hunger

Table of Enough

Butternut Squash Risotto

Butternut Squash Risotto

Today is Thanksgiving here in the US.  I was going to muse on why we still celebrate this holiday–a holiday that continues to glamorize Native American genocide, food waste, shopping for shit we don’t need, and canned cream of mushroom soup. I’ve posted about being tired of the tremendous amount of work to prepare and cook for this holiday for the past few years.  I’ve said how much I used to love this day, but haven’t in a while.  Yes, every year I swear never again, and yet here I am, one eye on the clock because the shelves in my fridge are warping under the weight of foods waiting to be cooked.

I was going to muse about what America means.  President Obama tells us these hideous pronouncements of wall building and turning our backs on refugees aren’t what we stand for.  I like Obama, I like what he stands for, and I agree that it shouldn’t be.  But let’s be honest, America has a long history of fighting to reject immigrants and refugees, an even longer history of racism.

If you are someone who believes “freedom of religion” includes all religions, if you believe “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…” is still valid today, this is an exhausting and often disheartening time.  I still hear people moaning that only English should be spoken in America.  Sigh.  English is the language of the US, and it doesn’t take a damned thing away from anyone when other languages are also spoken.  Not only doesn’t it take anything away, it’s a bonus.  “Global community” isn’t just a phrase for Facebook and college admissions essays.

The thing is, sappy as it might sound, I still love the idea of Thanksgiving.  The sentiment of it, anyway.  I like the idea of a day to stop and pay attention to the privilege of enough to eat, having people in our lives whom we love and love us.  Should having enough to eat be a privilege?  I don’t think so, but it is.  I know it is when I look at the photos of the Syrian refugee camps.  I know it is when I walk down the streets and through the subways, seeing those who are homeless and hungry.   My children have attended schools with classmates who live in mansions, brownstones, projects, and shelters.  When you know this, when you know the kiddo waiting for their turn with the brown crayon right next to your kiddo, sharing Saltines and apple juice with your kiddo,  isn’t going home to a full table, it isn’t theoretical.  Yes, yes, we should all give thanks every day for what we have, but really, many of us don’t.

I’m not going to post a million Thanksgiving food pictures.  Have faith, Fringelings, my cranberries are glistening in their zinfandel bath and the skin on my pernìl is crisped just so.  I will post a few pics from the past weeks that make me smile, and hope they do the same for you.

Love when I luck into a decent shot of the moon.

Love when I luck into a decent shot of the moon.

This guy comes to visit me regularly, but I suspect he's going to fly south soon.

This guy comes to visit me regularly, but I suspect he’s going to fly south soon.

zoanthid colony in the tank.

zoanthid colony in the tank.

Happy Thanksgiving if you celebrate, and if not, happy Thursday.

Ouch, Sloth-Style

Admit it, looks tempting.

Admit it, looks tempting.

I’m still adjusting to life with a dishwasher again.  This means that last night when I decided I was hungry and would make a sandwich, I planned said sandwich with the idea of using no dishes and slapping it together as quickly as possible so I’d be finished before the commercial break was over.

But the tomato looked so beautiful, I needed a couple of slices. Maybe not so much the tomato as the thought of the salt I’d now be justified in adding. Being lazy, in a hurry, and now jonesing at the prospect of Himalayan sea salt, I skipped the cutting board.  Picked the tomato up and began slicing.  I do things like this all the time (as long as Art Child isn’t watching, because I don’t want her to think this is a safe idea), never a problem.

Where, oh where have the band-aids gone?

Where, oh where have the band-aids gone?

 

I sliced right into my thumb.  Most little kitchen mishaps don’t involve more than rinsing my finger under some cold water for a couple of minutes, maybe some pressure with a paper towel. Most. Not a terrible cut, but in a bad spot, I bled for a good hour and had to toss the tomato.  Then I had to find the band-aids.  Applying pressure as I searched, I found gauze pads sized for cardio-thorassic surgery, plumbing tape, ace bandages, corn removers, face masks, dental floss.  Gave up, changed the paper towel–four times–threw a couple of slices of cheese on a piece of bread and finished watching the Housewives.

Went to bed, and saw the box of band-aids blowing me a big old Bronx cheer from Husband’s desk.

