Friday, February 27, 2009

When Comfort Food Doesn't

Tonight, I hosted a crew of EMT's who responded to my 9-1-1 call so fast that I am able to write this. It didn't look good for awhile.

They were amazing, a special class of magnificent people who exuded such kindness that they must surely all be saints.

At dinner, I choked on a piece of baked potato skin, which went into my windpipe. I couldn't breathe. It was terrifying. When I was unable to dislodge it after more than a minute of wheezing, I dialed 9-1-1 and handed Flip the phone. He couldn't remember our address or my age, so I tried to squeak at the dispatcher while strangling.

Caller ID is wonderful. She had eight people here within a minute, which in itself is quite miraculous.

My chest flamed crimson while my face turned pale. I know this because I tried to cough up the potato skin in the bathroom. It crossed my mind that I might be watching myself die in the mirror.

I decided not to go to the hospital as the offending object finally managed to resume its journey, although the paramedics told me I would be quite uncomfortable all night. So far, that prediction is accurate.

After things calmed down, one of them explained how peristalsis works while visions of Fisher Price toys danced in my head. I now understand how circular smooth muscles contract to propel food through the digestive tract. When something gets stuck, stretch receptors in the esophageal lining are stimulated to try to force it down the esophagus.

My chest turned red because my heart was starved for oxygen, so my body pumped it all where it was needed. We marveled together at how incredibly intelligent the human body is.

He remarked that he would like to live long enough to see more of its abilities harnessed. I said that I was very grateful I would live through this night.

They assured me they would come back if I needed them, even at four o'clock in the morning, because they are always around. Like guardian angels. While I have never entertained more wonderful people in my home, I hope it won't be necessary.

I feel as if my lease on life has been renewed, and I'd better make something of it because we never know how long we'll have, both as individuals and as a culture.

The world is now changing faster than ever before as systems break down and new ones come into being. Truths we have always relied upon disintegrate and can no longer be trusted. The very ground we stand upon seems unable to hold our weight and we find ourselves treading air. Trying to make sense of the unfamiliar offers a terrifying awareness that all things and all beings are, indeed, transitory.

But change also brings hope. Belief systems break down because they are no longer working. Nothing ends without something better replacing it.

We need to turn our fears into action, to ground ourselves in the present even though is seems impossible to gain a purchase, because right now is truly all we have. There will never be a better time to do what we burn to do with our lives.

I was eating that baked potato because I really needed comfort food tonight. I don't know when I'll get over my new fear of all food and start eating again, but just think -- I may have discovered the perfect diet.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Law is a Ass

I originally intended to call this blog "Quaintness and Absurdity in Everyday Life." I was reminded of this today when I read a news article about a Denver bus driver who pushed three people out of the path of a speeding pickup truck, and was later ticketed in his hospital bed for jaywalking by the Colorado State Patrol.

Jim Moffett and a passenger on his bus had helped two elderly women cross a busy street during a snowstorm. As Moffett saw the truck careening toward them, he pushed the three other people out of harm's way but had no time to save himself. His injuries were serious and he is now in intensive care.

This bizarre circumstance inspired me to find out what other weird laws exist. It turns out there are quite a lot of them:

In Alabama, it is illegal for a driver to be blindfolded while driving a vehicle. (Blind drunk is ok, though.)

In California, it's illegal to set a mousetrap without a hunting license. (How the West was won.)

Also, in our fair state, a person must own at least two cows before he is permitted to wear cowboy boots in public. (As usual, the unfashionistas are missing the point.)

In Ohio, it is against state law to get a fish drunk. (But everyone knows they drink like a fish.)

In Vermont, women must obtain written permission from their husbands to wear false teeth. (Yep. Can't let Nellie eat more than her share, now can we?)

In Kentucky, it is illegal to carry a concealed weapon more than six-feet long. (So I have to leave my rocket launcher home when I attend the Derby?)

It is also the law that everyone must take a bath at least once a year. (All together now: Whether they need it or not.)

In Florida, unmarried women who parachute on Sundays can be jailed. (Yet another stunning advantage to being married.)

Also, in the Sunshine State, an elephant tied to a parking meter must pay a regular parking fee. (It's only fair.)

Hunting and killing a deer while swimming is illegal. (Is it ok if only the deer is swimming?)

In Maine, it's illegal to bite the landlord, no matter how much he deserves it. (Landlord-tenant laws really need revising.)

In Illinois, it's against the law to speak English. (Explains a lot.)

It's also illegal to give lighted cigars to dogs, cats, and other domesticated animals kept as pets. (Does that include hamsters? Oh, damn.)

