Friday, April 29, 2011


I participated in the royal orgy today, watching the wedding on tv at work along with many of my unabashed female colleagues, and a few guys, too. Hey, we said, if the admin can reserve a conference room during work to watch the German match of the World Cup, let's see them try to deny us these few hours of pomp and romance.

Still, after all the waiting for the ceremony, the kiss, the carriage, etc., in the end it was those fantstical hats that stunned. This is apparently de rigueur in British fashion. There wasn't a bare female head - from frisbee-type contrivances, to whirly-twirlies, to psychedelic ostrich plumes, to birthday cakes, tacos and contraptions that look more like hat boxes than hats.

But if you watched I am sure you cannot but agree that Princess Beatrice whooped them all with her Dr. Seuss-like atrocity. I couldn't believe my eyes - this is a girl with a sense of humor. At least I hope that is the explanation, and not insanity or intent to do psychic harm.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Scrambled eggs and ketchup

I never wore jeans to work until this year. That’s because a former bureau chief, a woman I was/am also friends with, once said women have to do more to earn respect at work than men do, and while people overlook men dressed in jeans, women in jeans look sloppy. So I never wore jeans until this year, when I finally threw off the shackles.

These kinds of statements can affect you more than you think. Another well-dressed friend once said to me, “What is the thing with black and brown? Black doesn’t GO with brown.” And ever since then I’ve thought, wow, black doesn’t go with brown? And I experience an inner questioning every time I pair black with brown, which I like to do.

I also had a German boyfriend once who said “grün und blau trägt die Sau,” which means the female pig wears green with blue. He said this on a day when I was wearing green and blue. I’d often wear green and blue; I figured they went well together. But now I was told they were ultimate frump. And the more I thought about it, the more I kind of agreed. (That is an actual German saying, by the way.)

But the worst for me is yellow and red. Yellow and red has always reminded me of scrambled eggs with ketchup, which I hate. As a kid I loved the game Risk, but I couldn’t play if red and yellow were on the same team. This is surely one of the reasons I dislike the German flag. Ugh, who thought that up? In any case, I never wear yellow and red together. Hell, I never wear yellow OR red at all.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

what can occur can reoccur

Here’s a phrase that struck me odd the other day: ‘occur to.’ Without the preposition ‘to,’ ‘occur’ usually means to ‘happen’ or ‘transpire,’ as in “the accident occurred at 6 o’clock,” or “this disease occurs in farm animals.” It has something of a suddenness about it, as in “Hamlet was not prepared for what was about to occur!”

The suddenness makes it unlike ‘take place,’ which works well with events planned in advance, like an operation or a meeting that takes days to be over.

But we also use ‘occur to’ to refer to a BRAIN getting an idea or remembering something.

Yo Jeeves, it occurs to me that white goes better with fish.

What I like about ‘occur to’ is it’s as if an IDEA HAD HAPPENED to you, passively. It crept up on you while you were sitting around minding your own damned business. In that it’s a bit similar to “dawn on,” except that “dawn on” is wimpier because of its reference to the sentimental Walt Disney dawn, as well as a dishwashing liquid that comes in varieties like “lime surge” and “citrus kick.”

And then Monday dawned on Petrushki.

In this case, it could actually be Monday itself, the day, arriving in the form of daylight on that sleeping idiot Petrushki, or Petrushki possibly realized something surprising about Monday. It does seem to refer to the throttling awake of a stupid person:

It dawned on Roger that those cigarette butts in the ashtray were not his wife’s.

Maybe it’s because the dawn seems to come up gradually, like a slow person finally getting the hint, his jaw slackening to reveal a dark orb.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Another station of the cross

Telephone Pole

There was a telephone pole
that wanted to be a tree,
to do the birds a service,
birds who now only paused
on wires strung up and shared
with neighboring poles,
evenly spaced
like monotonous clones.

Tapping the land line, the pole
demanded fancy branches
and deciduousness
but the phone company
refused, so the pole
interrupted all outgoing calls,
demanding to be a lamb,
and be brought back as Christ.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Great Whites, or thoughts while dressing for work

What do the great white shark and the great white shirt have in common?

