Thursday, January 31, 2008

Squidfest Countdown Day 3 No 2

Sheesh am I bad at math. Today was supposed to be countdown day three but really it has to be day two since there is only one more day left and then Squidfest is here. You would think that someone with a college education could figure that out, but my math skills are a bit fuzzy. If I balance my checkbook I go out to celebrate. I’m usually within a hundred dollars one way or the other and I keep a cushion of money in there so I don’t overdraw funds. I envy you people who can add and subtract. It seems like a simple thing, but let me tell you it’s a real talent. When I get in amongst too many numbers I glaze over and start hallucinating that I am deep in a swamp with a head full of glue.Anyway, where was I? Squidfest. Maybe the reason for all this rain is the impending entrance of the squid. Time for me to make the ultimate confession. I don’t eat squid. I’m vegetarian. I hope you will let that be our own private clean little secret. I’m in the Squidfest for the bingo and the initiation rites. We're almost there. I can hardly believe that tomorrow is really the end of the countdown, whatever day that is.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Squidfest Countdown Day 4

By my calculations the tender little squid are now in Southern Oregon, wending their way on their final journey, wending their way through Wend, Oregon (or is that Bend?) on the last waltz, the swan song, the end dance, finito, done, game over, termination destination, you get my drift? As the late great Nan would remind us, we must bless the Squid Ones for their sacrifice. Only Mighty Fisherman Ed knows the humble sweet comfortable bonecrunchingly ice cold home from which the Squid Ones emerged to grace the Squidfest table. Mighty Fisherman Ed sang them out of the hollows with promise of glory with this, the squid supreme gesture, kamakazi mission, martyred but remembered always down the halls of Bushwacker Ranch. Oh Squid, we worship thee. Oh Squid, we… But I’m getting into the Squid Oath, which is reserved for the holy of holies, the initiation rites. The essential role of our new initiates. When High Priest Ron administers the Squid Oath. The exquisite moments of squidlicious splendor still await.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Squidfest Countdown Day Five

We are on countdown for the 2008 Squidfest. Our trusty squidfisher Ed has left home base in Tacoma in the trusty squidmobile and is driving through rain and sleet and dark of night with the tender squidlets. Linda is in the Berkeley outpost, managing all those things that need managing; preparing the menu and lining up accommodations and transportation for Squidlings. Ruth and Arthur have their tickets so there’s no turning back. (I repeat, Artie, no turning back, the gauntlet is in motion.) Kevin has taken to bed, ostensibly with the flu, although I am more inclined to think he is suffering from hysterical excitement in anticipation of the weekend festivities. It’s always hard on Kevin because he is squid-impaired and can’t partake of cephalopod. Dave to the rescue with squid substitute. I am sharpening my machete to go out and harvest the wild cactus for my contribution: Cactus Mango Salad. Ron will be staying up nights plucking cactus thorns with his trusty pliers to make this delicacy possible. Scott is busy growing pears and gorgonzolas for his salad. He will be wrapping the gorgonzola trees in felt this week to keep the snow off them. Sara and Jim have their hands full preparing the venue. We are all nervous about the new venue this year. But Sara has professional venue preparedness training, so stand back. And of course we can rely on Jim for the sound effects. I’m sure if they work at it, he and Ron can get the front door chime to make squid squish noises. Together they can program sound into anything. They could make a pineapple broadcast the Lincoln Center Jazz Festival performing the Far East Suite. It makes me salivate just thinking about it all. Five days and counting. Meet me on the blog tomorrow for Day Four.

Monday, January 28, 2008


Next weekend is the Squidfest. You may well ask what that is. Our dear friend Linda has held the Squidfest for over 10 years. Her father, Ed, is a mighty fisherman who fishes squid on the Puget Sound up in Washington. He brings the squid down to Berkeley in a cooler every winter and Linda fries it up and cooks a gourmet dinner, featuring squid, for her friends. She and Ed preside over the squidly activities, which include a game of squid bingo and the initiation of new “Squidlings” who have never before attended the Squidfest.