It is a crime to make love while fishing or hunting on your wedding day. (Does that mean we're not cruising the Greek Isles, honey?)

In Iowa, horses are forbidden to eat fire hydrants. (Then why do they make them so tasty?)

In Maryland, it's illegal to take a lion to the movies. (Clearly discriminatory. If I lived there, my Senator would hear about this.)

It's illegal to take a bath in Massachusetts unless one has been ordered by a physician to do so. (We all know how that goes: When you make them illegal, the criminal element flourishes.)

In Nevada, it's illegal to drive a camel on the highway. (But they get such great mileage.)

Whale hunting is strictly forbidden throughout the entire state of Oklahoma. (Especially the coastal parts.)

In Oregon, a dead person cannot be required to serve on a jury. (What a relief.)

In Tennessee, it's illegal to use a lasso to catch a fish. (But so much more sporting than shooting them.) You can't shoot any game other than whales from a moving automobile. (No wonder they're endangered.)

It is also illegal in TN to drive a car while sleeping. (But perfectly legal to make laws while unconscious.)

In Utah, birds have the right of way on all highways. (Especially the ones with 50 or 60 wives to support.)

Pharmacists may not sell gun powder as a headache cure. (But it's so effective, especially if you buy a gun with it.)

In Washington State, having sex with a virgin is illegal under any circumstances, including the wedding night. (Population control at its best.)

It's also illegal to ride in the streets on an ugly horse. (There are no ugly horses, only ugly people.)

In Wisconsin, it's illegal to wake a fireman when he's sleeping. (Planning is everything.)

In Alaska, it's forbidden to push a moose out of a plane in motion. (Shooting wolves from planes is legal, though.)

It isn't only in America that we have absurd laws. In France, it is forbidden to call a pig Napoleon. (But ok for a pastry.)

Some of them have probably been on the books for awhile:

In London, it's illegal to flag down a taxi if you have the plague. (What if the taxi driver has it, too?) It is also illegal for a London cab to carry rabid dogs or corpses. (This one begs clarification. Does it mean rabid dog corpses or might the corpses be of any species, not necessarily canine? It is difficult to follow the laws if one does not understand them.)

It is illegal to die in the Houses of Parliament. (Not sure if that applies only to Parliamentarians, or to others who might be visiting the building for any reason. Please advise ASAP.)

It is an act of treason to place a postage stamp bearing the British monarch upside down. (How can you tell?)

Wait. It gets worse.

In San Salvador, drunk drivers can be punished by death before a firing squad. (Seems a tad harsh, unless the shooters are blind drunk, too.)

In Indonesia, the penalty for masturbation is decapitation. (But ones head is not the offending organ.)

In New York, the penalty for jumping off a building is death. (Even if I promise not to do it again?)

I would like to be a law-abiding citizen, I really would, but they don't make it easy for those of us who have not had lobotomies. I think they're saving them all for our lawmakers.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Going Postal

Saturday I mailed a package to my daughter. I bought a delivery confirmation receipt which would allow me to track it online. Last night, I learned that it had been delivered at 6:24 p.m. in a neighboring postal area, the zip code of which is one digit different from my daughter's.

I spent about an hour trying to communicate with a post office recording which offered no helpful options, but all roads led to Rome: The package had been delivered. Never mind that it was delivered to the wrong recipient in the wrong town. I got increasingly agitated and finally ended up telling the machine that I hoped it would do something to itself until it hurt. My husband raised an eyebrow but knew enough to stay off the battlefield. The recording, undaunted, told me that the office was not open at that hour. It sounded smug.

This morning, I called the post office which ostensibly delivered the package. The clerk said that no duplicate address to my daughter's existed in that zip code. I said I doubted that the occupant would have the same name in any case. He told me to call the post office branch where it was supposed to go. They were unimpressed with the gravity of the matter so I called my local post office, where I had mailed it. They said they couldn't do anything because it was out of their hands; the logic was indisputable.

I made all the rounds again, this time asking to speak to a supervisor. After I went through the entire saga for the third supervisor, she asked me if it had been delivered to my daughter.

Well, no, Dummy. That's why I'm calling. I didn't say that, though. I sucked it up and told her politely that it had not because I know all about honey and vinegar, even though diplomacy does not come naturally to me.

She suggested I call the delivery supervisor at the post office which routes mail to the other two zip codes, so I did. The gentleman told me to call back at 9:30 tomorrow morning because all the carriers were out. He didn't ask my daughter's name or address, which was not a good sign, so I stewed awhile and called back. This time I got someone who assured me that it couldn't have been delivered last night at 6:24 because they don't deliver mail at that hour. He also said that there was no way to find my package because they have no record of it.

