Saturday, December 31, 2005

My Wonderful Husband

Gave me a mandolin for Christmas. Gorgeous, flat back, center hole, spruce top, mahogany back and sides, rosewood fretboard. In true not-so-big-R. fashion, he did his research. He took not-so-little-R. on a mysterious road trip on December 19, and it turns out they went to Mandolin Brothers on Staten Island and listened to a bunch of mandolins, then picked this one. I'm not linking to a picture or going to their website, or Mid-Missouri Mandolins' site, because then I would know how much it cost and I'd really like never to know. I think it's a pretty good system we have, that cheapass me buys presents for everyone in the family and then splashout (dare I say spendthrift?) R. gets a present for me. It may sound like he got a raw deal but believe me, he gets himself plenty of presents over the course of the year.

Anyway, back to the mandolin which I love. One benefit I had not even thought of: it's so light and petite. You can read in the post linked above about "trundling" the guitar around. It really is a burdensome instrument--not as bad as a piano, but close. This doodad comes with a backpacky little case and it's just the perfect size for petite me.

Now I just have to learn to play it. I suppose I'll have to practice and all that. I have tried a couple of crosspicking exercises in a book R. got me, and it's hard to believe it could ever be second nature. But we shall see.

Anyway, I looked back at my list of 14 arbritrary goals and I'm doing surprisingly well

1. Write a book--getting there
6. Landscape our yard so it is (in front) not an embarrassment and (in back) a beautiful private retreat--not an embarrassment, check. Beautiful private retreat, barring financial ruin, slated to happen in the spring.
8. Learn to play the mandolin--now in possession of a mandolin.

So, ergo, check out your list. You may want to slot the unicorn ranch into one of the spots you get to cross off.

Real Post Tomorrow, Maybe

In the year 2006 I resolve to:

Become a modern-day Johnny Appleseed.

Get your resolution here

Friday, December 23, 2005

On the Radio, whoa-oh-oh on the radio

For some reason Karen Carpenter's "Merry Christmas, Darling" is in heavy rotation this year. It's not too bad as pop Christmas songs go, except for this one moment:

Logs on the fire, fill me with desire (uncomfortable caesura)
To see you and to say...

I'm sorry, but for that one awkward moment it sounds like burning logs are a turn-on for her. Which would be fine, but then she does the wholesome "gotcha": she just wants to see her darling, you dirty-minded listeners.

In other complaints, Carly Simon seems to think she can change a whole bunch of the lyrics to "Let It Snow" for no good reason. What was wrong with the corn for popping, Carly? And if the temperature's dropping so much, that actually means it probably won't snow, weather genius. Why aren't you going out in the storm? Because you're the woman? And how do you know how I'm going to feel when you kick me out?*

*I realize this makes no sense to anyone who a) hasn't heard Carly's version of the song and b) isn't a lyrics freak like me.

Pop Christmas moments I do like: every time Gene Autry sings "Santa Claus knows we're all God's children/That makes everything right," it kills me. Kills me. What also kills me, I mean in tears every time and this is really embarrassing? When the chipmunks sing "We can hardly stand the wait..." I also like James Taylor's "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas." But I have an uncomfortable feeling that James could sing "Let's Mutilate Squirrels for Satan" and I'd like it.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Pin

I call it the "No Conversation" pin, after Rebecca West's short story "There Is No Conversation."

I love the pin for itself--it's a wooden circle about an inch and a half in diameter, handpainted in black and shades of cream and beige, with a leafless tree and a full moon. A boy gave it to me in high school--the boy I was in love with junior year. He was never my boyfriend, because he was in love with my friend M. From time to time we would do a bit of kissing and then afterward he would be sure to mention that he would never get over M. and of course this did not mean anything had changed between us. After the first couple of times I should have gotten wise--well, honestly, I did get wise and I decided to go with it.

So then this boy went on a trip to England with his parents, and came home with presents for a bunch of us. He gave me the pin. I would say with certainty that his mother picked out the pin except I can't believe she was sufficiently aware of my existence to think I warranted a present. He gave M. a t-shirt from a Peter Gabriel concert in London.