This year, we will have the pleasure of initiating our friend Arthur, who moved from California back to his native Barre, Massachusetts long before the invention of the Squidfest. He moved to Barre to raise his daughters in extreme weather; I guess so they would be hardy and resilient. Why anyone lives in a place where it snows mystifies me. Although this morning I am looking at snow in my yard here in California, a rarity. My cats are practically hysterical with joy and are running back and forth across my roof. They don’t know any better. They think snow is fun. I confess it looks deliciously beautiful, but who wants to go outside in the stuff? Honey looks delicious too, but I wouldn’t want to have to scrape two inches of it off my car.

But I digress. When I heard that Arthur was coming to Squidfest, I thought I had better prepare him for the initiation rights. I sent him the following email:

Art: I'm delighted to hear that you will be at Squidfest. I do want to give you a heads up so you are prepared. To recite the Squid Oath, please be sure to bring your snorkeling mask, flippers, Speedo, bait bucket, loofa sponge, shovel, party hat, baby photo, canoe, turkey-baster, indelible pen, safety pins, toga, and a case of pickled herring. Don't be nervous, if you freeze up on stage, Ron can help you with your lines. Ed can provide you with a Hawaiian shirt and fishing pole, so you don't need to bring those. I hope Linda has enough batter, how much do you weigh? Looking forward to the festivities.
P.S. Linda: we have the feathers.

Needless to say, other Squidlings have now broken the silence and are sending Arthur advice. After all, we aren’t sworn to secrecy about the initiation. And it’s a little different every time. Although I think we could really do without our friend Jim obsessing about the role of worms in the initiation rites. I personally have an aversion to worms and would prefer not to have them on the table while I’m eating, or invited to the event at all. I say this at the risk of being accused of discrimination against worms. But Squidfest is a private affair and I think we have the right to ban worms. It’s difficult enough making it through all those tentacles. There, I’ve said it. Now the Squid Rights Foundation will be collaborating with the Worm Rights Foundation to shut this blog down. I want to say that I personally don’t eat squid or worms. I also don’t eat okra. But of course this is just my opinion and does not reflect the opinion of Blogspot.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Four Alarm Week

OK, I have to finally admit that I am completely overwhelmed, and I don’t overwhelm easily. How do I know I’m overwhelmed? I just wrote a birthday card to my sister-in-law and I think it might be the same card I sent her last year. I bought a lot of them because I thought they were funny. I hope it’s funny the second time. Or is it the third time?

I’m trying to make it through my most busy time of year at work. I’m a grant writer and I have three big federal grants due out next week. I’m gearing up for six next month. And in the middle of all this an audio company is going into production to make The Call to Shakabaz into an audio book, I’m going into negotiations to sell my house of 16 years, I’m looking for a house to buy, and I’m still managing a household, advising two grown children in college and helping them with their business activities, and running an independent publishing company. And, oh yes, we are doing our taxes now so we can apply for financial aid for my son for college before the deadline. EEK! Wheel me away.

I hope I can keep it all straight. I’m terrified that one of my grant writing clients will call and I will mistake him for my real estate lawyer and start babbling about contingencies and title reports. Or that one of my children will call and I’ll mistake them for a grant writing client and demand those statistics on suspensions and expulsions from the middle school in East St. Louis. Or my husband will call and I’ll start kicking and screaming “no, no, I won’t leave, I love this property, they can carry me out feet first” and he’ll say “we just may have to do that.”

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Ron's New Sneakers

The day finally arrived at our house. My poor long-suffering husband finally got his foot out of the walking boot. Yay! He has had foot trouble since August and has been on crutches or in a walking boot for five months. So you see this is cause for big celebration. It’s bubbly foot powder and sole food at our house tonight.

Ron came home from work today in a spanking new pair of bright white sneakers. It’s great to see him in two shoes again. I stared at the shoes in wonder before asking, “Is it my imagination or are those sneakers large?” Ron’s usual shoe size is about 12 or 13 depending on the style. But these babies he had on his feet looked BIG. Turns out they’re size 14. His feet are still swollen, so he went up a size. He told me I can boast to my women friends that my husband wears a size 14 shoe. (Wink, wink.)

I’m not so sure I want to bring attention to my husband’s shoe size. A 14 shoe is a bit over the top. Sort of like wearing a lampshade for a hat, don’t you think? It’s OK, I’m just glad he’s ambulatory again. I’m grateful for small favors.

