Saturday, November 13, 2010

Musical Interlude.

Funny, but I've been running around a lot lately. A friend who is a big karaoke fan got me to slow down, to take a breather, to reflect on nicer things.

Shiver-Up-Spine trills. Amazing guitar. Paroles pour Le Pacha ici.

Sexist? Paff. This lady's a pistol (or a chop-buster, depending on your point of view, I guess).

Tuesday, November 09, 2010


The vast majority of my dreams are nightmares. Usually, I don't remember them; I just wake up feeling miserable and I can't quite put my finger on why. Sometimes, though, something indescribably horrible that's passed through my brain wakes me up and I lie there, shivering, wheezing, afraid to move.*

Am thankful for the nights when the dreams aren't panic-inducing. In the sleep world, I walk around and observe the differences between what my brain's processing and the real world. Sometimes I find myself referencing other dreams and wondering how they influenced what I'm dreaming now.

I know I dream in color. What's also interesting is that I experience other sensations: taste and touch are the most intense, memorable. Have also heard music and when I was a better transcriber of sound, would sometimes try to catch the melodies on paper. Scent happens, but not that often.

Another interesting note is that, with maybe one exception, these not-nightmares are incredibly prosaic. The last one I had a few nights ago was just me walking around during a work break looking for a snack.


East Cambridge, like Somerville and lots of other urban neighborhoods in the West is "in transition." Since I quit the job at the Human Services agency, I don't get out there as often as I used to. Every time I do return, I'm surprised at how different things look.

In my dream, I was wandering up Cambridge street marveling at the spruced-up facades of the bistros and artsy boutiques replacing the dusty old guard bodegas and bakeries. When I got to the courthouse, I turned down a side street to look at new paint jobs on old triples, signs of sand-blasting on the row houses. That afternoon in my dream, it was as unseasonably warm and humid as it had been in Real Life a little while ago. Feeling a bit hungry (really thirst; I mistake the two a lot. Am getting better at recognizing the difference.), I figured I'd head back up to the main drag to find a little bit** of something to eat before heading home. Two blocks before Cambridge Street, I was surprised to find a former common but now all-but-extinct fixture: a corner store on the first floor of an apartment building in a residential neighborhood***.

Had to take a look. Heard the jingle of small bells above the door that announced new customers; noted the brightness of the interior (thanks to both a new paint job on the walls and the clean to sparkling white octagonal tiles on the floor). Further back, a man at the register, waved to me. I waved back. The small group surrounding him, silent for a few seconds, resumed their conversation.

Though the fellow and his friends didn't look like the usual Portuguese shopkeepers (I think they were Indian, actually. Maybe North African. Wasn't really paying attention.), they certainly kept the full complement of Portuguese items in stock. Found the jarred fava beans, the hardtack, the sardines in oil and the dried cod. Noted as well the several different varieties of sausage and the fresh cheeses. All this, plus a wonderful candy rack - which was exactly what I was looking for. Oh dear! What to choose? I wasn't in the mood for any of the normal European stuff - too sugary. Weighed a Necco bar (the one with the four fillings) against something English and plain block of Hershey's. Decided on the Necco one. Grabbed a banana to complement it nutritionally. Noting that I still had $2 left, decided to get a soda to round things out. (Diet Coke goes best with junk chocolate, by the way).

On my trip back to the register, found myself in a small ice cream parlor, all varnished wood and marble ****. "Tiens," I thought to myself, "how'd this get here? These fellows must have bought up the entire ground floor. How nice, too, to keep the original soda fountain. Karen and Aimee have just got to see this." Picked up a menu to look at, wished the waitress a good day, then continued on to the next area, even bigger and more surprising than the last. The only way that my mind could make sense of the fifties-styled lunch counter, all shiny chrome and oxblood naugahyde, was that I was dreaming. There was no way that this alone could fit within the floor plan of the building, much less attached to a soda fountain and grocery. My dreaming brain flipped back through its card catalog and found the reference: one night a few months back, was descending an endless stairway in a brick building in the old Double-Vey neighborhood (Main and Winspear, in fact - right by Parkside). Didn't see her, but knew that my Grandma was with me again. We were communicating about the apple-cinnamon doughnuts we smelled being made on the first floor.

Happy to have this figured out, I hurried back to the register, paid for my snack and found myself outside again.