She would far, far rather have had the pin. But I knew which was the "best" present. This boy loved early Genesis, worshipped Peter Gabriel. It was a tremendous coup and a treat for him to have caught this concert abroad. The t-shirt was a hard-won and rare trophy. He assumed that M. shared all his passions and that she would value the t-shirt the way he meant it. The pin--which looked to casual eyes like the more romantic, the more intimate present--meant less.

So I also love the pin because it reminds me of how very little we know the people we love sometimes. And also how well we know them, and what little difference it makes. That at the end of the day we are trapped in this frustrating, terribly human, inevitable psychic isolation. But we keep making loving gestures, we keep trying to communicate anyway. Despite the fact that there is no conversation.

It spends most of the winter on one lapel or another.

Monday, December 19, 2005

The Meme of Four

Four jobs you've had in your life: department store sales "associate", box office manager, office manager, mother.

Four movies you could watch over and over: Gone With the Wind, Casablanca, The Wizard of Oz, Center Stage.

Four places you've lived: Jersey Shore, Princeton, Northern Virginia, New York City

Four TV shows you love to watch: Arrested Development, Law and Order: Criminal Intent, House, My Name is Earl.

Four places you've been on vacation: Italy, the Adirondacks, San Francisco, Disneyworld.

Four websites you visit daily: only four? This Woman's Work, TelevisionWithout Pity, Open Book, About Last Night.

Four of your favorite foods: macaroni and cheese, roast chicken, black beans and rice, noodles with peanut sauce.

Four places you'd rather be: Paris, Copenhagen, summer, childhood.

Why So Tense?

I have four out of six kinds of cookies baked. Menus planned (groceries still to buy). All presents purchased and wrapped. Letter written but still to be edited by R., cards not even begun (but we believe it's okay to send cards as late as Jan. 9th). All decorations up except tree. House reasonably clean, everyone has something festive to wear. Today's what, the 19th? I think I'm in a darn good place here.

So why the shallow breathing, short attention span, eyes darting around the room, MomVee?

The only thing I can think of is that my unconscious is so used to being frantic and behind that it's not giving me any credit for the above items. And my mother said something similar to me a few days ago: "28 out of 30 cards done doesn't make me feel any better than 1 out of 30 cards done."

I think they should sell tranquilizers over the counter just between Thanksgiving and New Year's.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Theater of the Absurd, or The Interior of My Car

M: The sun is hurting my eyes.
MV: I'm so sorry.
M: I want the sun to say sorry!
MV: The sun can't talk.
M: Why not?
MV: Well, because....because the sun is a mass of incandescent gas.
M: I have gas sometimes.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Upside Down

Have you heard about this decorating trend?

Just looking at the pictures gives me a sick headache.


This sounds familiar:

I don't know how your domestic partnership is arranged but part of the unspoken arrangement through which Steve keeps me in mascaras and standing mixers is that I am solely responsible for identifying, locating, acquiring, wrapping, and insuring that all presents for both sides of the family for every birthday Christmas promotion and Filipino-American Friendship Day arrive on time and in good taste.

Which means every few months I look at the calendar and exclaim "Damn it!" and then scurry into Steve's office bleating, "What do you want to get your (father/step-mother/sister/sister's husband) for (his/her/their) (birthday/anniversary/confirmation hearing)?" Steve will always respond with cold silence, which, to be fair, is exactly how I would react if he burst upon me resting in the bathtub one afternoon and shouted, "Quick! Earn something!" From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs, and all that.

Well, not entirely familiar. I do all the kinwork around here, but R. does have opinions about it. Annoying opinions, frankly. I just want affirmation, dammit, not second-guessing. Typical gift conversation:

"I was thinking about getting your sister H. this beautiful camel-color English schoolgirl hat trimmed with brown velvet. It would look perfect with her coat." (NB I have, in fact, already bought the hat)
"I don't know...does H. have a head to put it on?"

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Overheard at a party last night

"Yes, our life is a rich tapestry of vomit."

