NATURAL WONDER MY EYE

The cicadas are coming. If you live on the east coast, that is. As soon as the temperature of the soil hits 64 degrees Fahrenheit, billions–and that is not an exaggeration, of these horrible, science fiction looking insects will emerge to scare the living daylights out of you while creating a racket that is louder than most rock bands.

While I trust and love the scientists who have held our hands throughout the pandemic, creating life-saving vaccines, this right here is where I part ways with these scientists. Because they are trying to sell us a bill of goods about how wonderful the cicadas are. See below:

  • They are harmless. Perhaps. If harmless in the sense of they won’t bite you or fly up your nose, yes. But the word harmless apparently means different things to scientists (or is it entomologists, who are a very dubious subgroup of scientists). Not flying up my nose is not going to make me admire cicadas.
  • They aerate the soil. There are sticks and poles available to do this for us. Lawn services do it for a minimal fee. We do not need cicadas for this.
  • It’s only every 17 years. This is somewhat comforting, but still…
  • They are food for birds and other animals. But hey, if your dog eats them, prepare for bug vomit all over your living room.
  • They are a true wonder of nature. Ha. The red crab migration in Australia is also a wonder of nature. Google that one.
  • They are harmless. So they don’t sting. This is not much of a rationalization, as far as I am concerned. Slugs don’t sting, either.
  • They are one of the only natural phenomena of their kind. But we can do without this one, thanks.
  • They don’t last that long. I call six weeks a very long time.
  • “It’s like having David Attenborough in your back yard.” Huh? I like Mr. Attenborough just fine, but I wouldn’t want him lurking in my back yard, or narrating the wonders of the bugs out there. I am not sure I would even want to watch him on PBS in a cicada special. So having him in my back yard? That’s a nope.
  • They are harmless. How many times do we have to hear this to buy in? And what is “harm,” anyway? Despite the fact that my nostrils are safe, I still will find going out, only to see the sidewalk seething with insects; or having one harmlessly land on my forehead, causing a severe panic attack, begs the question “what exactly does the word “harmless” mean?” One person’s harmless is another person’s heart attack with wings.

Fun fact: Beekeeper’s outfits are rapidly selling out.

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RAIN

It is raining. It has been raining for a week or so. It is also cold and blowy.

I didn’t bring any umbrellas with us when we moved here.

So, it seems best to stay inside and have soup.

The stock pot at the back of the stove. Always simmering. A grandmother tosses in various bones and peels. The aroma is both bracing and soothing. Hints of garlic, maybe a little whiff of rosemary. Meaty. Grandma ladles some out, adds rice or noodles, and all are better for eating it. Afterwards, if any is left in the bowls, Grandma dumps it back in the stockpot with some carrot peelings and a half of an onion. She pours in a glass of water, and the pot continues simmering on. The broth just improves as the days pass.

OR, over here on the fifth floor, a grandmother walks over to the pantry, pulls out a can of chicken noodle, and calls it a day.

 

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PLAY BALL!

We live directly above The Dayton Dragons baseball stadium. See the photo above? I just took that from our balcony. Those are not actual Dayton Dragons, because their season has not begun; these are high school players who must be thrilled to be playing games in this pro stadium.

Last summer we did not see any games from the balcony, because of the pandemic. So it was a big surprise when this all began this year. Let me describe what it is like:

We hear great music from the public address system. Before the game, they play songs like Born in the USA, Freewheelin’, and all the Fleetwood Mac greatest hits. It’s like a free concert. Then, right before the game, they blow a horn that is so loud it sounds like the blast from an ocean liner coming into port. The announcer says each player’s name with that great sports announcer emphasis: “And at first base, TY LER SPRONNNNGWELL!”

So now, since there is all of this totally free entertainment right outside my window, I will have to learn what in God’s name those guys are doing out there. Like, the definition of a pop fly. And all of a sudden, that “who’s on third” joke might make sense.

They also play at night. Under lights. Lights so strong that they illuminate the entire apartment, so that we don’t have to turn on any of our own lights. This was a little bit of a problem at first. I think the Dayton Dragons staff had gotten a little lax during their year off, and they forgot to turn the lights OUT after the first few night games. I am assuming the tenants in our building must have said something like “what the hell,” because now the lights do go off about ten minutes after the games are over.

