviously transient, overtly gay waiters somehow manage to make me feel like a retard.

Listen, I want to say to them, I'm the native. I grew up here. I was skipping school and driving to P-Town for the day and eating Portuguese sweetbread and George's pizza for lunch in January when you were still trying on your mother's clothing in New Jersey. And I've made out with more girls than both of my brothers combined, even though I'm currently married to a man. I've also worked in restaurants all my life, and would give a blow job of a tip if you were half-human to me. So those waiters who figure I'm some sort of boring straight who doesn't get it and won't tip them can fucking bugger off. Grow up, and meet some people.

But I came here to praise Provincetown, not to bury it.

I came here tonight to speak of the people who live here, who help each other through the long, cold winters of unemployment and isolation. The people who have been here every year, every month, every day. And who have such a remarkable sense of community that we make it through each winter without killing each other, and usually by creating something beautiful together, held together with duct tape and chewing gum.

Specifically, I want to pimp the community radio station that has been the voice of the people's decidedly odd and varied musical taste for the last twenty years, WOMR. It's not just Provincetown folks who are involved here, there are DJs and board members and volunteers from all over the Cape. Cape Cod is long and narrow, we only live half-way down its length, and it takes us 45 minutes to get there.

It has already been well-established that readers of this site enjoy music of the "good" variety (witness the 4th in the series of music lists that will appear here and elsewhere next week) so I will recommend my family radio station to you with a clear conscience, free of the stain of nepotism.

For example, both my father and husband have a show on this community radio station weekly, and you can listen to them online.

Dad does a blues show every Sunday afternoon at four pm. He also love New Orleans traditional music and obscure rockabilly, so he often veers into those realms in the second hour as well. Check him out. Dad rocks.

Matt's show (Sunday nights from midnight to 3 am) is also outstanding, in many different and exciting ways. Mostly funk and soul and various whatnot, but full of goodness no matter what.

And if you come to visit here, come in the off-season, listen to WOMR on the ride up the Cape, and shoot some pool at the Bradford. Then grab a bite to eat at the Squealing Pig. That Irish gal behind the bar is really something else.

My favorite thing anyone ever said about Provincetown was when Thoreau visited here in the mid-1800's, stood on the shore of Race Point, and wrote:

"A man may stand there and put all America behind him."

It feels like the ocean will reach out and grab you and yank you out to sea. And you almost don't mind.

25 September 2004

Visa vis

The plans and schemes for our trip to Amsterdam grow faster and thicker with each day. I have contacted everyone I know who has ever lived there, been there, or who might have thought about it in my presence, and as a result have unearthed three (3!) great good friends on the ground in Amsterdam who will be around to show us around. (In addition to my online friends who have supplied very welcome hints and links and information.)

It is good and useful to be shameless about looking up old friends, even extremely tangential ones.

Hi! Remember me? Well, we shared a ride together to Boston once, I think your boyfriend was Bruce, or maybe Paul, yeah Paul! and we were going to the Bim Skala Bim show on New Year's Eve and we listened to the Pixies on the ride there in that crappy VW convertible that leaked and Paul got lost before the show and we couldn't find him for the ride from dinner to the show but we knew he was from there so we didn't sweat it and so we left anyway? Yeah! That was me! The one who left her black leather motorcycle jacket there at the club and ran back through the pouring rain after the place closed and they wouldn't let me in but then they did and I caught the last train to our parking garage and just found you guys before you left without me too?

So anyway, what was your cute friend's name -- the one who went to Wellesley? Because she said she was from Amsterdam.


(No really, it's all old friends and cool relations who are really truly going to show us around town and show us a good time. But all the rest about those jerks I went to see Bim Skala Bim with in grad school was true. Thank God I got that jacket back, it was my best friend's sister's jacket. And... you guys? Thanks a lot for waiting for me. Geez. Jerks.)

