Friday, September 21, 2012

The Inconstant Gardener

Every single year since I moved into this house, I make very big plans.
Do I smell clam chowder?

They do not involve wearing a ball gown in Times Square (over my clothes with combat boots like everyone else). Nor do they touch upon infiltrating a red carpet event so I can offer clam chowder and a cookie to Calista Flockhart. Although the more I think about it, the more sense that makes.

My big plans involve the beautiful flowers I will plant.

When we first arrived in the "country," I would drive around the neighborhood ogling other people's gardens, do research on the benefits of annuals vs. perennials, look into what bulbs would enhance a border and slow down every time I passed a garden center while entertaining visions of the splendour I would create (and trying not to rear end the car in front of me. Seth got pretty tired of that).

In reality, there was more likelihood of the Calista Flockhart cookie intervention.

The reason behind this is simple: gardening involves work. And dedication. And I am, without question, the laziest human I know. When it comes to physical labor, that is. I am more than happy to do any work that involves sitting on a couch by a window. Preferably while napping.

Impossible to accomplish while napping.
But also, during our very first spring, I did attempt to realize my fantasy and severely overdid it...

I decided to fill our front yard with impatiens, everyone's favorite annual flower. In the city, a neighbor had created a glorious display which I'd admired and now that I finally had some ground to call my own, I bought hundreds of impatiens. And then, hundreds more.

Not my yard but mine looked as good that year.
I actually did complete the task and the results were magnificent. However, my knees still ache some 18 years later. I realized then that I hate bending, kneeling...and weeding and watering. Also sweating. I really hate sweating.

Not to mention I don't trust dirt. Whereas urban sidewalks can harbor broken glass, dog poop and glistening city oysters (my term for freshly hocked loogies), you can always step around them. Dirt is full of surprises. It can hold insects...sometimes with lots and lots of legs.

If worms smiled
like this, it wouldn't be so bad.
And worst of all, worms.

Bugs and bending. Not a happy combo for this lethargic city girl.

All in all, there was no garden this year. I did, however, plant morning glories around my mailbox (no bending) which have gone I am giving myself partial credit.
My actual mailbox. Jealous?
There's always next year. You'll see, next year I will plant and tend a magnificent garden. And I'll be selling ocean front property in Arizona, too. Contact me if interested.
Now, for a musical interlude.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Sleepless Nights and Deaf Cats

Actual unretouched photograph of "Susan Says..." last night
Yet again, I could not fall asleep last night.

But this time I decided to do what many old fashioned Americans use as a tried and true method of sleep induction. Nope, not warm milk. Not a marathon of just about anything on the Discovery channel or even a Nyquil Smoothie....I went right for some alcohol. Mike's Hard Lemonade, to be exact.

There were a few, leftover from a party (yes, don't look so surprised. "Susan Says..." throws parties. If you're interested in getting on the guest list, simply fill out the application below and mail in a check for $100....just kidding! I don't charge that much for my parties) in the fridge in the garage.

We have other stuff but it's still locked up in the closet downstairs. We put a padlock on that when the boys reached their teen years. Unfortunately, the only people that lock kept out were me and Seth. We lost the keys and still can't get in.

Hard Lemonade did not do the trick. All it did was cause me to want to put make-up on the cats and hyper analyze the lyrics to some Fleetwood Mac songs.

For example, what exactly does he mean by "When times go bad, when times go rough, won't you lay me down in tall grass and let me do my stuff." What exactly is his "stuff" and why must it be in tall grass. And, why would anyone in their right mind make  him "Secondhand News"???
Lindsey Buckingham. Considered very cute by 1970's standards.
All that aside, we have another situation that affects not only my sleep but Seth's as well. This includes weekend naps, dozing off in front of the TV and drunken stupors, as well.

My 18 year old cat Fritzi, has gone deaf. The old girl hears nothing. I can vacuum, sing, rant at the TV, threaten the computer or cackle like a hyena and she does not so much as flick an ear in my direction.