I think my daughter would have liked it. It was beautifully wrapped. I have no idea who is enjoying her gift, which she was not expecting ~ we love surprises in my family ~ but I am sure that my blood pressure took a big hit over this.

It is frustrating that nobody will take responsibility. Instead, they all passed me around like a beach ball.

I fail to understand why there is so little competence anymore. Perhaps it's because there is so little caring. Life is hard for most people. They want to put in their hours, get paid and get out. The pride in craftsmanship that I was raised to revere is dead as a doornail, and we are all poorer for it.

I am by nature a gentle person, but desperate times call for desperate measures. I'm fantasizing, just a little, about letter bombs.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Monday, February 02, 2009

Homo Chefian - I Have Genus Envy

I have given this a lot of thought and there's just no way around it. I'm jealous of Michelle Obama.

While Air Force One tethered to my back porch railing would be quite handy, what I really covet is having a private chef at my disposal who can whip up spa food with one hand while preparing a banquet for 50 heads of state with the other.

I considered this grave matter while making a salad of baby spinach and strawberries, blood oranges and toasted pine nuts with a light Meyer lemon vinaigrette. I pondered it as I waited for my pumpkin souffle to rise and I brooded over it crafting raspberry mustard-crusted chicken breasts with rice pilaf and honeyed baby carrots.

And what I came up with was this:

I want someone else to do it.

At least some of the time.

And better than I can.

What excruciating bliss to slouch in my favorite chair for hours until the last page of my book, secure in the knowledge that through no fault of my own, an exquisite meal awaits.

I do not require sparrow's tongue on a bed of candied violets or pheasant under glass, but I love meals made of fresh organic ingredients that look as good as they taste. It is not necessary that I claim credit for their preparation.

I would be perfectly happy to arrive at the dinner table, freshly showered and glowing in a gorgeous dress that competes with the floral arrangements, and to wait with a fine linen napkin across my lap for the most sublime delicacies to arrive.

The Obamas decided to retain Cristeta Comerford, the Executive Chef in the Clinton and Bush White Houses. She is the first woman to hold that position. Ms. Comerford will be responsible for every family meal, formal state dinner, and even the children's after school popcorn and hot chocolate.

The sweetness of it all will never be mine.

If I had realized the ramifications of running for political office, the fringe benefits, the possibility of a personal chef, I would have made different life choices.

I would have run for Senator from New York. After all, I am actually from New York, unlike Bobby Kennedy and Hillary Clinton, those impostors. After six months or so, I would run for President on a platform promising good and healthy food for all Americans.

The Fresh Party.

Dishes of all ethnicities would vote for me.

It would be a landslide.

I guess I could run the country if I had to. Presidents have phoned it in before.

Just show me the chef.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Tall Cotton

In a dazzling rags-to-riches Cinderella story, Greg Pike and his animals (previous post) have found a new home.

Flip had offered to take some photos of them which could be made into postcards, so on Friday we stopped by his motel to pick him up. It was clear that he had either forgotten our arrangement or assumed we would forget because we had to wait outside while he dressed.

His dog and cat were quite surprised to be out so early, as it was 11 o'clock and he normally hits the streets at 1:00.

We walked to Starbuck's, where he attracted his usual crowd, and Flip and I both took pictures.

A little later, a man came along who invited Greg to have dinner with him that night. Greg asked if he could bring his animals because he never goes anywhere without them. The man assured him that he could. Greg told him uncomfortably that he hoped what he was wearing was ok because it was all he had.

"All my money goes to feed my animals," he said.

The man offered to buy him some new clothing and Greg apologized to Flip and me for running out on our photo shoot.

We assured him that it was a good thing, and they left.

Today, we gave him some of our pictures, and he told us that he is moving. In circumstances reminiscent of Curious George and the man in the yellow hat, the man who bought him dinner has offered to be his silent business partner and to bankroll his ventures, which will soon include a website that accepts donations.

He has also offered Greg a rent-free apartment in his home with its own entrance, a freezer stocked with steaks, and a private deck overlooking San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge.

I told Greg that he was finally getting the good karma he deserves.

I'm thrilled at this new development and hope that it's as good as it seems. I also take pleasure in knowing that Flip and I were the catalyst because if we had not dragged him out two hours earlier than usual, he would never have met his benefactor.

Maybe fairy tale happy endings occur every day but are mostly unnoticed in our busy lives.

So if anyone would like to adopt Flip and me, we are also available. In fact, I'm going to get a dog, cat and rat and start training them now.