Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Les Portes de Bordeaux and Wild Night in Margaritaville

It's old news by now. But let me tell you how wild it was.

Last Thursday my mom had more work done on her root canal. Which meant that on Friday she tried out a new pain pill since the Vicodin did not work out the last time. Tramadol. Who names these things, and how can I get a job like that?-- because I love to name things. Tramadol is not a fabulous name for a pain pill, in my opinion. Trauma Dolls, however, might be a great name for a band. If you want great names for meds, read George Saunders's short story, "Escape from Spiderhead." It is a mind-blowingly great story. The names he invented for the medications induced in me serious naming envy. After reading that story, I damn near had to take some Nocovette, I was so sick with jealousy.

But back to the wild night. On Friday evening, we had dinner on a boat. Except that we were in our dining room. So not really on a boat.

Stay with me.

As my mom gingerly chewed her way through her dinner of soft foods, her head nodding, her eyes closing from time to time, M and I took turns waking her. I'm not sleeping, she'd say. Which is what she always says on these narcoleptic journeys. This, however, was a narcoleptic journey on Tramadol, and there was some serious tilting. More serious than usual. Starboard. Port. Starboard. Port. M and I shuffled our chairs closer and closer, at the ready to keep her from going overboard.

Which reminds me of a hysterical story one of my kids told me ages ago about a class of middle-schoolers who freaked out their teacher by quietly inching their desks forward every time the teacher turned to write on the blackboard.

So every time my mom opened her eyes, M and I were closer. Finally, we were all in a row. "All right," she said to M., "you do the dishes. I'm going to bed." And she did. And the next day, she was much better.

And somewhere during one our wild Margaritaville nights this past weekend, we tried cheap wine #2, Les Portes de Bordeaux 2009. Nice. Very nice. Did you know that portes in French means door. I love beautiful doors. The doors pictured in this post are on the Greek island of Naxos, not Bordeaux. But for some reason, I've been thinking of these doors.

And just to sail onwards on this random sea, if there were, as daughter C. would like, an entire channel devoted to footage from Russian dash cams, here is my list of show names:

Anna Kamerina

Brothers Kameras On or Off


Crime and Punishment: Live!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Cheap Wine # 1

"So......"I said to M. "On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the most fabulous bottle of wine you've ever had for 4.99, what do you think of this?" We were drinking Chiusa Grande Tommolo Montepulciano d'Abruzzo. It sounds fucking fabulous, doesn't it? Like you could whisper "Tommolo montepulciano" in a lover's ear, and things would just get more and more grande as the night went along. But, sadly, no. That is not what we thought of cheap wine #1.

There's always tomorrow. Right?

And since, in the Province of Pillville, things are a bit rocky at the moment after a visit to the endodontist, I have no business being lost in oenophilean bliss. I will sleep with one ear and one eye open, hoping my mom gets some relief from the pain pills she needs to weather the aftermath of her root canal.

There's always tomorrow. Right?
photo credit: lerevdr.wordpress.com

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Austerity Budget: Margaritaville Style

I went for the vodka first. Both bottles had been in the freezer for a year. One purchased by me for a New Year's Eve punch, the other left by some house guest or another. Vodka and orange juice garnished with a twist of lemon and a slice of blood orange. Pretty.

The bourbon was next. There were two bottles of that, too. How do these things appear in my pantry? I haven't a clue. I used some of it to marinate prunes--like the French do with Armagnac. The rest I designated for manhattans. That went on for a night or two, but it seemed wasteful to dilute such good bourbon with bitters and sugar. The prunes were quite tasty when I previewed them, so I decided to save the bourbon.

My attention then went to a half used bottle of tequila--not really enough to save for a pitcher of margaritas. Sitting next to it in the far back corner was a nearly full bottle of cassis. I'm sure I was thinking of kir royales when I bought the cassis, but champagne is not something I'm likely to have on hand. I tried orange juice as the mixer, but it looked like mud with the cassis. On to cranberry juice which looked much better. Good-bye tequila. Um...hello, cassis...your're still here? My you're tall. I'm not sure what I'll do with the rest of that bottle. Has anyone marinated anything in cassis? Suggestions for cheap champagne that doesn't end in a headache?

Yesterday I bought four bottles of very inexpensive red wine. The tasting will begin Friday evening. I'm determined to find a cheap wine that I adore.

Austerity in Margaritaville is more like a party than austerity.

You're invited. But don't bring any bourbon or cassis.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Sea Lions in Margaritaville!

I was just waking from a nap when I heard the woosh of breath and a gentle splash. A different sound from the immense splash of a diving pelican. Sea lions!

I went downstairs and told my mom, and we went out to the patio to watch them. The pelicans continued to soar and dive, and I found myself wondering if there had ever been a tragic pelican-sea lion collision.

And then there was a sort of "explosion" near the dock across the way where the sea lions were swimming under water. Dozens of small silver fish flew out of the water. Sea gulls descended. I pinched myself to see if I was awake. Fish exploding out of the water. Sea lions. Seagulls. Pelicans. In my back yard.

Oh, what a wonderful world.

Bird of the Day: Pelican

I've seen plenty of pelicans on boat rides and while walking on the beach since I moved to Margaritaville. I'm pretty sure I've mentioned them in a number of posts--and, indeed, pelicans merited a bird of the day mention last spring not long after I bought my house. Until a couple of Sundays ago, however, a quick fly-by was the only back yard sighting. The recent excitement began with a very large pelican paddling by our boat dock. Then came the breathtaking swooping and diving. It was the pelican super bowl around here with my mom and me cheering after each splash.