I don't remember much beyond that; must have been about then that I woke. Strange: on waking up, my mouth had that feeling that one gets when one's eaten a sort of stale, cheap chocolate bar on a hot day.


* It's been this way since I was about 10-11 years old. Lots of moderately bad dreams that I don't remember and, until recently, a truly horrible dream 3-4 times a year. I used to write these down in an attempt to come to grips with them, but just don't bother any more.

** $3.50 worth - I knew that that was exactly what I had in my wallet. Like I said: Prosaic. But Detailed.

*** The actual building is on Cambridge and Trowbridge; cleaned up nicely, went condo. The first floor occupants, though, are actually a hat shop and a beauty salon.

**** I had to have been thinking about Parkside Candy back in Buffalo. Though it's seen better days, is one of the few old school soda fountains out there with the original fixtures.

Monday, November 08, 2010

It was a weekend of trying to get stuff done while coping with migraines and the sadness that usually settles in from the bureaucratic shortening of the days. Put away a manifesto of sorts* and cast-off in frustration some gratuitously French academic writing** that annoyed the hell out of me in both the source and my native tongue.

Still, needed a bit of something to settle down with at bedtime, so started rooting around the horribly disorganized bookshelves that recently went up in my room. The something ended up being nothing I'd normally choose: a mystery.

Found these at the Acton Library sale a few weeks ago. Since it was the last few hours of the sale, they were selling brown bags at a fixed price. Took them more for the cover art than anything else.

My mom and dad were big mystery readers and remember these stories around the house when I was a little kid. Since I could read at a very young age - two? three? I remember specifically picking up the books (Book of the Month Club editions, so hardbound with gold lettering) thinking that they were about a rabbit and just not understanding anything about what was going on between the covers. When I mentioned not understanding the Rabbit story, my mother got the biggest kick out of it; told me that it was a Rabbi, or Jewish Priest and not a rabbit. So much for that.

More recently, found an omnibus edition of the Rabbi Small works translated in French for the Frenchie. He, another big mystery fan, found them entertaining. (Never got around to looking at them because I was reading something depressing either by Henning Mankell or Didier Daeninckx. Both are good writers; not always good choices, though, if you are looking to go to bed in a good mood and not have nightmares.)

Anyway, finished the first story in two nights (probably would have pulled an all-nighter if I didn't have so much running around and headache fighting to do the next day). Enjoyed the novel means of problem-solving, the development of (glad to see) recurring characters, the slice-of-life (it takes place very near to home before I was born - so the issues of how the different communities in this little North Shore town are also very interesting.) aspect. Best of all, though the author (subtly) gave me a few clues, he did some good baffling as well; didn't know who done it until the last page. Bravo!

I don't read a lot of stuff like this, so am really glad to have hit upon something that was such a joy to read. Am looking forward to the next adventure which starts with the the Rabbi's wife trying to get him fed before the big fasting for Atonement Time.


* This is her first longer work for general consumption, I think. Though I generally enjoy her writing, found this to be a bit too repetitive and trying to persuade. Still, there was a lot of good in it - most notably in its nod to the discipline of complexity (something I'm starting to take an interest in). I love also how positive she is. In fact, that's the reason why I picked the book up. Needed something a bit uplifting.

**There's a reason why I did Literature; feel that the form is about as important as the content. Generally this filters out anyone with a Paris-[pick a with a Social-Sciences division Roman numeral] after their name. A friend suggested it to me more to see after how long I'd take to stop reading than anything else, I think.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Caldo Verde

(or an ersatz version thereof:)

chicken sausage instead of chorizo
pintos instead of white beans
rice instead of potatoes
collards instead of kale

Still, seems like it'll keep us warm enough tonight, which is the main goal.

Thursday, November 04, 2010


Does anyone know of any good, not overpriced, *low* (meaning under 12%) alcohol wines aside from vinho verde? It used to be that good, (sometimes local) wine could be found meeting the above criteria.

Since I've had the knife-stabs in the stomach, I've been on a kind of restrictive diet. No dairy, no soy. Blood tests for wheat protein allergies, parasites, weird bacteria, etc, have shown up negative so far.

Was a voluntary vegan for years in the past. Doing this stuff involuntarily isn't nearly as easy or fun as that all. (Actually, it kind of sucks.)

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Well, it looks like two of the three ballot questions we got to vote on were rejected.

1.) Proposed getting rid of the 6.25% sales tax charged in addition to the excise tax we pay on alcoholic beverages. This just squeaked through.