It's happened. Enough of my high school friends now have children (and not just babies but actual kids) that the Christmas party has a distinctly different atmosphere. Not entirely different. We still tell stories that start "Remember when you were so drunk that...", but we hushed up whenever a child came into the room for boo-boo kisses, DVD help or nourishment.

One of my friends opined that we were actually very good kids for all the naughty secret things we did, and she thinks we should have acted worse. It's an interesting question--if you put morals aside for the moment and focus on the utilitarian. I guess today's results indicate that we were "good kids," since everyone is intact and most of us went to college, own homes, are happily married and have kids. You certainly have to wonder how much more we could have gotten away with before serious cracks appeared in the veneer. And don't come away from this thinking that all the memories that hold us together are memories of debauchery--we had a lot of innocent fun, too.

In A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, Francie's Aunt Sissy expresses regret about all the lovers she has had, and wishes her husband Steve had been "the first and only one." Her sister (Francie's mother) says "Woman talks that means she's going into the change of life....If she never had any lovers, she kicks herself around when the time comes, thinking of all the fun she could have had, didn't have, and now can't have. If she had a lot of lovers, she argues herself into believing that she did wrong and she's sorry now. She carries on that way because she knows that soon all her woman-ness will be lost...lost."

And I think something similar is happening here. We're still years away from menopause, but never again can we dip more than a toe into reckless irresponsibility. It's the wonderful thing about parenthood and the awful thing about parenthood--the job you can't quit.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Sausage Kimchi Bap Update

The kimchi I got was not nearly hot enough. The Fast Break dish was borderline tissue-damage hot. And saucy, which I did not achieve with this batch.

This only increases my determination.

Household Hint

If, after Thanksgiving dinner, your daughter wants one more Italian cookie and you say no, and then she wants to wrap one in a cocktail napkin and put it in your pocketbook for tomorrow, also say no.

Do you know how hard it is to get pulverized cookie, and I mean completely disintegrated cookie, unrecognizable except for the green crystallized cherry and the fifty million crumbs coating everything, out of the inside of your pocketbook? And off of everything in your pocketbook that can't be washed or rinsed?

Turn it upside down and dump them out? Surprisingly, no. Lint remover? Again no. Laboriously wipe with tape? Very slight improvement.

I think what makes me saddest is the indelible grittiness on the outside of this lip balm, which I got at Whole Foods and love passionately.

Year In Review Meme

Courtesy of ergo: "Take the first few lines of the first post of each month. It is a mini-review of your 2005."

...that never wrote to me. Have to give Frost and Dickinson equal time. There are at least 20 things I really should be doing right now other than blogging: laundry, vacuuming, deciding what to have for dinner, helping my kids with their homework, even writing something more lasting (I hope) than a post.

Okay, so yay, links. Now it's time to pick the random items up off the floor, all over the house. I'll be back tomorrow, and with any luck I'll have regained my sense of proportion.

While we were on our non-vacation helping-in-laws-move trip down south last weekend, not-so-little R. was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes (the insulin-dependent or "juvenile" kind).

Do you ever discover that you were dreading something only after it's over? This particularly happens to me with doctor visits. I mean, you would think by now I would recognize that I have...issues...with them, but I am capable of mind-blowing denial.

I've always loved this song, but right now it is so eerily apt. Especially President Coolidge and his emotionally detached comment.

Louisiana 1927
Randy Newman

What has happened down here is the wind have changed
Clouds roll in from the north and it started to rain
Rained real hard and rained for a real long time
Six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline

Yesterday the special edition DVD of Disney's "Cinderella" was released. My mother wanted to know if she should get it for M. for Christmas. I said sure, but wistfully:

Sixteen years ago my boyfriend--well, he wasn't my boyfriend at the time, but he soon would be--gave me the VHS of "Cinderella" for Christmas. It was partly that gift that let me know he would soon be my boyfriend.

Just Call Me "Booge"

Don't get me wrong, there are many things I like about Halloween. I enjoy helping my kids with their costumes; I like to wear a little whimsical something myself. I adore candy. I have a compulsion to buy any decorative item that features black cats with their backs arched.

But I don't like answering the door a bazillion times between 5 and 9 pm.