22 September 2004

Ghost flower

Earlier this summer, we cleared the backyard of the rampant growth of Japanese Knotwood that had taken over back there. Knotwood is a vile, pernicious invasive plant that has taken over many roadsides and vacant lots around here, so we felt no remorse in opening a can of herbicidical whoop-ass on it. Also, the method used was groovy and organic, so we can preen about that, too. It seems to have worked, and all summer long I've been poking around back there to see what opportunistic planty things will move in now that the big nasty weed is gone.

Not too long ago, I looked out my bedroom window and saw this. Oh my God this is the creepiest plant you will ever, ever see. For fun facts and historical lore about the corpse flower (as it is sometimes called), check this out.

The picture doesn't even really do it justice; this plant is so skin-crawly and sickly that I thought I ws hallucinating it, or that maybe it was a brand-new plant that hadn't yet fully evolved. For one thing, it has no chlorophyll, so it is waxy white, ghostly pale, sort of an albino orchid.

So yesterday I got my copy of Cape Cod Wildflowers: a Vanishing Heritage, because I'm all over planting native species in my wee yard, and there she is, my ghost flower. Turns out she's a rare and prized little blossom! Might even be a protected species.

If only they were growing across the street, so I could stage a Save The Corpse Flower rally and stop construction on the truly evil McMansion being built over there.

Maybe I'll get Save The Corpse Flower T-shirts printed up anyway. It just has a nice ring to it.

19 September 2004

Paying the ferryman

The remnants of Hurricane Ivan blew through yesterday and took us all by surprise. We expected rain, but not the gale force winds and torrential rains of biblical proportions, as my husband put it. Of course this was the weekend of the wedding on Martha's Vineyard, so we were ferry passengers on the mighty Atlantic during all of this not once, but twice.

We got to the island early enough to have a leisurely lunch in Oak Bluffs, where we happily watched some Yankees-Red Sox action. We had a window-side table, so we also kept a weather eye on the weather, which was so hysterically awful that we began to consider where we might spend the night if they stopped running the ferries.

After shamelessly camping out at our table for a few hours and consuming no more than a couple of sandwiches, we trundled ourselves up-island to the wedding site. Still raining, still dreaming of a respite for the wedding party and their two hundred guests. The massive white tent flapped and shuddered in the wind. The chairs were soaking wet because the rain was coming in through the few openings horizontally, and forcefully so.

I had spiders leap onto my neck and arms FIVE TIMES during the ceremony. It was like that scene in the Fellowship of the Ring when the hobbits hide from the Black Riders under the root by the side of the road, and all the nasty bugs come crawling out.

Of course, I make this comparison with absolutely no reference intended to the bride.

No-one had bothered to tell us that the wedding was formal, so while all the men were wearing suits and ties and all the women were wearing slinky party dresses with hilariously high heels, we were dressed more casually. Matt was wearing dress pants and what we refer to as his witness protection shirt: a nice silk shortsleeve shirt with a subtle pattern of palm trees inlaid into the material. I was wearing black dress pants and a nice black linen top, an artsy, silversmith-ish necklace, and, oh, yeah, goddamn sensible shoes.

So of course we got a few of those junior high derisive looks -- you know, the ones that girls give you out of the corners of their eyes, running from your face, then down to your shoes, then back up and down again, all in about .4 seconds, all with a look of "you've got to be kidding" on their faces.

Like I said in an earlier post, this isn't exactly the side of the family that we have the most in common with.

Matt and I just shrugged and said we were comfortable with who we are. Also, unlike some watery tarts I could mention, I wasn't freezing my anorexic little ass off in two square feet of fabric and five-inch heels at an outdoor wedding in the mud. As the evening wore on, I firmly believe some of the dirty looks we got were tinged with jealousy.

To make life even better, I was seated at dinner next to a charming young couple from New York City with whom I got on smashingly. The gal of the pair asked me what I did for a living, and when I told her I'm a freelance editor for Such-and-Such Publishing in NYC, she stared in astonishment. She works (full-time, for real, yo) for the same damn publishing house. Different division than I do most of my work with, but still! What are the odds! I gave her my card, and I might even get work out of it.