She no longer comes trotting in to the kitchen when I use the can opener and doesn't show up in the bathroom in order to get a little drinkie from the faucet. I have given up putting her favorite You-tube videos on for her which makes me sad because, often, we would watch them together.

I've told you all before how lonely "Susan Says..." can get now that the ingrates boys are grown up.

And, yes,You-tube. For the cat.

There are dozens of videos if you do a search for "cat entertainment" and Fritzi and I used to love a nice long one of birds hopping around a feeder. Now, however, she has a new habit.

Almost on the hour, every hour, day and night, Fritzi stands up from her little napping cushion, stretches creakily, faces the back of the chair and bellows at it several times in an unearthly deep and terrible voice that not only wakes us but also the dead in cemeteries as far away as Montreal.

No matter how used to this we are becoming, its scares the daylights out of us every time. It is that loud. And that terrible.
It is this loud.

Still cheerful and accepting of hugs and a good brushing, she's not in pain. A friend suggested that it's some sort of self-soothing behavior since she can no longer hear the outside world. But who knew a tiny little girl cat, in her very advanced years, could achieve such volume??

So, even if the Mike's Hard Lemonade had worked as I hoped, I would have been awakened several times by Fritzi
 Maybe tonight, if I can't sleep, I will howl with her. After enjoying the above video a few times.
* I actually love the Discovery Channel.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Grandmas and Chocolate

Hold on a minute...what's that? Yes, it's International Chocolate Day! Thank God...because without that news, things pretty much stink on ice today.

The middle east is a tinderbox of insanity, unemployment continues to rise and Todd Akin simply will not shut up---so chocolate is looking pretty good about now.

There are many ways to approach this situation.

There are the "desperation measures"---and don't pretend you haven't tried them in the past. These occur when there is no legit chocolate in the house--for example, a few truffles left over from a holiday gift, a sleeve of oreos, a Hershey Bar with almonds that fell off a shelf in the pantry, got wedged in somewhere and is joyously discovered during a routine macaroni run.

Desperation, which can be very satisfying, often includes a handful of chocolate chips or some chocolate syrup (preferably Fox's U-Bet) mixed into milk. These work well if other options are unavailable.
Remember this?

Chocolate is chocolate, people. It is a drug---delicious, yet a narcotic. It is legal, easily available and addictive. Milton Hershey was a drug lord.
Milton Hershey looks innocent enough.

Think about that next time you're having your picture taken with the giant kiss in Chocolate World in Pennsylvania.

I have neither chocolate chips nor syrup in the fridge today and I believe Seth has paid informants to keep an eye on me in our local supermarket so I am forced to go down memory lane for my chocolate fix.

Dangerous bastards.
There are too many happy chocolate memories to count but the one that pops up today is about my grandma.

First to clarify, there exists no one on earth -- past or present -- who could outbake that woman. Flour, eggs and sugar were her bricks and mortar while a whisk and a wooden spoon were the tools that kept dozens of family members enslaved to her talents.

If word got out that " Pssst...Ida is baking, pass it on..." people would show up out of nowhere to visit...and they were never disappointed. "Babka Day" was a national holiday for my family of ravenous Hungarians. And Hungarians know from good baked goods. We have sour cream in our veins.

Grandma would set up for a long day in her tiny Brooklyn kitchen. Working on the formica table (there were no -- as in zero -- counters), she would tie on her ever present apron, fill giant bowls with dry and wet ingredients and crank up the oven in the ancient, enameled stove by the window.

In the years prior to school (school really screwed up my life, come to think of it), I would sit and bear witness, occasionally asked to mix or, even better, taste.

Grandma would bake babkas, some filled with an aromatic combo of cinnamon and walnuts and others with dark, buttery chocolate swirls until there were enough to distribute to every Hungarian east of the Mississippi.
Why a duck???

But Babka Day held a special treat for me.

Grandma would make me a small, personal chocolate babka filled with extra chocolate and in the shape of a duck. It was all mine and I am, literally, drooling at the memory of the tender cake and the deep chocolate that lay within the tender crust. I ate the duck's head first.