2.) Proposed abolishing a holdover from the days of rent control - that is, fast-tracking the permit process for housing developers who promised to include a proportion of 'affordable housing' in their plans. I'm actually not surprised that was rejected, as it was kind of confusing (took several read-throughs and discussions to come to a conclusion as to how to vote on this). I wonder, too, if more than a few folks thought they were voting against the law itself, rather than against its appeal. (You never know.)*

3.) Proposed rolling back the sales tax from 6.25% to 3%. Honestly didn't think it would pass. If they'd just have proposed rolling it back to the good old 5% of a year ago, it might have had more of a chance.


* Listened in on the most awesome conversation between two kids regarding this.

"Umm, so, how did you vote on question two? Sorry to change the subject."

"Well, I wasn't sure when I went in. I knew a couple of guys do the opposite of what they meant because they got mixed up. Didn't want to do that."

"I think most Somerville-ites will vote against it. You know, it's affordable housing."

"Yeah, I was thinking I was against it, but it's all about affordable housing, and it's all about making the world a better place."

"Yeah. Yeah."

I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't disappointed in last night's election results. While the rest of the country was cleaning house, we kept the horrible man who was one of the authors of the housing crisis, one of the more incompetent governors we've had in a long time (and the test run for the last presidential election), an attorney general whose major claim to fame is keeping a man wrongfully imprisoned for a manufactured crime, and a tax cheat for treasurer.

Would love to have seen some change somewhere. Some sign that MA wasn't owned by special interests, some sign of sentience among voters.

Normally I'd shrug it off and say that, well, folks get the leadership they deserve. AM not pleased to have to pay even more now for the poor judgement of my co-citizens, and can only hope that the wave that swept through congress will provide enough resistance against what we ended up with here.

As for the local offices? Heaven help us (again).
Elections are over. Thank Heavens!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Election Day.

(The 80s kid in me couldn't resist.)

For what it's worth, I voted for all that's considered "bigoted, racist, homophobe, etc, etc" by the self-appointed "sanity crowd." I don't have many illusions about how stuff's going to turn out, but might be happily surprised. (Who knows?)
All Souls' Day.

First Duino Elegy

Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels'
hierarchies? and even if one of them pressed me
suddenly against his heart: I would be consumed
in that overwhelming existence. For beauty is nothing
but the beginning of terror, which we still are just able to

My little brother and me in happier times. I really miss him. Miss a lot of people. What a horrible couple years we've all had.
All Saints' Day.

The new tradition has been to visit the Frenchie's parents out in the neighborhood of Gien and to give them either chrysanthemums or heather.

Am feeling kind of weird to not be there, but kind of had to follow The Market's Dictation.

Wasn't really in the mood for carving a jack o'lantern. This was just as well since Ampersand decided to pay a visit:

We had eight kids come for treats: not as many as I've had in past homes, but more than expected given last year's dismal numbers (just two). We still had boxes of raisins left over from last year and Pavel wanted to give them away. I wasn't about to let that happen, so (thank heavens), there was good candy (york patties and necco wafers).

Happy thing, too: a few friends came over for dinner. Nothing spectacular: just some (sadly overcooked) pork chops, a bit of squash soup, stuffing, cabbage and traditional baked beans:

Be's Maple Country Baked Beans

1 lb dried beans (I used 1/2 kidney, 1/2 navy)
1/2 lb salt pork (cut into strips and scored)
1/4 c maple syrup (I used grade B. Love the lower grades for their dark richness. This particular one was Trader Joe's brand. Very surprised to see that, to be honest.)
1/4 c brown sugar
1 t salt
4-5 t (depending on taste) dry mustard
a couple of squirts of ketchup (again: depends on taste.)

Soak beans overnight; boil until tender (skins split when you blow on them). In the cooking water, I normally like to add a couple bouillon cubes and 3-4 bay leaves. When the beans are ready, do not drain. Just mix the syrup, mustard, salt, brown sugar and ketchup in and transfer to a bean pot or oven-safe (covered) ceramic bowl. Press pork score-side-up and put everything in the oven at a low temp (I did 275 degrees) for 6-8 hours. Check every hour or so and add water if stuff starts looking dried out.

Serves 8+ as a nice little side dish.


It was really nice to catch up with folks, to cook, to be chatting in the kitchen. It brought to mind earlier Halloweens. I think I need to do this more often, if folks are willing to schlep out.