New tank occupant, I’ll call her Celia because I like that name. Shy and nervous, she spends her days upside down behind a rock. I asked her to make room for me this morning, but she ignored me, didn’t so much as wave her antennae in my direction.
In my mind, I’ve been working on a blog post about Ferguson, the need to keep this conversation going. I thought I would sit and write it today, but then this morning I went over my files for Astonishing, to see if there’s anything/one I should be following up with. Yah. Don’t know if I mentioned it here, but in a moment of I have to try something, I sent a query to a small press a few months ago. This small press promises a fast response, I hadn’t heard anything, so I pulled up my original email/query to them and found…
…a request for a full from the editor. In my “junk” folder. From a month ago.
“You screwed it up, Bobby Terry!” Does anyone else have random quotes from novels that have stayed with them forever? That one is from Stephen King’s The Stand, right before Bobby Terry is flayed and flambeed by Randall Flagg– the Dark Man.
Get a grip, Mrs Fringe. No evil being is waiting to fly across the desert and eat me because I missed an email that was caught in my spam filter. If any one of my writer friends came to me melting down about this, I’d reassure them that it happens, in the world of publishing a month’s lapse is not even a blink, any editor/agent/professional will understand. This is nothing in the days of being a wannabe. This is less than nothing in the face of Ferguson, what the verdict represents and the false focus of so much of our media.
Still, I decided comfort food was in order. How about if I make grilled cheese for dinner, kiddos? This, of course, meant I went to Whole Foods on Sunday afternoon of a holiday weekend. Clearly I was punishing myself for not checking that fucking junk mail folder regularly enough. And why buy 10 items when you can buy 11 and stand on the slower line?
I will be drowning my whining in chocolate pudding this evening. Care to join me?
Yesterday was miserable weather here. Rain to sleet to snow and back again, all day. Little Incredibly Dumb Dog ran to the couch after her 7am walk and did this.
Apparently taking her outside for 5 minutes in cold rain was cruel and unusual punishment.
I took the girl to school, came home, woke Nerd Child–because he’s home, yay!!!–went to two grocery stores, began prep work for Thanksgiving dinner, and prepped, and cooked, and prepped. Nope, not going to do this anymore. Next year, we are going out to eat. My spine has handed in her official resignation letter, she refuses to support me in the chopping, lifting, mixing, and standing required for Thanksgiving dinner anymore.
Of course, I mentioned this to Fatigue on the phone last night, and his response was he’s heard me say this before. Oh. Well, this time I mean it. Really. And I did get Husband, Nerd Child, and Art Child to help me with some of the snipping and chopping, loading and unloading of the dishwasher, washing pots. Of course being an idiot, I didn’t ask for help until my back was already screaming. Man Child stayed up at school this year, he’s busy and working. I missed him yesterday, and I’ll miss him more when we sit down to dinner, but he’s living his life, enjoying all the man child stuff I’m happy he can experience.
With fewer people at the table, I thought I’d share dinner with you, Fringelings.
Trying a different stuffing this year
Cornbread based. One day I’ll figure out how to cook stuffing for fewer than 20 people.
I skipped the yams entirely. Went with an old favorite of mashed gold potatoes and parsnips.
I like to pretend the parsnips make this a healthier choice.
Of course, the very first dish completed yesterday was dessert. Another old favorite, pumpkin marble cheesecake. I didn’t have it in me to drag the mixer out of the closet–it’s heavy! As it turns out, my cooling racks are nowhere to be found. You know those boxes you stick away when you move to a new place, with the intention of getting to them when you have time? I hope they’re in there. They have to be in there. I’ll find them eventually.
Gingersnap pecan crust
Turns out I can’t beat things by hand as smooth as I used to. Oops.
Want a slice?
Today I’ll do the rest. Nerd Child was kind enough to prep the Swiss chard for me. Ready, clean and waiting in bags.
Pretty, isn’t it.