Chocolate is special. Grandmas are even better. Now go have some chocolate.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

9/11: Eleven Years Later

Many of you already know how anxious I become every year around this time.
Today, enlaced with the anger and sorrow I harbor still, were memories of what I now consider the last sweetly normal and blissfully innocent day we had in this country--September 10th, 2011.

I remember it clearly because September 10th happens to be Charlie's birthday. He was twelve that year and the weather was mild and rainy, giving way to the blue skies and sunshine of the following morning. 

I don't remember much else about the tenth, other than the hot topic in the house was what kind of car Tommy, a brand new driver, would be getting--if his grades and behavior merited such an extravagant addition to the household.

We talked about how Seth -- upon receiving his license back when Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis still liked each other, the word “gay” meant festive and dinosaurs roamed the earth -- was allowed to occasionally drive the family car. 

And I, an urban princess, drove not to the White Castle in Bay Ridge but hopped on a city bus to enjoy the delicious little square burgers with my friends.

In short, back then Tommy's grades and behavior never actually merited a car but that’s another column entirely. At the time, I was excited about a huge old Pontiac that had recently appeared on someone's lawn across from the high school with a FOR SALE sign tucked under its wiper.

I thought it was providence. My son would surely be kept safe by the solid, heavy doors (remember the satisfying ker-thunk when you slammed one?), the amazingly long front end and the immense trunk in back. We would get him this, I thought--a relic from my own youth, and it would protect him. 

After all, air bags are nifty but those old boats from the 70's were made like Sherman tanks, right? These were real cars.
Look at the size of that front, you could host Thanksgiving in the trunk.
We planned on investigating the situation the following day after school but I already pictured the poor kid behind the wheel and had begun the campaign to convince him how cool it would be to drive such an old “classic.”

But that never happened. 

Instead two airplanes hit the Twin Towers and all previous thoughts and plans were forgotten as we coped with the horror of the day.
I went temporarily insane and decided I'd never allow any family member to go into New York City again. 

I fretted, wept and cursed as I watched what has, by now, become familiar footage of the buildings collapsing, people – debris-covered and dazed -- fleeing the wreckage and listened to the frantic pleas of those left behind as they begged for news of their loved ones. 

We all temporarily forgot about the big old Pontiac that we hoped would be so perfect for Tommy.

About a week later, the subject of a car came up and I drove by the spot where the Pontiac had sat and, of course, it was gone. 

We ended up getting something a bit newer with airbags and the salesman’s assurance they would inflate if, God forbid, a collision put the precious cargo I call Tommy in harms way.

I realize now that Tom was probably safer with those airbags despite the heft of that roomy car but I had believed otherwise, in my ignorance, on that September 10th when everything was still sweetly normal and blissfully innocent.

God bless those who lost their lives that day, their families and the United States of America.

Monday, September 10, 2012

There Goes My Baby....

"Hey, Seth, what if when I have the baby, the air conditioning in the hospital is broken"? I asked my husband as both a heat wave and my due date approached in early September, 1989.

Seth, already driven half mad by the demands of a tricky pregnancy and my less than endearing habit of anticipating the worst, snarled something uninteligible as he struggled to reassemble Tommy's old crib in our stuffy apartment.

Unbeknownst to me, I would soon go into protracted (four days) labor and that Charlie would arrive -- looking exactly like my 88 year old Aunt Margaret -- one day ahead of schedule on a record breakingly hot and humid day.

And guess what! The air conditioning in the hospital WAS broken.

But guess what else! I was so insanely over-the-moon delirious with unbridled joy to meet Charlie (who, fortunately, stopped looking like an 88 year old woman after a day or two) that I could not have cared less about the temperature...or anything else.

Orange as a carrot and sweet as a jellybean, Charlie and I sweated out our first few days in Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn together.

He didn't seem to mind the heat and all I wanted to do was stare at him...or nuzzle his soft cheek and kiss the top of his tiny, downy head. Or, truth be told, scarf down some of that weirdly delicious red hospital jello.

Why is that stuff so good???
Me want some.