Today is a water change day for the tank.  I can’t put it off any more, as it is I’m two weeks behind.  Salt water is good for open wounds, right?

IMG_3329

The clowns were so cute this morning, cuddling in their little corner of the tank.  Now I’ll mess up their world by changing out water, filter media, and scraping the glass.

IMG_3322

 

Oh People, Doncha Just Hate’em?

Woods

Woods (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

You know those getting to know you/riddle questions, if you were alone on a deserted island/in the woods/lost in space what food would you want/book would you bring/who would you want with you?  I hate those stupid questions.

But apparently some people love them so much, they decide to go try it.  Like this guy, who went on a survival expedition in the Canadian wilderness.  He planned to be gone for two months, just a man and his dog.  Didn’t work out so well.  When he was a month late coming home, his family alerted the authorities who found him after 8 days of searching; alive, starving, dehydrated, and alone.  Attacked by a bear, his supplies and equipment were lost/ruined.  His dog saved him from the bear.  Sadly, he ended up killing and eating his dog to stay alive.  I’m not being flippant here, it is sad, and I can only assume if there was a grove of apple trees, a field of carrots, or a stream full of fish this wouldn’t have happened.

I found out about this through a discussion in the writer’s forum.  I don’t generally get involved in those discussions, but they can be fun, informative, and a good way to get to know who’s who.

I have to tell you Fringelings, if you’re a staunch PETA supporter you might want to stop reading here.  I love my dogs, love my fish and sea critters, I’m a vegetarian and have been since I was a teenager.  In fact, I’ve sometimes wondered if I would be able to get myself any meat/fish/flesh if I was literally starving.  And yet I was shocked by the sentiment of people who not only said he shouldn’t have done it/they wouldn’t have done it, but equated it with killing and eating a human family member/loved one. Really?  You’re shitting me, right?  Well played, what a perfect troll session.

Except the conversation began to meander, as these things do, and there were multiple people insisting their pets really are equivalent to their children, and the death of a pet is as devastating as the death of a child.  No.  Just no.   And then proceeded to say it was judgmental for anyone to disagree.

The Intersection of 36th and Troll

The Intersection of 36th and Troll (Photo credit: sea turtle) 

Perhaps for a few people this might be true, but if you are a reasonably well adjusted person, no.  And I don’t care if you’re young, middle aged, or Methuselah.  No.  And if this is being judgmental, well, okay.  I’ll just confess to being a judgmental bitch right now.  And more than a bit horrified that it’s so easy to find people who don’t see a difference between a beloved pet and a beloved spouse, mother, father, child, cousin, or BFF who you’ve laughed and cried with for forty years.

I’ve been very, very sad at the loss of pets.  Cried.  Mourned.  Dogs, cat, fish, invertebrates.  For the record, fish are not disposable pets, they shouldn’t die within days/weeks/months.  Clownfish really have personalities similar to puppies, they come to the top of the tank once they get to know you, will eat out of your hand, and play.  I’ve been riveted and excited to see coral spawning in my tank, see my clownfish do the mating dance.  When the clowns then ate their eggs, I didn’t feel my world had ended.  Didn’t even lose a night’s sleep.  What a cold, cruel woman I am.

Yup, laid her eggs right on this soft leather coral.

Yup, laid her eggs right on this soft leather coral.

(sorry for the out of focus photo, but that’s the only one I could find of her in “her” leather)

But.  But, but, but.  You get a dog or cat expecting it to live 10, 15, 20 years.  Same for many fish and sea critters.  So sad when a creature you’ve loved and cared for over many years passes.  Your child?  Mmm, the natural order of things is for your child to outlive you.   (I do wonder if this makes a difference for people who keep parrots they expect to outlive them, but still, not a child.)  And, yanno, it’s your child. If you get a new fish, and that fish dies when you get it home, or can’t adjust to the new tank and refuses to eat so it dies within days, it’s sad and aggravating and you’re glad you got the fish from somewhere that offers an “arrive alive” guarantee.  Cause now you’re going to get credit, and they’ll give you/ship you a new fish.  Baby?  Not exactly.  Not even remotely.