When I gave up yesterday and sat down at the laptop with a glass of Bailey’s, I looked over at the couch:
Buddhist proverb. I don’t think that’s a direct quote from Buddha, but it fits where my head is/has been nicely. I’m trying. Trying to make peace, find my peace with where I am right now. I’m getting there. Part of getting there for me involved taking a step back from querying and writing fiction. Both things that bring me most of my highest highs and lowest lows, but not a whole lot of serenity. “This sentence is perfect–I’m ready for my O. Henry award.” “I’m never, ever going to get through this scene, all the words are poop smears.” “OMG! Agent SoandSo requested the manuscript, whee!!!!” “Oh, the despair! Agent MucketyMuck never responded to the requested manuscript. Not even a response to a nudge…I’m, I’m…not even worthy of a fuck-off, you suck.” (For those writing friends who want to remind me rejections are for the work, not the author, I’m not referring to rejections, or agents who take a long time to respond. I’m referring to agents who never respond, to material they requested.)
When your natural state involves letting your imagination run with “what ifs” for stories and characters and worrying about what tomorrow will bring in life, forcing yourself into the here and now isn’t so easy. Sometimes though, it’s necessary.
This is step 1.
6:30am, yesterday morning
And of course, getting the tank together.
No really, the rituals of making RO/DI water, mixing salt, very soothing.
Powder room is just a euphemism for fish room, isn’t it? Of course you can still use the bathroom, honey. Just don’t touch anything.
By today I should have my Thanksgiving menu completely planned, and begun shopping. Not a clue what I’m making yet. I intended to look through my cookbooks and start a shopping list this morning, but when I woke up, I saw this.
Fuzzy, but it’s one snail cleaning the shell of another.
It’ll be a small table this year, I’ll figure it out. Tuesday, when I remember the holiday is two days away and I haven’t so much as bought cranberries.
Massage is over, back to work.
I’m working on it, this finding my peace. Feeling withered, sure–but there may be some blooms to come.
I like things, it’s no secret. I even like stuff. But what. the. fuck. America? The insanity known as Black Friday wasn’t enough. Ok, I’m not a Black Friday shopper, but lots of people are, I’ve known several who find it fun, and a few who see it as a type of sport. Now more and more stores are opening on Thanksgiving. Shop, shop, shop for more shit you don’t need and no one wants while you’re in your growth-hormone-laced-turkey stupor, so there won’t be any pesky common sense to get in the way. A couple of days ago I saw a clip on the news about a mall in Western New York that will be opening at 6PM on Thanksgiving Day (and I’m willing to bet if there’s one mall doing this there are more doing the same)–and any retail stores that choose not to open will be fined somewhere in the neighborhood of $200 an hour for every hour the mall is open that the store isn’t. Apparently these fines are somewhat common, written into lease agreements at many malls across the country. Opening on Thanksgiving Day, though, that’s new(er).
What is wrong with us? These big box retailers are the pimps driving BMWs with flashy rims, and we the consumers are the black-eyed, split-lipped prostitutes shivering in the cold and dirty slush waiting for the bus at 5AM. I don’t know that I think Thanksgiving with its false myths of blissful Pilgrims and Native Americans singing Kumbaya together over pumpkin pie is so sacred. But it is supposed to symbolize something, a day to reflect on who and what we have, enjoy our friends, families and communities, what our society is and what it stands for. If you’re a cynic like myself, your immediate thought is of the big money involved in those Thanksgiving Day football games and the gluttony encouraged on TV screens across the nation.
This is New York, city of convenience. Public transportation, grocery stores, drug stores and restaurants being open 24/7, 365 days a year is nothing new. I used to work in social services so yes, I have worked every holiday. I’ll even admit I didn’t hate it. In fact, it was lovely, and those holidays affirmed the work I did mattered, because these were human beings I worked with, not diagnoses, and workers and clients had a good time cooking and eating together. Sure there was always someone who would decompensate and need to go to the ER right before I was about to go off shift–but that’s why I was there, why the work was meaningful if not lucrative–and good God, draining doesn’t begin to cover it.