I've learned that while there are eight species of pelicans, only two do the amazing dive. This acrobatic feat now occurs with some regularity just outside my window. Unfortunately, being the ridiculously bad photographer that I am, I've only been able to capture the dive's aftermath.

This morning there were two pairs of pelicans (or the romantic in me imagined them to be pairs) floating by in the water while two more pairs circled and dove. Why so many pelicans all of a sudden? It's mating and nesting season. And with the perfect nesting environment in the massive sand dunes beyond the canal less than a block away, I'm guessing that there might be an opportunity for viewing the maiden flights of baby pelicans in a couple of months. Baby. Pelicans.

photo credit: the picture of my mom and me was taken by M with her iphone. The iphone is, according to M, the best invention since fire.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


I ran across this old photograph of my parents a couple of months ago. "1951 in the apartment" is written on the back. My mom doesn't really recognize the place, but it's mostly like their apartment above my dad's grocery store. The picture might have been snapped before or after they eloped. My mother is wearing the suit she was married in, and that seems to be a boutonniere pinned to my father's lapel, so I'd say this is as close to a wedding photo as one can get for a couple who got married secretly and then lived apart for months. I love the way he's looking at her. To be looked at like that is the sweetest of valentines.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Report from Divorceville: Blerg

If your ex-spouse reduces your alimony without a court order, and because of this you decide to try to re-finance hoping to shave a bit off your monthly budget, it will appear that your income is not reliable, which makes re-financing quite difficult. Because you need reliable income to re-finance. Never mind that if your alimony had remained its old reliable self, you might not be thinking about refinancing at all.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Report from Pillville: Pills

We drove to the endoscopy in the dark. My mother couldn't have coffee or breakfast before the procedure, so, in solidarity, I had neither coffee nor breakfast. There were forms. There was waiting. Then I walked to Starbucks while she swallowed a camera. Or something like that. I am not curious about medical procedures. I don't really want to know the details or to see what is being done. Afterwards, she was cheery and remembered nothing. Afterwards, I was relieved, but not so much so that I didn't remember my worry. When does relatively non-invasive cross the line into invasive? When you are 88 and somewhat frail, that line is not so much a line, but a hair's breadth, a microscopic filament, a razor's edge.

And now there is the pill to take on an empty stomach. And the pill to be taken with food. And the "poison"powder, which must not be consumed within three hours of other medications, that I mix in the blender with orange juice and banana and serve with a straw in order to bypass at least a few taste buds. There are all the other pills taken in handfuls three times daily. And there is willingness, and a martini, and talk, and work, and reading and crocheting, and pure amazement at herons and pelicans, and waiting and waiting for the little songbirds to discover our new bird feeder.

I sometimes feel that I am living with someone who knows well that narrow corridor that leads to a door with a spiked threshold and a sign that says, "Do Not Back Up!" And sometimes I think she is right there reading the sign, and thinking, well, who cares?--who needs to worry once you've passed through that door? And sometimes I think her eyes are so keen, she sees the sign from the far end of the hallway and has no intention of approaching that doorway. But still, she and I, we know that threshold is there. And once you cross it, there is no coming back.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Society of the Deformed

Dear Richard,

While many history and Shakespeare lovers obsess over the news of your recently discovered remains beneath a parking lot, and discuss ad nauseum your nephews in the Tower of London, your longing for a horse, the fatal wounds to your head, it is the description of  the "u-shaped" curve in your spine that moves me.

I have scoliosis, too. My spine was s-shaped, and my rib cage crowded my heart and left lung. I went through high school with a hump. My back hurt all the time. I had surgery when I was 19. The hump was lessened, but I sometimes look in the mirror and see an Igor-like creature.

You were a king.
Kind of amazing.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

How to Wash Dishes

If you are a young girl living in the country in 1930-something under the stern and watchful eye of your grandmother, you must know how to wash the dishes.
First the water must be fetched from the pump. Three pans of it.
Then it must be heated on the wood stove.
Then the three pans of water, lined up, side by side.
One pan for washing. One pan for the first rinse. Another pan for the second rinse.
Your grandmother is very particular.
You must wash the dishes her way.

Every evening after our dinner and the story telling is finished, my mother insists on doing the dishes. She stacks our plates and clears the table. She rinses the dishes and loads them into the dishwasher. She washes the pots and pans. I am allowed to put away the leftovers. I am allowed to wash the crystal wine glasses--because she is afraid she might break them.

Seventy-five years after her grandmother's kitchen, there are still rules about washing the dishes.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Shame Comes to the Cardinal

If I still considered myself Catholic I would have been crossing myself and pulling the rosary from the bedpost as I lay in bed this morning reading the Los Angeles Times article about Cardinal Mahoney being stripped of his duties. From there I went to http://www.bishop-accountability.org/ where I began to read through the list on my iPad. Reaching the bottom of the page, I though, hmmm--not nearly so many as abuser priests as I thought. But that was just the A's. I read the B's next and then my morning reading time began slipping away. The discoveries were chilling. Priests from the city I was born in. Priests from the St. John's University where I went to Mass nearly every afternoon during my college years. Priests from towns where I visited and attended church.

Mahoney was a big name in my household some years back. The Someone and I had both our daughters baptized in the Catholic Church--a gross oversimplification, but you probably wouldn't believe it if I told you one of them was actually baptized in a hotel sink by the Someone himself. I went to Catholic school for 16 years. I lived in a town where, to my knowledge, my father was the only non-Catholic. There were no public schools in that town. My entire world was Catholic. I still maintain connections to that world through family and my college, College of St. Benedict, which I am quite fond of. I am a member of no church these days, and I am proud, happy, and very comfortable with that choice, but the magnitude of the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church still shames and horrifies me. If I prayed, I'd pray for a special hell.