Regular Fringelings know I have a few friends who’ve lost children to fatal diseases.  I’ve had some terrifying times with Flower Child.  I have more friends whose children face horrendous diagnoses.  I’ve been zombified at Husband’s bedside in the Cardiac ICU more than once.  I’m not special, my family isn’t special.  There are thousands of families who face these events throughout the world, every day.  Many of them have pets they love and have loved.  Not one will tell you the loss or imminent loss  of their child/spouse/sibling/other is the same as the loss of Fido.

You love your dog/cat?  That’s wonderful, me too.  Swear you wouldn’t eat him no matter that you were facing certain death otherwise?  OK, I tend to doubt that I would eat mine either.  Can’t say for certain, seeing as I’ve never been lost and starving in the wilderness and I’m unlikely to ever be.  Besides, Big Senile Dog is old and tough and scrawny.  I will admit that Little Incredibly Dumb Dog’s back legs bear more than a passing resemblance to fuzzy chicken legs when she’s wet and in the bath.  Plump, too.

Humans are animals too.  Yes, we are.  And we’re at the top of the food chain.  I intend to stay there.  Now I’m off to eat my pasta with meatless meatballs.

Five Cent Return

Description unavailable

Description unavailable (Photo credit: B Tal)

I don’t love to grocery shop.  This is unfortunate, because here in Manhattan, it’s something that needs to be done frequently.  Any and everything you buy has to be carried home, and most of us don’t have large refrigerators, freezers, or storage space for stocking up.  Add in the knowledge that you can walk outside and hit any number of stores within a few blocks, and there isn’t the same pressure to remember everything you need in one shot.

The cost of groceries here, outrageous.  I know this is so because when we’ve gone on vacation and shopped for groceries at stores geared towards ripping off tourists,  while the other customers are grumbling I’m skipping through the aisles, filling the cart and trying to decide what’s practical to take home.  I try to shop at Trader Joe’s as much as possible, it’s a significant savings compared to the other groceries that are much closer.  But it isn’t always practical, it’s twenty four blocks away.  So if I’m doing a bigger shop, great! Worth the cost of the cab ride home, still saving.  But if I only have twenty minutes to get there, shop, and come home, don’t need much, or I need things they don’t carry (like regular white or brown rice), it doesn’t make sense.

Grocery Store #1

Grocery Store #1 (Photo credit: wgdavis)

I trek to Whole Foods for rice and flour (cheapest in the area, I buy it from their bulk containers, they have enough of a turnover that it’s always fresh) and soy milk for Flower Child (yes, their brand of soy milk is the absolute lowest price).  For the certain basics or when I’m running out, I go to one of the two cheapest groceries in the area.  Both conveniently located within three blocks of my apartment.  They don’t look like the artsy photo above.  Dark, dingy, cleanliness is questionable, the cashiers are surly, don’t even think of asking for help from a stocker for something you can’t reach, aisles are crazy narrow–any number of which are usually blocked by boxes waited to be unloaded–and if you’re smart, you’ll check expiration dates of everything before bringing anything home.

I just ran to one of the two “inexpensive” stores this morning.  If you’re curious, a gallon of low fat, non-organic milk is $4.89 there, a half gallon is $2.99.  A gallon of store brand distilled water for top-offs for the reef tank,* $1.19.  Honey-Nut Cheerios, 12.9 oz box, $5.39.  Navel (not organic) oranges, .99 each.  One loaf of sliced wheat bread, $4.19.  A 10 oz “brick” of Cafe Bustelo–about as far from fancy coffee as you can get, $4.69.  To be fair, Bustelo goes on sale regularly.  Five years ago the sales were two bricks for $5, two years ago it became 2 for $6, now it’s 2 for $7.   I have to make a new batch of doggie gumbo tomorrow, so I bought a pound of cheapo ground beef, $3.63, and a pound of ground chicken, $4.29.

Getting the picture?  Chasing in four different directions for the cheapest prices, reasonable quality (yanno, fresh and none of those free pets that skitter across the counter as you unload), calculating, carrying, it’s exhausting.  Screw cooking, between the financial, physical, and stress tolls I don’t even want to eat.