Charlie entered the world at ten thirty on a Sunday night and I was so adrenalized that I didn't sleep a wink until the following evening. Instead, I relived every moment of his delivery, babbled too loudly into the phone next to the bed and gleefully anticipated introducing him to his grandmas and his new BFF -- brother,Tommy -- the following morning.

The boys.
Despite Charlie's alarmingly jaundiced hue, Tommy was very impressed...especially at how clean the interior of his brother's brand new baby nose was.

In fact, it became a big topic of conversation for a while as we waited for the first inevitable booger to make its way down the nasal turnpike and appear.

Today that baby is 23 years old...and six foot three inches tall. The interior of his nose is not quite as pristine as it was back then and his color is no longer that of the baby carrots I swirl in garlicky hummus when I need a little snack but he is still every bit as sweet as a jellybean. 

And I still feel unbridled joy when I look at him. Happy birthday, Charlie.
Now that Charlie is grown up,
he likes to spend time teaching cats to drive.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Massachusetts Sex Change: Taxpayers Will Have to Pay for What????

Michelle Kosilek

Okay, so you want to be a woman...but you happen to be a guy. I hear you.

And I sympathize.

I know how uncomfortable I feel if I'm wearing pants I don't like so I can't even begin to imagine how miserable I'd be if the whole body I inhabited felt wrong.

I have always been in favor of gender reassignment and feel compassion for those who are compelled to undertake a process which can only be excruciating physically and emotionally for everyone involved....including parents, spouses and offspring.
Before he
became "Michelle."

In view of a convicted murderer who calls himself Michele who will soon be shopping for announcements celebrating his sexual reassignment, all I have to say is how moved I am by the generosity of the commonwealth of Massachusetts since you, the tax payers -- thanks to a district court judge -- will be footing the bill for his surgery. While you're at it, throw in a new fall wardrobe because this guy hasn't got a clue how to accessorize.

The argument is that this surgery -- and the accompanying expense of hormone treatment and electrolysis -- is the equivalent of treating an individual's mental illness--which would be addressed through meds and therapy in prison. Advocates for the transgender community add that not providing surgery for someone seeking sexual reassignment can cause cause them to, likely, become depressed, suicidal and attempt self-castration. They cite the cost of this as potentially greater than the cost of surgery.

This is awful stuff but in the case of Michelle Kosilek, there's a catch. And it's a big one.

When Michelle Kosilek was still Robert Kosilek he strangled his wife, dumped her body in the back seat of a car and left it in a mall parking lot.
My husband and I, long ago, agreed that if things ever got bad and one of us felt the need to murder the other, we would summon our self control and, instead, call a divorce lawyer. So far, so good but as far as I know, neither of us has had to endure the stress of harboring the desire for sexual reassignment.

It has been suggested Robert Kosilek might have been especially testy due to feeling like a woman trapped in the body of a man. Is that suggestion not an insult to the peaceful transgender community? I've been on Weight Watchers and am especially testy due to chocolate deprivation yet I am not going to strangle anyone anytime soon.

He has stated that he sees no reason to continue living if he cannot fulfill his need to become a woman.
Too goddam bad.
I would like to remind Mr. Kosilek that he is in prison. Based on my research, prison means punishment.
In today's economy, are there not countless law abiding, homicidal-impulse controlling tax payers who are denied the often basic medical attention they need? Uh, yeah. And hold on a minute--many of them are also jobless, homeless and hungry.
If you murder your spouse, are in prison and become suicidal and depressed because the good people of a state whose budget is stretched to the maximum aren't feeling magnanimous enough to spring for gender reassignment and yet you feel compelled to attempt self castration, I offer you a towel and an advil.
Oddly, I can't find a single photograph of Cheryl Kosilek on the internet but there are many to choose from of her killer. Mr. Kosilek's lawyers cite that forcing him to live as a man would constitute "cruel and unusual punishment." Has the world has completely gone crazy, I wonder. I also wonder what Cheryl Kosilek did to motivate her husband to put his hands around her throat and choke her until she was dead, and suggest that her murder be considered cruel and unusual.
Stand up, Massachusetts. Vote this judge off the bench.
Much cheaper than electrolysis....