That said is why I’m very aware not everyone can or should have the holiday off. Social services, medical services, residential treatment services, police, firefighters, public transportation, emergency crews available for public works, these can’t all lock the doors and turn the cell phones off. Sometimes the service provided is more necessary than dinner with Cindy Lou Who. But buying the latest video game console? The perfect sweater for an ugly sweater contest? Really, that can’t wait until the morning? People who work retail are among those who can least afford to take a stand and say “I’m not coming in to work on the holiday,” yet they already see their loved ones least, since they work evenings, nights, and weekends.
I posted last week about my city adventures in the Met and St John the Divine. I’ve been thinking about it ever since, these great enduring works of art–hundreds, some thousands of years old, still revered, still relevant, artists and works still remembered. This being the case, why are artists (visual, actors, musicians or writers) still treated with contempt, as if what they offer society has no value, unless, of course, they’re hugely financially successful? Or dead. Maybe I’m just a flaky mush but I went back to St John yesterday, to bring my godson and Art Child and spend time again with “AMEN: A Prayer for the World.” And I was moved, on the verge of tears again from the works of these modern artists from disparate cultures, an exhibition about respect and understanding, our shared humanity.
Husband works retail. His store is closed on Thanksgiving, but if they decided to open, he would grumble, I would bitch, and then he would go to work. Because rent. Maybe the saleswoman helping you find the laptop you want this Thanksgiving is a mom who is paying a babysitter more than she’s making for the day because the regular sitter is with her own family, or the daycare is closed. Maybe the cashier is an artist who thought he was going to be able to spend the day sculpting. Maybe the floor manager is just fucking tired and had hoped for a day off before the insanity of Black Friday began–because yes, she does have to be back at the store at 4am the next day. The executives who decided the stores should be open? They’re home. Or on vacation. Maybe they’ll stop in and benignly thank the peasant workers for their service. They’re most certainly not trying to figure out how to cook, clean up, offer a holiday experience for their children, beg for child care, calculate how they will pay rent/mortgage/utilities and then go stand on their feet and smile politely for 14 straight hours.
I received this solicitation in the mail the other day. I don’t have much, but I think I’ll write a check.
and drop it in the mailbox on Thanksgiving.
We each have a voice in this country, as individuals and as a greater community. Our voices are heard when we vote, and at this point in our consumer-based society, I believe our voices ring out most clearly through our wallets. People can tsk tsk all they want. The only message being conveyed if you shop on a holiday is that it’s a good, profitable idea for the stores to open, and the people working don’t matter. I’m asking the Fringelings here in America (who don’t have to work on the holiday) to speak out by staying out of the stores on Thanksgiving. Read a classic novel, listen to music, plan a trip to a museum, watch It’s A Wonderful Life. Use the day to make a statement about what you believe matters. Unless you have to work.
Let’s be honest. Good or bad, day to day life is mostly about the little things. Hitting on the right sentence, facing the overflowing laundry basket, kiddo feeling wobbly-wobbly, it’s all those small moments. See the teapot above? I love that thing, the little ritual of spooning out my favorite tea, pouring the water in and letting it steep. Now that we’re in a bigger space, I feel like I can breathe better and enjoy those moments more frequently. Let’s be honest, the dishwasher plays a big role in all of this. Oh, the joys of planning a snack or meal and not stopping to calculate how many dishes/pots/pans it will create.
And the tank. All the little things I get to watch in the tank now–and this is well before I purchase any livestock.
Full tank shot–now with live rock to jump start the cycle!