Over twenty years ago, I had a friend who theorized the nickel deposit on bottles was instated in NY as a way for the homeless to get money to feed themselves.  Was he onto something?  I don’t know, don’t remember his entire argument, but he was one of those people who could argue anything and have you believe he was brilliant.  But while I do see plenty of homeless grabbing cans and bottles out of the corner trash cans, the real business of it is with the senior citizens.  On days when the recycling bags get put out on the street for pickup, I find seniors by every large apartment building, filling carts and Hefty bags with empty bottles.  These are not days you want to find yourself in a hurry at the aforementioned less expensive grocery stores, because you’ll be on line forever, waiting for the elderly gentleman ahead of you to have each bottle and can checked and tallied before he can turn around and shop.  Think about my little shopping list above, that’s a lot of nickels; many, many bottles to carry.  Individual, older people trying to feed themselves off of a fixed income, not organized groups with a vehicle to get to the big redemption center.

At night, in these stores, you find what Man Child calls the shuffle of shame.  On line to buy a forgotten gallon of milk, you often find yourself behind two seniors cashing in bottles, three finance-looking or professional people who are embarrassed to find themselves in this grocery store (but it’s a dollar cheaper for that box of Cheerios here than in the cleaner, higher end grocery stores), and a stinky guy buying dish detergent.  But sometimes you also find one of those New York moments.  The elderly woman who’s come back with her shopping cart, straight to the sighing, texting cashier ahead of everyone else on line. And the cashier rolls her eyes, holds out her hand, and takes the jar of applesauce from the woman, pops the seal and hands it back, so the senior can go home and eat it.  She couldn’t open it by herself in her apartment, and needed a little help.

Beverage container redemption center

Beverage container redemption center (Photo credit: Hobo Matt)

*Reef tanks use salt water.  Water evaporates, salt doesn’t, so you have to “top off” the tank with fresh water.  Because these are very delicate critters, tap water can’t be used.  Most reefers buy and run an RO/DI water filter, so they can use tap.  With a very tiny kitchen, and even tinier (1) bathroom, I can’t tie up a faucet or use the space needed to run these filters, so I buy distilled.

 

Dear Peeple In Charge,

English: Quill pen

English: Quill pen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is the salutation on the letter Flower Child began working on last night.

During dinner, Husband, Flower Child and I had a lovely, meandering conversation. Her mind makes some interesting connections, and when I’ve got the luxury of time, I like to follow. In order to make a connection, she speaks aloud, touching on every detail of every thing she can remember hearing/seeing that somehow reminds her of what came before.

The maze of Longleat House

The maze of Longleat House (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Without this process, her mind stalls, and she can’t follow or remember. We began discussing Greek goddesses, which jumped to eating habits  in history, Pa Ingalls curing meat, the gold accents on her Cleo de Nile doll, why organic fruits and vegetables taste better but cost more, why she had to eat some soup and not just the coconut chips garnishing it, and why everyone should help each other.

Somehow it made sense to tell Husband and Flower Child about a scene I passed when I was on my way to the hospital the other morning. There was a man standing outside a coffee shop where I got off the bus, panhandling. A familiar scene to me, there didn’t seem to be anything remarkable.  No aggression, no singing, no yelling, no horrendous odors, no aggression. An older, elegantly dressed and coiffed woman about ten steps ahead of me. Her nose turned up so high if I had been standing next to her I could have checked for polyps. She turned to another man walking by her, “No one ever gives money to those people, do they? I hope not.” Obviously not a New Yorker.

Not much of a story, more of a moment. But I turned to Flower Child, and saw her eyes watering and lip quivering, “What’s wrong? Come here.” She pressed into my hug.

“That’s terrible.”

Yes, yes it is. I told her no one person can help everyone, or fix these things, but if everyone does what they can; even it’s limited to contributing one can of food to a food drive, it can make a difference.

She isn’t all that clear on the distinction between city and state, state and country, country and continent, principal and president–but she’s writing a letter to the people in charge, because it’s wrong to ignore people who are hungry.

Man Child and Nerd Child also care about others, volunteer time and give what they can. Community service means more than a line on a college resume.