For one, they both have terrific teeth and bite! Flashing in the dark, one could almost be mistaken for the other.

Second, when the great white shirt is all ironed up and starched, it makes a ripping sort of sound when I pull it over my head and stick my arms through the sleeves, a sound not unlike that of a shark shredding something to bits. Scary!

Last, a note on personality. The great white shark and the great white shirt are both no-nonsense types. They mean business, people. Approach with caution . . .

Monday, April 18, 2011

philadelphia, a city

“A moving and important work.”

“The crudest vulgarities lit up by the most pristine instinct.”

“Some unforgettable scenes – full of regret, bathos and mystery.”

“At once darkly hilarious, gripping, and fit to burst.”

“Never have I been served such a portion of horseshit.”

“So well executed, one could almost dispense with the plot and characters.”

“Nothing less than a letter to God.”

“Only now and then does something like this come along that makes you realize life is extraordinary.”

Saturday, April 16, 2011

freak incident

Look at this intersection! Look at this Irish bar! Look at this guy hosing down the area in front of his deli. Look at this corner lit by every light bulb and LED screen on the planet. Look at this corner that hasn’t seen the light of day in two centuries! And these guys are protesting against bedbugs? And this is a Scientology video broadcasting to anyone who’ll listen? Look at these buildings boxing in the sidewalk with windows and banners and bricks and a doorman. Look at this lot with absolutely nothing on it. Astounding to see this fence around it!

Saturday, April 09, 2011

four strong winds

I had a long trip to America. First I flew to Duesseldorf, which involved much waiting and about 25 minutes on a plane. I was to be seated in row 22, but there was no row 22, which was perfect. Then the 8.5 hour flight to Newark. But everything turned out fine. We didn’t crash. A woman asked if I’d trade my aisle seat for her friend’s middle seat so they could sit together and the answer was no. Sorry, I made about three phone calls to get that seat. I watched “Sekretariat,” which had to be the schmalziest storehouse of bullshit ever. But I survived even that.

I finished Oracle Night before boarding in DUE, but luckily I had a back-up book: Moscow To The End of the Line. It is about a very hard drinker. It is pathetic but also funny. And the first thing we did at my mom’s was go over to the local Borders, which is going out of business (9 days left!) to scavenge the racks. I thought I’d have no luck, but I found about 15 books I was VERY interested in, which I sorrowfully whittled down to eight. I would have taken them all if I didn’t have to lug them back to Germany, some of them being very nice hardbacks! $175 worth of books for $45: The Infinities, Foe, the new translation of Madame Bovary from Lydia Davis, The Wind Blows Through the Doors of My Heart, Mapping the World (a geography book that I may cut up/collage), City of Glass, Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day, and a poetry anthology called A Book of Luminous Things. I've heard of this book many times, but wasn't sure I'd want it. But at $4.25, why not?

The thing about this anthology is each poem is sketched out by the editor at the top of the page. That way the slow among us have a chance to get it. For example: In this Tu Fu poem of spring the days get longer and the mountains grow beautiful. The south wind blows over flowering meadows. Swallows who just arrived dart over marshes while ducks nap in couples on the sand.

South Wind

The days grow long, the mountains
Beautiful. The south wind blows
Over blossoming meadows.
Newly arrived swallows dart
Over the streaming marshes.
Ducks in pairs drowse on the warm sand.

Ok, I hope that was helpful? I know this poem is a toughie. They left out the more subtle one about the north wind for fear of rampant reader failure. Ah well, there are some good poems in this, but the commentary sometimes teeters on the brink of hilarious.

Thursday, April 07, 2011


I read an article recently claiming a spoonful of sugar cures hiccups about 93% of the time. This is the first I hear of this. If it's true, why doesn't anyone seem to know about it? All I ever heard about was holding your breath, or breathing into a paper bag, or scaring the daylights out of the hiccupping party. The cures I'm familiar with always seemed to require a dash of drama. (My colleague, for example, suggests panting. I can't wait to try that out.)