By the time we caught the last ferry back to the mainland, the worst of the storm had passed, and when we got home we gratefully shed our comfortable clothes for still more comfortable sweatpants and flannels, as it seems that Ivan had hit the last nail in the coffin of summer, and now it is fall. Thank God.

16 September 2004

Sense memory

I must be in some sort of nostalgic phase these days, because I keep having random, trivial memories from my nightclub-owning days float up to the surface and then pop in my face with a fresh, soapy smell. In reality, the smell soundtrack to most of these memories would run more along the lines of stale beer, overflowing ashtrays, and the Pine Sol I used to swab the decks with every day that actually did little to mask the previous two smells.

My office in the basement smelled of the mildew that lined the concrete walls, discarded deli sandwich wrappers, and the fifty million cigarettes I smoked each day back then. I would sit down there, counting last night's drawers, taking occasional pulls off my grande coffee from across the street, and taking much more frequent pulls off my Parliament Light smoky-treats. The Green Room was right down the hall from my office, so there was a healthy dose of rock band sweat in the air, too. Unfortunately, the Pine Sol only made it to the basement on rare and special occasions.

If it was a delivery day, my workday would be punctuated by the appearance of guys with dolly trucks topped full of cases of beer, thumping down the rutted concrete steps into the basement. We were always hovering on the edge of insolvency, using last night's take to cover this morning's delivery, so most of our distributor contracts were COD.

It would usually be two guys humping the beer we couldn't afford, the driver and an ever-changing cast of young strong assistants, each of whom I always thought of as Igor. The driver would always be older, and usually wore a support belt around his lower back, even though Igor did all of the heavy lifting. The back belt was more like a badge of rank, like sergeant's stripes.

While Igor stacked the cases of beer in the antique walk-in cooler next door, Sarge would come into my office with the invoice, which I hardly ever bothered to check against the actual delivery, circle the total, and lay it on the desk in front of me. I'd glance at it, wince, then swivel around to open the safe on the floor next to me, and hand over the bulk of last night's sales to cover the cost of the beer we would sell tonight.

My favorite delivery driver was the Budweiser guy. I can't stand Budweiser, prefered Harp at the time, and this truly mystified him. As I counted out the stacks of twenties I owed him, he'd ask me again if I had renounced my affection for foriegn ales and crossed over to the True King of Beers yet. This guy passionately, fervently believed in his product, and couldn't fathom why I wouldn't recognize what so many Americans agreed on -- the superiority of a bottle of Bud over any pretenders to the throne.

One day, as I was crossing the street with my grande coffee first thing in the morning, I saw his truck parked outside a nearby bar, making his delivery. He always drove one of those massive white trucks with the red script "Budweiser, King of Beers" scrawled across the length of the 18-wheeler. As his Igor loaded the dolly in the back of the truck, my Bud-loving buddy sat in the driver's seat, adjusting his back brace.

When he saw me, he jumped out of the cab, scurried around to my side of the truck, and framed each syllable of script with his short arms, shouting across the street to me:


(scampers over to frame next syllable)


(scampers a little further down the line)


Then he stood facing me and my coffee, arms held out toward me in mute appeal.

What could I do? I invited him and Igor inside for a Far-Too-Early-In-The-Day bottle of the King of Beers that we couldn't afford to buy, and couldn't afford to give away. I made them late for their next delivery when I gave them quarters for the video golf game, and I watched them play while I smoked.

13 September 2004

Me and Bobbi McGrinch

High on my list of Birthday Presents I Was Least Excited To Receive are all three presents I ever received from my evil step-grandmother. She married my grandfather about a year after my grandmother died relatively young of emphysema (having been prescribed cigarettes by her doctor a couple of decades before...) and set about alienating our entire side of the family with astonishing speed.