I got just a few pieces of live rock the other day, brought them home and put them in the tank, and surprise! The first hitchhikers. A patch of bubble algae–nuisance, though you can all snicker imagining me chasing these little green pimples through the water, a small patch of zoas (zoanthid, a type of soft polyped coral that looks like little flowers)–unlikely to survive the cycle–most living critters can’t tolerate the spikes in ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate that are an integral part of a new tank’s cycle, but still made me smile, a mushroom (corallimorpharian), and two red legged hermit crabs. Hmm.
Many people consider them a necessary and valuable part of the “clean up crew” in a reef tank. I don’t like hermit crabs. They’re cute and interesting to watch, until they spot the shell they like better than the one they’re wearing, and murder the snail inside to appropriate it. And then they decide switching shells and killing snails was great fun, and they go on a killing spree, ripping snails from their needed shells even when it’s a shell that wouldn’t cover their beady little eyes. But, they could survive the cycle, and in the meantime I have no snails. It’s nice to see a little life behind the glass. Couldn’t get a shot of them yet, sorry. One went half under a rock, the other is hiding at the back of the tank.
Poor tightly closed zoas, soon to melt away.
Most of the color on the live rock is coralline algae, a “good” algae that gives a nice purple color to the tank and ideally uses up the nutrients that would otherwise promote the growth of nuisance algae.
One of these days I’m going to find the tripod, still packed away somewhere. It makes a big difference in the quality of the pics I can take through the glass.
It’s Friday, Fringelings. I’m looking forward to Friday Night Madness with Fatigue and enjoying the little things. Excuse me while I go test the tank for ammonia levels. Let the cycle move forward! But no, you shouldn’t pee in the tank.
Where’ve I been? Playing tour guide, of course. I mentioned a while back one of my longtime reefing friends was coming to visit. I’ll call her Bella, because she’s a beautiful person. She came, she stayed, we walked, we rode the subways, and I laughed a whole lot. And of course, lots of eating. On a tight budget, many of the more traditional attractions are off limits, but there is still plenty of NY flavor to be experienced. Gave her a New Yorker’s NY experience, complete with 5am wake ups and a high school open house. Whaddya mean that isn’t a real tour? It’s city life once you’re beyond clubs and late night bars when you aren’t one of the wealthy and fabulous.
I didn’t take photos of all the food consumed, but I’ll just say between me and one of our other reefing friends–I’ll call him Blue, because blue is my favorite color and he’s currently sporting a fabulous steel blue mohawk, Bella was able to experience a broad variety of international flavors unavailable in her southern town. Yah, yah she says it’s a city, but population < 30,000 = a town to me. The first day was all about the food–and a little walk through Central Park.
And the fauna
Look! An authentic city rat. Aw, c’mon, he’s just a little one.
The second, I took her to the Met–after introducing her to the subway, Metrocards, and a city bus. The Met is my favorite museum, and the admission price is a recommended donation. In other words, you can give what’s comfortable and still enjoy the full experience. Sort of. The Metropolitan is huge, I don’t recommend trying to cover the whole thing in a day. Better to choose a couple of exhibits and take them in fully. Which we did.
Beautiful art to see and study no matter where your eyes land.
Prints and copies are lovely, but there is NOTHING like seeing the real deal in front of you.
After the museum, I had to introduce her to a dirty water hot dog and a knish in front of the steps to the museum. I don’t care what your budget is or isn’t, what the weather is or isn’t, these are integral NY experiences.
oh, the pigeons!
Bella was able to explore further with Blue, traveling by subway to the outer boroughs, experiencing a smaller gallery exhibit, and even catching the LIRR to meet with another friend and see Oyster Bay. We had a small gathering of fishy friends at my place over the weekend, such a treat to laugh in person–and of course, show off my new tank. Our Long Island friend even brought me a cup of live sand from one of her incredible reef tanks to “seed” mine. Yes, we’re nerds and proud of it.
Yesterday was her last day in the city, so I took her back to Central Park and headed uptown, then to St John the Divine–one of the most breathtaking sights of the city, in my opinion, and certainly my favorite church. Bonus, it’s another “recommended” donation, you pay what you can to enter.