So now, I am learning about baseball. I can use words like ump and knuckler. I can use them, but I have no idea how to put them in context, so I just pepper my conversations with my husband with baseball terminology, hoping he will be impressed.

So yes, did you notice the error during the double play that loaded the bases during a hit and run while somebody bunted? Was it a bang-bang play? No, wait. It was a can of corn. So bush league.

Yup. Now I want a cookie.

 

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DISAPPOINTMENTS

Today, I decided to “cheat” on the Weight Watchers. Of course, the Weight Watchers don’t actually care what I do, so cheating on them is actually cheating on myself, but there we are.

Anyway, I ate a cookie. It wasn’t worth it. Dry, not enough chocolate chips. I was sad that I had gone ahead and eaten it. That got me thinking about all of the things in life so far that have been so disappointing. Things that held so much promise until I tried them.

While on the subject of food, let’s talk about salmon. It is luscious looking. Pink, flaky. It is always served with wonderful additions like dill, bagels, or roasted asparagus. The presentation is stunning. And every single time, when I venture a bite, it is so damn strong and fishy, I can’t believe it. How do so many people love salmon? They eat it raw, for God’s sake, as well as cooked! These must be the people who also adore caviar, piled on a cracker with egg yolk. They wash it down with champagne. I get the champagne part. But fishy fish is so much of a non-starter for me. And sushi. What is wrong with me that I can’t get on the sushi bandwagon?

And some foods just look so beautiful, one figures they must also taste that beautiful. But no. Have you ever had a Petit Four? They are like little presents. So adorable, sitting on a plate covered with tiny violets and pastel frosting. Cut one in half, and there are ribbons of cake and jam. Heaven, right? Nope! Petit fours are terrible. And let’s switch over to appetizers: why on earth is CALAMARI so popular? Deep fat fried rings of rubber? Come, on, people!

Movies. Oh Lord. The ones so many people rave about; I just don’t get it. Going way back to Quentin Tarantino and all the way back to Ingmar Bergman. The Seventh Seal. Didn’t get it then, tried it again during the pandemic, and I still don’t get it. Also, I made it through the first five minutes of Mank before getting so bored, I had to switch over to HGTV.

This may say more about me than the things that have let me down so far in life, but I bet you can come up with a few things that you have felt did not deserve the build-up. Like maybe cashmere? HOT. It makes me sweaty. Doesn’t it make you sweaty? Do you put on that cashmere sweater and then wish you could take it off but you can’t, because you are sitting in the theatre and you don’t have a shirt on under it? So you get drenched and forget what the play is about?

Speaking of plays. Shakespeare. Now there’s a guy who doesn’t live up to his reputation. Can anybody just read Shakespeare and understand what on earth it is all about without the translation of an English professor? The only way anybody I know can understand Shakespeare in real time is if Benedict Cumberbatch or Dame Judi Dench is saying it. Of course, I also feel that way about the Bible. I can’t cut through the language barrier, despite the fact that all sorts of people of all walks of life have read it over and over, going so far as to memorize large portions of it.

Meditation is all the rage right now. What with the pandemic and all the horrible political goings-on, so many people have turned to it for its calming and soothing properties. Not me. You can rub your singing bowls and chant for hours, but all I will be able to do while sitting in the lotus position is think about why my knees ache.

So, that is all for now. I just got this great book from the library. I have heard it is one of the greatest works of literature ever. Yup. I can’t wait to dig in to Infinite Jest.

 

 

 

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THE BEAT GOES ON

This picture was taken over a year ago.

Whoa.

 

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FRIENDS

You never miss the water ’til the well runs dry.

Over a year. Nobody to talk to except the person/s you live with. For some people, there was nobody at all to talk to, because not all of us are lucky enough to have someone at home. Unexpected–we weren’t prepared. It was horrible. Depressing. We watched too much TV, gained weight, and couldn’t sleep. We got sick to death of Zoom.

But suddenly, the shots. The sighs of relief were heard ’round the world.

Friends. We could  finally get together with friends! For us, these are the people we have taken for granted for years and years. They knew our children as babies. They remember when we were all thin and agile. They remember babysitting emergencies, teen drinking, prom pictures, and graduation ceremonies. We have all aged together, comparing notes about sciatica and arthritis. We had these friends–and then we didn’t. All the doors closed, all at once. With a bang. It was such a long, lonesome year.