In the early years of her hostile take-over of my grandfather, they still spent their summers in the Old House down the street from my mom, my two brothers, and me. The Old House was the venerable ancestral hovel, the white clapboard homestead built in 1840 that still had a well in the sink when I was growing up, and was only three houses down the lane from our house. Bobbi ("Aah!" she would scream, "don't call me granny!!!" "OK," we mumbled, agreeably enough) hated the Old House, hated Cape Cod, and was mortally offended by her husband's daughter -- my mom -- and her seriously scruffy, underacheiving kids down the street. My mom was divorced, we were poor, provincial, out of shape, and -- the gravest sin of them all -- we didn't ski.

Bobbi spent her winters in Vermont, where she and Granddad skiied every day. During her summers on Cape Cod, she and Granddad rode their matching bicycles, wearing matching warm-up suits and sneakers, to the tennis courts at my middle school at about the same time my bus picked me up. The sound of bike tires on the asphalt made me leap behind the bushes at the bus stop more than once. I'd shiver under my fuschia-and-turquoise backpack in pure 7th-grade terror, waiting for the sounds of shifting ten-speed gears to fade into the distance, and then I'd realize I'd missed my bus. Then I'd go home and call a cab to school. Well. Maybe. Often I'd just stay home, eat Mrs. Grass Chicken Soup (with the magical Golden Flavor Nugget!) and watch The Courtship of Eddie's Father reruns.

She was a WASP-y, elitist, fitness-obsessed, loudmouthed horror, and I was an overweight, poor, fatherless, bookish 7th grader.

So, at first, she tried to "help."

The first birthday present was that first summer in the early 80s, almost a full year after her annexation of the Grandparental Territories had begun. On the morning in question, she left on my doorstep an unwrapped present, still in the shopping bag complete with price tag, that I opened with an unsurprisingly low level of enthusiasm. Hot off the presses, it was the latest audio cassette tape of Jazzercise! For Beginners! accompanied by a Visual Aid Poster and Manual!

I used to listen to it while eating an entire box of Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies, ass up on my bed, reading Harlequin Romances.

The next summer, it was a pair of Nike running shoes. I was actually kind of excited about these, because the new eighth grade uniform was clearly shaping up to consist entirely of chinos, blue izod shirts, and white nikes with the red swoosh. God, we must have looked like such creepy little Junior Republicans.

But I wore them to the beach the next weekend, forgot that I was wearing them, and went for a delightful tromp through the nearby salt marsh. Of course the muck suctioned them right off my feet, and I had to walk back to the beach barefoot, bloodying the soles of my feet on the sharp, broken reeds of the marsh trail.

Later that summer, I was walking back up the hill to my house from the store with a bag of candy bars swinging at my side (I had three new Harlequins, and it would probably take at least until dinner to finish them all). I heard the familiar drone of my grandfather's Buick behind me, and, cleverly thinking to fool them into thinking they had just caught me at the tail end of my evening jog, tossed my candy bag onto the neighbor's lawn and started to jog. The late lamented Nikes being in the Great Salt Marsh in the Sky, I was of course wearing my Dr. Scholl's clogs.

Clomp clomp clomp clomp

They didn't buy it.

But they did very thoughtfully pull up alongside me and ask me if I hadn't dropped something back there in the neighbor's yard. Then Bobbi suggested I try my next jog in my nice new Nikes. I must have gotten a look of sweaty panic on my face at that point, because she smirked and waved my grandfather on homeward.

The next summer, Bobbi made her last attempt at reforming me, and gave me her last "gift." At the beginning of the summer, she promised to give me a dollar for every pound I had lost by Labor Day. Of course I was insulted by these slave wages; I had been working at Anthony's Italian Restaurant all year as the salad girl, and was making about 75 bucks a week. I didn't really think about her offer again until I happened to be standing in the driveway as she and Granddad and the Buick drove up, away from the Old House for the last time that summer, and they slowed up beside me.