Hey, while I have your attention, I just want to mention that I did an interview about my book on a blogtalk book review website called Reader Views to celebrate the first anniversary of the book’s publication. You can tune in to the interview by clicking on this link:

Monday, January 21, 2008

King Day

Today is King Day. One of my favorite holidays. When my children were young, I used to make them sit down and watch the movie Boycott on King Day. I wanted them to know what the Montgomery Bus Boycott was all about. There are not very many Black folks in our little rural town, which made me have an even stronger commitment to providing my children with a home-schooled education in Black history and culture. These days, many educators in the public schools do a good job of teaching Black history. But there is always more to learn.

I remember with amusement a story told to me by my son’s first-grade teacher. On King Day she sat the children in a circle and asked them if any of them knew anything about the Civil War. It was a group of children about 45% Mexican American, about 15% Native American (Pomo), the rest Anglo/Euro, and my Black Jewish son. He was the only one who raised his hand to answer the question. “Yes, Sudi, what do you know about the Civil War?” the teacher asked. “The Black guys won,” Sudi told her.

I think on his day this year, Dr. King would be very pleased to see that an African American candidate for the Democratic nomination for President is a serious front-runner in the race. A liberal friend and Kucinich supporter asked me the other day if I’m voting for Barack because he’s Black. I replied truthfully, “Yes, AND because he’d be a terrific President.”

When Jesse Jackson was running for President, there was a joke going around. It went like this. Jesse and the Pope are in a boat. The Pope’s hat blows off. Jesse gets out of the boat, walks across the water, retrieves the hat, and walks back across the water. He returns the hat to the Pope. The next day the newspaper headlines read “Jesse can’t swim.”

Barack Obama can swim. I’m hoping the Black guys win this one too.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Mother Knows Best

Don’t you love the way no one listens to the mom? And the mom is always right.

The mom says “Don’t eat dinner in your brand new white sweater. It’s spaghetti, in greasy tomato sauce. That’s hard to wash out.”“Mom, I can keep my dinner on my plate, how hard is that? I’m not going to miss my mouth with my food.” Six bottles of Stain-Out and twenty-minutes of crying later.

In the morning, the mom says “Take a jacket. You might not need it but if you have it then for sure you won’t get cold.” So he turns up in the evening in a Patriots jacket. “Whose jacket is that and what is it doing in my house?”“It’s Eli’s and I got cold. His dad gave it to me. He said I could keep it.”“NO you can’t keep it and I don’t care if you have frostbite so bad that your fingers are falling off. No child of mine is ever, do you hear me ever, bringing a Patriots jacket into this house.”

The mom says to the dad, “Don’t leave your glasses lying around. Put them away so you can find them.” So why am I and the children tearing the house apart looking for Dad’s glasses? Or wallet. Or car keys. Or insulin (which he accuses the cat of batting to the floor and sheepishly discovers in his computer bag).

No one listens when the mom says to put air in that tire, work harder and get a B in geometry now so you can relax senior year, don’t wash that new red sweatshirt with your underwear, don’t quit piano lessons, take your swimsuit just in case, bring your skateboard inside before it starts raining, that bass speaker you want to order via email will not fit in your trunk, take orange juice with you in case you have low blood sugar or we’ll be paying an ambulance $700 to cart you to the emergency room, don’t give your friends the keys to your car (especially if they don’t have a license), if you eat that much ice cream without taking a lactose digestant you will regret it, write thank-you notes to show people they are appreciated, and do not attempt to blow-dry the cat.

It's tough being right all the time.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Meet Me in the Basement

I wonder if there is anyone out there reading my blog or if I’m still just talking to myself. My children scoff at me. “Mom, no one reads your blog. They don’t know you exist.” Ungrateful progeny. At least a couple people read my blog, counting my husband. But I figure I have to start somewhere. If I build it, they will come, right? If you are reading, please tell someone else about it.

In Barack Obama’s book The Audacity of Hope, he describes his first forays into politics. When he began his campaign for the senate, he went all over the state to meet people. No one knew who he was. They couldn’t pronounce his name. He met with anyone who turned up. Sometimes no one turned up at an event to meet him. He tells about one place he visited where a truck driver and his wife came to the basement of some church where he had scheduled an event. They were the only ones to turn up. He sat down with them and talked for a couple of hours and he says he learned a lot about what regular working folks want from government, what their needs are, and what they think about things. That was many years ago. This year Obama won the Iowa caucus. In the beginning, the basement. Next year perhaps the White House. (Or will they call it the Black House if he wins? Someone must have made that joke already. I can’t possibly be the first.)