I can only attribute the ignorance of the sugarcure to a misanthropic theory that people subconsciously don't want to be cured of the hiccups because they get pleasure from annoying their loved ones and crave attention. So maybe we've all been told of this cure before but we "forgot." I think of my sister who hiccupped through her youth only to terrorize me, not because she really had the hiccups. Or the people who talk to themselves constantly, who seem totally unperturbed by it, even when everyone else is pulling their hair out.

Both of my kids recently had the hiccups and I tried telling them that it was all in their heads. Which actually did the trick. I'm sure it was a fluke, but still, may work as a last resort.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

what might do

I’d like now to read a book that is sad and haunted. Not haunted as in ghosts but infused maybe with the past or hope or illness or regret or something that didn’t happen but might have. Children could play a role, not a bunch of them, and not as the focus, but they could be there for perspective even just as a memory because vulnerability is important. As for grownups, I don’t mind characters who are despicable because how else would I see myself. I don’t go in much for love stories but love might roost in the margins or be disappointing or cause a tragedy before going up in smoke. I appreciate a well-built sentence and I’ve nothing against fragments used in an unaffected way. A good vocabulary is my weak spot. I’m also into fireplaces and watching fires. I love a light snowfall and the smell of manure and all the tricks the wind can do. If animals walk in let them be lobsters or lunatic chimps but not dogs or cats and birds are boring. There’s no time like the present though long ago would work – I avoid the 70s although that wouldn’t rule reading out for me if the book had other things going for it. I like a U.S. setting whether city, suburb or mountaintop, but Europe is also fine into its new eastern reaches and I’m persuadable on Asia. The story might also take place in a small airplane. I like suspense and men with beards. Of all nuts, peanuts. I don’t need a happy ending but let someone come to an understanding or acceptance and go on living, or die with insight, or solve a puzzle, thwart an enemy, or better yet let someone realize what an asshole he or she has been.

Friday, April 01, 2011

good things

One of the best things is I got my son a book he is enjoying: The Maze Runner. It just came out in German, and after months of sulking about his reluctance to read, I gave it another shot, and bingo. He loves it. Thanks to NE for telling me not to be discouraged.

My 14-year daughter got her hair cut in a punky cropped-on-one-side style (that looks good) and asked for a feminist book called Living Dolls, which I got. She has been following me around telling me how “furious” she is about, about, what? About sexism. All I can say is swing out sistah. It is great to have two kids battling for airtime to promote the books they’re reading, even reading me short passages to try to make me understand.

I veered off the usual path and read a vampire book, Let the Right One In, which I can only say is wild and wonderful. I loved it. Great story and very well written. Sometimes funny but also touching and of course completely undead.

Back in real life I wanted to go to my mom’s for her birthday in mid-April and she pretty much forbid it, saying she’d rather I come out when she moves, which I understand, but I have doubts she’ll move this year. Anyway, I acquiesced, not wanting to visit if she’s only going to cluck her tongue at me. Then a training opportunity came up at my company’s offices in NY and I put my hand up and was chosen, so, while I’m a little trepidatious about the demands of the training, I will be at my mom’s in NJ for her birthday, and she is thrilled.

Last, I entered Good Reads monthly poetry competition and won! This is great because I actually win something – Billy Collins’ new book, which I’m interested in reading. Here’s the poem I entered:

Riding Backwards on the Train

It’s not unpleasant: perpetual surprise.
But instead of feeling I’ll arrive, the world

appears to pour towards whatever
I’m getting away from. Cows and foliage

blur by and I try to imagine easing
into couch cushions, or the plunge

back onto the bed, quilt whooshing
up from behind. Still, I can’t shake

the faint dyslexia reverse riding
brings, the suspicion I’m rushing

assbackwards into the future, kick-me
sign tacked to my spine, a breech

birth with no eye for what’s ahead
until it crashes into the past, the inkling

I’m a fool doing the backstroke smack
up against the wall of the pool.
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