"How much do I owe ya?" Bobbi said, twisting her lips sourly.

I stared at her a minute, then dug into my back pocket and tossed a ten onto her lap. As I turned back to the house, I called over my shoulder, "Keep the change."

09 September 2004


Well that was unexpected.

Matt's mother emailed me the other day to ask if we wanted to use any of her great big pile of frequent flyer miles before USAir goes belly-up. We kind of stuttered back "well...yeah!" and after tossing a few ideas around we decided to go to Amsterdam.

My sainted mother-in-law's only two caveats were that we must go soon, because she thinks USAir's days are seriously numbered, and she would hate to see all those free miles go to waste, and that if we are going to Amsterdam, we must promise to go for at least a week. Wouldn't be worth the jet lag otherwise.

So now I have to get my passport updated with my married name sooner than I thought, and, not for the reason I expected, i.e., fleeing the country if Bush gets re-elected. But it'll come in handy if that does happen, anyway. Maybe we'll just schedule the trip for early November, see what happens, and check out apartments while we're there.

07 September 2004

Music list of the month

It's time for this month's music list, and this month we're showing off our ten most embarrassing albums ever bought. hey, if blogging isn't about voluntary self-embarrassment, then what is it about? H'm?

10. Morrissey -- Vauxhall and I

Actually, the fact that he has a range of a total of three notes does get grating after a while.

9. Alanis Morrisette -- whatever that stupid debut album was.

I kind of liked the first single the first hundred times I heard it. Now, I'd like to punch her in the face.

8. Meatloaf -- Bat out of Hell

The first album I ever bought. I still know every word. I was semi-famous in college for my lip-synching of Paradise by the Dashboard Light.

7. Keller Williams -- Laugh

I heard Freaker by the Speaker on the radio one day and it made me happy. Then I bought the cd and it made me mad.

6. MC900 Foot Jesus -- Welcome to my Dream

I'm not even sure I'm the one who bought this one, but I know I'm responsible for it being in our house, and not my husband. A friend of mine really liked the arson song, so I used to play it for him at parties.

5. Urban Dance Squad -- Persona non grata

Nope, they could not follow up on the beauty of Deeper Shade of Soul. I should have known.

4. Everything But the Girl -- Tempermental

I used to love this band, but nobody told me when they switched from meloncholy rainy-day music to seriously annoying techno. I still like Tracey Thorn's work with Tricky, though, and Massive Attack.

3. Soundtrack to Back to the Future

I was fourteen. I was crushed out on Michael J. Fox. I didn't mind Huey Lewis much. Sue me.

2. Joan Baez -- Play me Backwards

I'm not heavily embarrassed by this one, but it is invariably the one that visitors notice on the shelf, and it's so different from everything else in the collection that it always causes much mirth. And I get annoyed and change the subject.

1. Dave Matthews band -- that first album that made it big.

I really dug this cd for about a month one summer while I was in grad school, until all the undergrads came back in the fall and I noticed that only the most knuckleheaded of them liked DMB. Live and learn.

That's my list -- not terribly exciting I know, but that's more a reflection of the fact that I rarely buy music. My husband is a DJ -- and has vastly better taste in music than I -- so I sort of lean heavily on his collection for my cool quotient.

Oh, and here are those links to the other folks who have posted this list:



Although working as a freelance editor is going better than I ever imagined it would, I could still use a few extra dollars, and so I accepted the offer when an old cooking chum of mine offered me a few wedding catering jobs this month and the next.

It's just Saturdays, it's good money, and there's certainly no obligation to continue after the season ends if I don't want to. Which, after one Saturday, I can assure you I do not.

It started when I buttoned up my crisp white chef jacket again for the first time, and realized that this was somehow wrong... that was the first blossom on my rose bush of unease. Then my unease escalated into thorns of discomfort, as I realized we would be out in the blazing late-summer heat all day, and washing dishes amongst the bugs for most of the night. Then, after humping around untold numbers of glass racks and infinite milk crates of porcelain plates, my lower back started to scream ugly profanities at me.