Leslie Harpold's Advent Calendar for 2005 is up, cleverly disguised on her main site as the 2004 calendar. Check it out.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Gifts For Life

Check this out.

Courtesy of the Washington National Cathedral Advent Calendar.

It Is Margaret You Mourn For

On Sunday, R. and I saw the play "Orson's Shadow" at the Barrow Street Theater in Greenwich Village. It's closing December 31 and if it is at all within your power to go see it, I highly recommend that you do so. If it isn't, I'm sorry. Please note at this time that there will be spoilers below the asterisk row.

"Orson's Shadow" is playwright Austin Pendleton's version of what might have happened when Orson Welles directed Laurence Olivier in a production of "Rhinoceros" at the dawn of the British National Theatre. Kenneth Tynan narrates and Vivien Leigh and Joan Plowright, outgoing and incoming Ladies Olivier, take part.

As you might imagine, the play is uproarious, with witty banter and backstage gossip flying furiously. Artistic temperament is definitely on display. One feels a frisson of guilt, of inadvertent voyeurism when Vivien Leigh breaks down. But the truly moving moment is at the very end. SPOILERS (of a sort) BELOW:


The play ends with Welles and Olivier onstage. Joan Plowright walks on and says "Since I'm the only character in this play who's still alive, why don't I wrap things up." She tells of Tynan's death at 53 of emphysema, Leigh's death at 53 of tuberculosis. She describes her life with Olivier and the remainder of his career--ten years of triumphs with the National Theatre followed by movies to provide for his children's future. Then Welles asks eagerly, "What about me?"

"You lived for 25 more years, but only completed one more movie," Plowright says somewhat hesitantly.
"What was it?"
"'Chimes At Midnight,'" she answers with some relief, since his obsession throughout the play has been to finance a film of "Chimes."
She also tells him that despite bad sound caused by a tight budget, "Chimes" is a masterpiece.

She adds that despite the studios' editing butchery, "The Magnificent Ambersons" and "Touch of Evil" are classics.
"Did anything I did ever eclipse the memory of 'Citizen Kane'?" he asks, since that achievement has been his other obsession.

R. and I had tears running down our cheeks. And while readers of this blog know that MomVee's cheeks are not an unfamiliar path for tears, it's considerably less usual for R. to be moved to tears in a crowded theater. It made me think, again, of "Spring and Fall."

I think, too, that it has something to do with Ergo's recent post:

It is a tension of contradictions that life is to be lived in each moment as if every day was your last and also as if you are going to live forever.

What can we do to ensure that our lives will end with minimal regret? Will disappointment, perfectionism, self-loathing, make us give up prematurely? Will we fail to appreciate our own greatest achievements?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Like Proust's Madeleine

When R. and I were newlyweds, we briefly worked in the same office in DC. There was a kind of bizarre lunch spot near the office called "Fast Break." Our boss could never remember the correct name and always called it "Lunch Break" or "Fast Track." I say it was kind of bizarre because they served a concoction called "Sausage Kimchi Bap" which consisted of rice, kimchi and kielbasa. But not that bizarre, because damn if this was not an incredibly satisfying lunch which I ate as often as I could without my husband becoming alarmed/mocking me.

Wegmans has abruptly stopped carrying brown basmati rice, so I had to buy a big bag of some kind of Thai short-grain brown rice instead. When I was scraping the rest of not-so-little-R.'s curry off the plate (and into my mouth) before I put it in the dishwasher, something in the sense memory part of my brain screamed "Sausage Kimchi Bap"! And I knew that I would have to make it myself, because there are no Korean restaurants around here, let alone Korean-Polish restaurants.

I bought a jar of kimchi at Whole Foods today (I looked into making kimchi from scratch and I'm sorry but, it's Christmastime and I have a life). I'm very excited to gaze into a bowl of Sausage Kimchi Bap and say lovingly, "We meet again...."

Friday, December 02, 2005


Leslie Harpold's Advent Calendar for 2005 is up, cleverly disguised on her main site as the 2004 calendar. Check it out.

Edited 12/5: no longer disguised, the 2004 is now archived and the 2005 is identified as such.