The other day I was telling friends a story from my childhood. My mother would send me with a lunch every day. I wasn’t much on eating three meals a day, and I rarely got “good” sandwiches. These were the days when you heard a lot about the starving children in Biafra. On the way to school, I passed a mailbox. Each day, I would drop my brown bag into it. Unless the sandwich was olive loaf, in which case I kept it. That poor mailman, his bag must have smelled permanently like bologna. My friends’ immediate thoughts were what a caring child I was.  Not so much. More like practical. “They” were hungry, I wasn’t, and would have gotten into trouble if I brought the sandwich back home. If anyone used the term win/win back then it would have applied.

I’m a lucky mama. My children have compassion, good souls.

 

Campbell's Soup Cans by Andy Warhol, 1962. Dis...

Campbell’s Soup Cans by Andy Warhol, 1962. Displayed in Museum of Modern Art in New York. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ch ch ch ch

…gonna have to be a different man.

English: David Bowie in the early 1970s

English: David Bowie in the early 1970s (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Or a different woman, as the case may be. Continuing to think about my scheduling challenges, and how so much of that blasted to-do list is bullshit. Yeah, yeah the laundry has to be done. But for the love of God, I need…something. A change that’s more than a new coif–though I could use that, too.

A friend advised me to focus in on a specific goal. Logical. But what? And where is the line between reality and excuses? I love the idea, the fantasy, of reinventing myself.  But it feels squishy, new age-y.  Not to mention suspiciously like the 21st century equivalent of a middle aged man buying a convertible. Impractical. Yes, circumstances have changed. Man Child and Nerd Child each have a foot out the door. Husband has an AARP card. But the nest isn’t empty and isn’t likely to be. I don’t have degrees or the freedom to commit set hours each week to an entry level job.

And the ghosts of old choices, born of circumstance and poor judgement.

Der Poltergeist

Der Poltergeist (Photo credit: Lab604)

More than ghosts, they’re poltergeists. I think, I ramble, I do laundry, I time seizures, I write, I walk dogs. I excel at navel gazing. Which of these are likely to be capitalized upon? That’s what I thought.

I wasn’t born with a silver spoon; I wasn’t raised in a war torn and poverty filled hovel where I never saw anything different. Somehow, along with too many others of my generation, I’ve been caught in a spiral of downward mobility. I don’t want to be stuck. I don’t want to be desperate. I also don’t want to be hungry.  But right now, I am. Starving for something.

I know how to get by, stretch a budget, do what needs to be done. What I don’t know is how to make major changes, how to truly divert my trajectory while still taking care of my current and forever responsibilities, the human beings in my little fringe world that give my life value. Because while I want to feel there is a “me,” it isn’t all about me, and I don’t want it to be. How lonely, how boring, how bitter.

I’m sitting on my little terrace right now, looking at the herbs and flowers I planted with Flower Child back in May. And I’m wondering, worrying. If I figure out a focus, replant myself; will my roots take hold in new soil? Or are they already too brittle; like the first basil plant we tried, attacked by the pigeons before it could adjust.

Dead Basil

Dead Basil (Photo credit: olaeinang)

 

 

Hey Artist, Got A Dollar?

Series 1923 U.S. 1$ Silver Certificate, Friedb...

Series 1923 U.S. 1$ Silver Certificate, Friedberg #237, S/N R91110043B (Photo credit: LostBob Photos)

I love Rent. The lyrics, the music, the message, the whole package. Me and eleventy billion other people.  But this line, the title of today’s post, always resonates.

Why are creative types, artists, writers, musicians, etc, expected to be poor but happy? The scene in my head is old and familiar, a talisman and a warning sign spooning together; the gaunt, pale writer pounding away at a dinged up typewriter in a rat infested garret in Paris, overflowing ashtray on either side of her. Mmm, yeah, that was the romanticized image I had at 15.  Not working for me anymore.  Never got to France, more broke than I was at 15, a dinged up laptop, but still, I write. What I don’t do is romanticize an unsuccessful creative life. Great if you lived at the turn of the 20th century with a zillion lovers and a wealthy patron who bought your meals, paid your rent, and you didn’t mind dying of syphilis. Today, as a married mother of three who’s never known anyone to have a patron? Not so much.