So here I am, sitting in the basement, talking to whomever turns up. While we’re down here, did anyone bring chocolate?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Football Notes

I love the Raiders, and I will say it loud, but I think we need to start seeing other people. The Raiders are my home team, my number one. But we have been co-dependent these past few years. I am burning out on enabling them. I can’t help them until they decide to help themselves. Maybe Lane and JaMarcus will pull them out of this depression. Who knows?

I love the NFL. But it’s breaking my heart. Apart from the fact that the season is almost over, which means that I’m about to be a football widow, the Patriots have taken all the fun out of the game. Alright, alright, not ALL the fun. And OK, I’ll admit that I’m pleased to see Randy Moss, our former Raider, have a chance to finally shine on a team that can throw a football. Did I say that out loud? My bad. I meant to keep that thought a secret. Belichek needs to launder that sweatshirt with the frayed out sleeves and Brady could use a few other facial expressions in his repertoire. I’m sick of the commentators gushing and talking out their boy-crushes on Brady on national T.V. There are a few other players in the NFL. I wonder if those commentators could go through an entire game by any two teams without once mentioning the name Brady (or how many push-ups he did every day in the sixth grade—because I don’t care).

While the Raiders are figuring out how to catch a football, I’ve been cheering for other teams. Yesterday was a difficult day for me. I’m a big fan of both the Colts and the Chargers. I guess I should have taken a tranquilizer or perhaps anti-psychotic medication before sitting down to the T.V. I spent several hours arguing with myself: go Manning, no go Rivers, no go Reggie Wayne, no go L.T., no, yes, no, yippee, eek! I almost socked myself in the eye over it. But at the beginning of the season, I said that I would like to see the Chargers win the Super Bowl this year. It’s OK for me to say that since the Colts were my pick last year and they won. Now the Chargers have a shot at it. It would be sweet to see those Patriots knocked down in the Championships. Charge on Chargers! If you win, you’re my Valentine.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Personal Great Migration

Ron and I have decided to sell our country house and move closer to town. After 17 years of country living, we admit we are not young and vigorous enough for this lifestyle. Our day yesterday is a perfect illustration. First thing in the morning Sudi (our teenager) stepped into the bathroom to take his shower and discovered our cats chasing a live mouse up and down the towel rack. They never caught it. It’s hiding in the molding somewhere. I do not do rodents. They make me scream and jump on furniture. They turn me into a cartoon involving the letters E-E-K. Then, for most of the day Ron froze his ass off because a) we heat with a wood stove, b) we are having a very cold winter, and c) he is diabetic with low thyroid so his body is about one ice cube away from a mint julep when it comes to retaining heat. In the evening, just as we sat down to dinner, the power went out because of storm conditions (according to the recorded message at Pacific Gas & Electric – duh) and plunged us into pitch darkness. Sudi walked into the pantry door trying to find a flashlight. When he hollered, I thought he had stepped on the mouse. I spent the rest of the evening watching my husband and son shiver in rhythm to the wail of the back-up generator. I do confess that there are (and always will be) a million things I love about country living. For instance, this time of year the frogs are mating and they make such a happy sound you would think every one of them is about to turn into a prince or princess. But there are many things about country living that I will not miss. Our days in the country are numbered. Trust me, you will be hearing more on this blog about our personal great migration from country living to a home in town.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Pins Out

Yesterday was a big day at our house. My husband Ron got his pins out. No, he’s not a voo-doo doll or a dressmaker’s dummy. He’s formerly hammer-toed. No longer hammer-toed. His left foot only. They broke all the hammer toes and straightened them out. He’s now screwdriver-toed. His toes used to curl under, which made him get blisters and sores. So they broke his toes and put pins in to keep them straight when the bones healed. And yesterday they took the pins out and lo and behold, the toes didn’t curl up (like the feet of the Wicked Witch of the East when Dorothy took the ruby slippers). So now Ron is in a walking boot. That’s big considering he has been on crutches since August (this was actually the third and final foot surgery he has endured for a series of problems). So how did we celebrate? We invited the foot doctor and his wife over for dinner. We spend so much time in the office, they feel like family. Ron asked them if they have any special dietary needs. The wife is vegetarian. That works for me. So am I. The foot doctor, however, doesn’t eat cooked vegetables. Interesting dichotomy. They must eat a lot of brown rice and tofu. I was going to make a mushroom quiche or perhaps an eggplant parmesan. I have a great new recipe I invented for butternut au gratin. But no cooked vegetables. Hmmm. I guess Dr. Foot and his wife will be coming over to our house for mac and cheese and field greens.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Balloon Missile