How is scaffolding erected with signposts and trees already there? Like this, of course.
Outside the cathedral, I never tire of this one.
I posted exterior shots here on the blog several months back, now I’ll take you inside. In addition to the incredible architecture, stained glass, community classes offered, and private school (love the way you hear children singing and giggling from below as you walk through the cathedral), it is used as a gallery, and there are usually a few temporary exhibits on display in addition to permanent ones.
One more exhibit I want to revisit before it leaves–and take Art Child and Blue with me–It’s a collaborative effort of interfaith and international artists (along with some other photos of the Cathedral mixed in):
Bella had only one request for me this visit, she’d heard me mention, maybe seen photos, of the rice pudding I make. No problem. It takes hours to cook, but it isn’t labor intensive. I made it on Sunday while she and Blue were out sightseeing, since they planned to come back here for dinner. Of course, my oven has been acting up, and when I dished out the pudding, more than half my arborio grains were, well, crunchy. Oops. We were still able to share and enjoy my favorite part of the new apartment. Sunrise or nighttime, clear or cloudy, it’s a hell of a view.
Everyone knows Mrs Fringe is a salt fiend. Salty food, salty snacks, salty water and salty details in fiction. Nothing like a little blood or snot to have you immersed in a story.
The tank is now mostly filled, leaving room for displacement from rock and sand. This means it’s time to add the salt. I ordered it, remembered to order a pump for mixing, heater, and thermometer. By yesterday morning I had finished leak testing the tank (all good, yay!) and was ready to begin turning my super duper pure RO/DI water into saltwater. Here comes the confession.
I’m not enjoying this part. I’ve always had used systems in the past, which meant things were all pretty much put together, and there was little to purchase at one time. But this time, I need just about everything, and these things don’t come assembled. I opened the box containing the pump for mixing the water.
What. the. fuck.
You could say with reef keeping I’m playing at being an underwater gardener, chemist or a marine biologist, you could even say I’m playing God, trying to recreate the ocean in a glass box. I’ll be honest, each of these hold their appeal. What I’m not interested in being is an electrical engineer. Sure I know the equipment I need and want, know what each thing is called, why each piece is necessary or beneficial, and what role it’s mimicking from nature. What I don’t know is how to put this crap together. Not intuitive for me. Not even looking at the diagrams on the instruction sheet. It’s like being faced with the 8000 piece Lego kits Man Child would ask me to build with him. Umm, I kept him company while he did it himself. Sort of. For about 5 minutes until I got bored and dizzy looking at the little pieces and went to make dinner.
Luckily Husband is a good sport, and put the pump together for me this morning. I wouldn’t say this is a hobby we share, and despite the fact that he enjoys when the tanks are up and running and looking beautiful, he’d be just as happy (maybe happier) if we had no creatures outside of two legged ones in the apartment. But we’re all interested in doing this safely, not having an 80 gallon saltwater tidal wave in the living room or electrical fire from equipment not installed or placed properly. That’s almost the same as sharing the hobby, no?
I will be relaxed and happy once I have everything I need, the tank is completely filled and salted, rock and sand in place. Then I can and will spend hours watching the tank–which is amazing long before the first fish goes in or the first coral is placed. Checking parameters, seeing evidence of bacteria thriving as the water cycles and rock becomes “live,” those first pods and bristle worms are honestly thrilling–“look, LIFE!” But right now? Kinda like new puppies, adorable for 10 minutes, but by the time they’ve peed on the floor for the 12th time in 5 hours and nipped the hand of every person who reached to pet them, I’m fantasizing about how much I’m going to love them when they’re finished being puppies.
*Not true for me with babies, by the way. Ohhh, those new new babies, nothing better. Until they’re teenagers, because yes, I’m just that kind of weird, and as a parent I enjoy the teenage years. I wonder what the equivalent of a 15 year old is in reef time?