Poor but happy is bullshit. Wealthy may not mean happy, but no one is happy when they’re hungry, or worried about paying the rent.

Writing, whether it’s fiction, nonfiction, journalism, or blogging, is interactive. I write, you (hopefully) read. More hope, you get on the phone and tell a couple of friends about this fun or moving piece you read, and they read.

PFC Gladys Bellon, Basile, Louisiana, one of t...

PFC Gladys Bellon, Basile, Louisiana, one of the 27 WAC switchboard operators flown from Paris for the Potsdam… – NARA – 199010 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And so on.  Until…more hope…I make a dollar. Ah, I’ve changed the equation, made it dirty. Because  I’m not supposed to care about how many people want to read what I’ve written, or earning money. Why? My kids get hungry. This may be shocking, but they want to eat multiple times a day. And whether I like all aspects of today’s American society or not, I was raised in it, I live in it. And in our society, money is necessary, and it’s validation. Most published authors don’t earn enough to support themselves through their writing, but it makes a difference in how writers view themselves, and how others view them.

True, there are a few writers, artists, singers, and the like who don’t care about an audience.  But the dirty truth is, most of us do. That’s why, for as many books as you’ll find on the shelf about how to write, there are an equal number on how to catch an agent’s attention, how to craft a query letter, how to get published. Lots of opinions on those who are published, and God forbid, successful.  He’s a hack. She’s a sell out. She’s a tramp. Oh wait.

A real woman will die a virginal death, and a real writer will die with 6 Pulitzer-worthy manuscripts under the bed.  Both, of course, will die at the age of 27 by their own hand, because despair and depression befitting their station in life will have set in.  That or consumption.  But, they were both pure.

On the other hand, go to a party or a PTA meeting and tell people you’re a writer. Then they ask what you write and where they can find your work. Unpublished. Sneer. You’re a wannabe. Then they tell you about their prize winning 5th grade essay. Which is it? Am I pure or a wannabe? Unsuccessful? Plain old delusional? Trade secret, I’m breaking the rules here. If you are really working on, or going to pursue, publication, don’t blog or write about not having been published, the agents and editors will be scared off. Well, I’m forty thousand and I’m cranky, so I’m breaking the rules.

Yes, there are rules and guidelines. Because the publishing world is a business.  A business that likes to make money.  Yes, if you’re good enough, or successful enough, you can break those rules. But good and successful are often synonyms for profitable. Because (reputable) agents don’t earn any money if their writers don’t. And editors don’t keep their jobs if they only get behind books that don’t earn out. Those in the publishing world want writers who have talent, dedication, an ability to absorb and apply critiques and edits, and look respectable at writing conferences.

Cocktail Party At The Imperial Hotel: March 13...

Cocktail Party At The Imperial Hotel: March 13, 1961 (Tokyo, Japan) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Back to that party and the elegantly coiffed woman in the classic little black dress. What you write will effect the curl of her lip. Literary fiction? A delicate raise. Romance, sci fi, or other genre fiction? You’ll get the lip, the nostril, and the eyebrow.  Readers, writers, even some who are functionally illiterate, feel free to dis genre fiction. Trash, bodice rippers, pulp fiction.  Not only would this lovely lady not admit to reading any of this, she believes her chihuahua could dance across the keys of her laptop, produce one of these manuscripts and have it be publishable.  No. Writing is an art, writing is work, and marketable, popular fiction is deceptive in its “simplicity.” There’s a reason genre fiction is also called popular fiction. Quality literary fiction; also an art, also work.

Good writing produces work that people want to read. They want to read it because it has a message that hits home, a universal truth wrapped inside a character you’d like to be, saying the words you wish you’d said. It breaks your heart and performs an angioplasty because it tells the story of a pain you’ve lived, and lets you know others have lived it too. It takes you to another world, lets you be a hero, allows you to experience that first love, again.

Not all good writing gets published, but if it isn’t sold or published, it isn’t because it was too good or too pure.

One day, when a homeless woman calls out to me from her blanket nest on a cold sidewalk, “Got a dollar?” I’d like to say yes, and I earned it from my art.

Homeless NYC

Homeless NYC (Photo credit: Delusion Productions)