It turns out that the underground bunker that my brother Bill went to on New Year’s Eve was a former missile silo. People actually live in this thing. He sent me a photo of his contribution to the event, which was a missile made out of balloons. To understand the significance of this, you have to know that Bill is the Balloonman of Lawrence, Kansas. He makes things out of balloons. Not ordinary things, not everyday things, but everything under the sun. Centerpieces for the tables at weddings. String instruments. Hats and jackets. Barbecue grills, tablecloths, staplers, table saws, soup. I even saw him bake muffins in a balloon cooker one time. Any object in the known world, my brother can make a replica out of balloons. So for the party in the missile silo, he made a missile out of balloons and he took a trick picture of it with a little person next to it so that it looked like a full-scale balloon missile. He sent me the picture and I wanted to show it to you, but I couldn’t get it to upload onto the blog. Anyway I, his dupe of a gullible sister, actually believed for a hot minute that he had made a huge missile out of balloons, until it occurred to me that they just don’t make balloons in that size.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Underground Pagans

Last week I talked to my brother Bill on the phone. I asked what he was up to for New Year’s Eve. He said he was going to a party in an underground bunker with pagans. If that wasn’t strange enough, I thought he said he was going to a party in an underground bunker with vegans. You have to understand that I have very poor hearing and even with an amplifier on my phone and a hearing aid, my world is full of absurdities based on what I think I hear and the arc of distance between that and what someone actually said. I have a very amusing life because I hear all kinds of things that were not said. By-the-way, I have nothing against vegans or pagans. I have been a vegan at times. I suspect I have been a pagan at times too. According to Webster a pagan is “one who has little or no religion and who delights in sensual pleasures and material goods.” Why anyone who delights in sensual pleasures would be living in an underground bunker eludes me. I thought sensual folk were a bit partial to sunlight. As for the material goods, it strikes me that anyone living in an underground bunker is trying to economize on housing, which might preclude an attachment to material goods. What kind of food do you suppose underground pagans serve at a party? My guess is turnips in a dark chocolate sauce. What do you think? Perhaps they are underground pagan vegans. There’s a concept. I’ll have to call Bill to get the details.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Ron's Closet

My 2008 is off to a good start. The unthinkable happened. My husband Ron cleaned his closet. I didn’t even ask him to do it. At first I wasn’t sure what possessed him, but then I realized it was very likely the avalanche of old clothing that tumbled out on our bedroom floor when he went to look for something to wear for New Year’s Eve. Once the clothes fell out we could see what he had back there. Squash racket. Wrapping paper (and I thought I had run out). Air mattresses (that’s where they went). Foot bath. Ping pong balls (we don’t have a ping pong table). Ping pong table (yikes, I guess we do have a ping pong table). One-year supply of biodegradable drain cleaner. 1982 Chicago phone book. Two boxes of old phone bills. Cuckoo clock. My nephew (thank goodness, my sister-in-law will be so relieved that he turned up).

I even noticed that he still has the photography dark room in the back corner of his closet. His dark room is a large cardboard box with two black sleeves for his arms. I’m not sure how exactly you develop the film in there. Especially since you can’t see into the box. And wouldn’t you think that cardboard would dissolve when it comes in contact with film-developing chemicals? Well, I guess I’m too thick to get how this system works. Although I have yet to recall any photos that Ron has developed in that box, I do know it has been in his closet for at least 25 years. But we can’t throw it out. I mean what if he discovered film that needed developing? In the meantime, it seems like a halfway decent repository for the old pairs of jeans that he swears he’ll get back into by the spring.

When I started my blog, I warned Ron that he was going to be fodder for my blog entries. He replied, “I expected it. I’m already the fodder of your children.”