I was right last spring. I'm really So Done with the cooking thing. It's a little sad, because I did enjoy it quite a lot for quite a while, but I'm just done.

I was chit chatting with the sous chef as we waited for the wedding party to arrive. He's a nice sort, kind of looks like someone I dated long ago, and his eyes lit up when I asked him if he had a garden. Not that I'm all into gardening, really, but it's always nice to see that light in people's eyes when you hit on the Thing That Makes Them Go. He described his tomato plants with such loving care, you would think they were his own creation, that he had originally come up with the idea of Tomato, and was eager to share it with the rest of the world.

It also turned out he had spent time in Syracuse about ten years before I arrived there, so we exchanged notes on that funny, cloudy, endearingly dirty burg. Then he let slip that he regularly works at three different restaurants, in addition to running the catering for this joint. He mostly works triples every day, all week, with maybe a half day off every other week. Which he spends lovingly, carefully, tenderly weeding his tomato patch.

See, that's why I'm just not a pro cook anymore. I'm just not hardcore like that anymore. I love sleeping in. I love my air conditioning. I enjoy being able to sit down if my back hurts. I especially enjoy simply avoiding activities which might cause my back to hurt.

In short, I'm a sallow-faced, lilly-livered, cringing, mincing, whinging little bookworm. And they pay me for it.

It's good to play to your strengths.

05 September 2004


So much has happened this past week, and so much of it was good.

For starters, I helped host the quaint wee spaghetti dinner for the town, the purpose of which was to inform the masses about the new zoning bylaw changes they might or might not vote in at town meeting later this month. Much to my surprise, tons of people showed up! Lots and lots! Like, over 200! Holy civic-mindedness! And they didn't even seem to mind that they were being fed penne, not spaghetti, at a spaghetti dinner!

Someone at the dinner introduced me to his somewhat frail, 90-year-old mother, who I immediately recognized as my old kindergarten teacher. And she recognized me right back, in great detail. She asked after my two older brothers -- who never had her as a teacher -- by name. Then she grabbed my arm and drew my head near to hers, and told me, sotto voce, that I come from "a very good line of people" and to be sure to live up to that. She then grabbed her son's arm, and told him, "this girl's mother is a tremendously fantastic woman."

Wow. I don't know what I or my mother did to earn Mrs. Kennedy's favor, but I have to say that it kind of totally made my night.

The next day, Matt informed me that he had tickets to the Yankees game for that night. Really excellent tickets. So we drove to New York City, watched the game from our incredibly awesome seats behind home plate, and then drove back home. It's about four and a half hours each way. I felt like a rock star, and the Yankees won. God but I love Yankee Stadium.

I'll admit that I had misgivings about going to NYC on the last day of the RNC, the day Bush was to speak, during a week of escalating protests. I'm a little squeamish, because I'm superstitious, and the last time we went to Yankee Stadium was September 11, 2001. It was, of course, yet another strikingly gorgeous, bright-blue-sky, beautiful-day-for-baseball September day. I wore my old Paul O'Neill t-shirt that I had bought that day, now extremely faded. I'm happy to report that nothing tragic happened, and I feel somewhat redeemed. Or at least a little less like an ominous harbinger, less like a crow of doom.

And honestly, how great is it to drive five hours to see a ball game on a whim, then drive back home that night? Pretty freaking awesome, that's how great.

Then, last night, after a long, calm conversation with a lovely gal Matt works with who is, not surprisingly, a Red Sox fan, during which we discussed the simple and exquisite beauty of the game of baseball, and the enjoyment to be derived from watching some of its finest practitioners (we named several players on both teams, and no, I won't tell you who I admire on the Red Sox team), we ordered our third shot of tequila, looked each other in the eyes, and gravely toasted to the Yankees and the Red Sox. And also Duran Duran.

Well, we had had a lot of tequila. You know how it is.