For the last two weekends, there have been friends at our house, just like in the olden days. We picked right up right where we left off. Hugged without worrying. Drank wine. Ate food. It was so wonderful. So good, that despite the fact that all my adult life I have dreaded cleaning the house and planning menus in order to have friends over, I AM DOING IT NOW LIKE A BOSS.

Every weekend from now forward, we are having company. Vaccinated company. It is the best thing, ever. Fun and laughs. Conviviality, for God’s sake!

I bet you are doing the same thing. Vacuuming. Dusting. Putting away the jigsaw puzzles. Taking off your pajamas and putting on hard pants. Texting dinner invitations. Wondering what recipes to haul out of mothballs and whip up. Actually making things that serve 4-8! Looking up recipes for those “hors” things, and giving up on the spelling, Googling “appetizers” instead. Because during the pandemic, who on earth had APPETIZERS???

So here is a recipe from one of the old friends I mentioned above that you might want to make the next time you have somebody over for dinner. This appetizer is killer, and so easy.

JANE’S “A CUP, A CUP, AND A CUP”

  • One cup finely chopped onion
  • One cup shredded Swiss cheese
  • One cup mayonnaise

Mix them all together. Put in a shallow baking dish. Bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes or until bubbly. Serve right away (ok, wait a bit, because it is very hot at first) with  Triscuits.

It is so good. Then follow up with what Ina would call “a good dinner.”

Cheers. And thank the scientists for the vaccine.

 

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DEAR DR. FAUCI

Dear Dr. Fauci:

First of all, I want to salute you for all of your efforts during the pandemic. All that talking made you hoarse, and you had to have nodules removed from your vocal chords. Now that’s dedication to the cause.

Next, I have to hand it to you for standing up against “there will only be 15 cases,” injecting bleach, staying upright during all of those misguided “corona press conferences,”  and ignoring Dr. Birx as she wilted into her scarves. By the way, how did you  not try to strangle Alex Azar and his cohorts?

But there you were, on all the news programs and social media, diplomatically trying to keep all the facts straight. You said we didn’t need masks, then we did. Three feet apart, then six feet. Despite all the mixed messaging, you remained stalwart. For some reason, your credibility never wavered, despite all of the confusion about what Americans should be doing and not doing.

I have some questions that I would like you to clear up, though. How many masks are we up to now? Double or triple? Travel is ok, as long as you don’t go inside the airports, right? Still no hugging? Fully vaccinated people can get together inside a house, but not a restaurant? Dr., would you go to a movie? How about a grocery store? Are you getting into more frequent arguments with your wife–is she starting to get on your nerves? Do you have a toilet paper stockpile? Will there be another surge? Is Dr. Wallensky correct to be “scared,” or is she just a wuss?

My husband has been wearing the same disposable mask for about a month now. He thinks it airs out overnight and is just fine the next day. Should I burn this mask? Also, my husband only counts to ten these days when washing his hands. He says fully vaccinated people don’t need to sing Happy Birthday while washing any more. Should I ask him to substitute Mary Had a Little Lamb, or can I just let him go?

Can I throw away most of the fifty little bottles of hand sanitizer I still have in the cupboard? How many should I keep? Is four enough to get us through until the pandemic is behind us? You mentioned baseball. We can hope to attend games? I hate baseball, but I should go to a game anyway, just to get out of the house?

How soon will there be booster shots? Will we need booster shots? Will there be a pill? I heard there might be a pill. And what about nasal spray? It stops the virus in your nostrils before it can scurry down into your lungs. Will they have that nasal spray at CVS?

Are you sick of Zoom like the rest of us?

Since I see you so often, can I refer to you as Tony?

Are you having ham for Easter?

 

 

 

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DON’T KID YOURSELF. THIS HAPPENS.

I don’t have a dog any more. For this, I am thankful, because when you have a dog, you have to walk it every day. Sometimes, Fido demands to be walked after dark; you know, if he hasn’t pooped yet that day. And you have to accommodate that.

I am relieved that in all my years of dog walking, My dog and I never discovered a body. It’s in the news all the time. The headline reads: DOG WALKER DISCOVERS BODY IN THE WOODS or WOMAN WALKING DOG STUMBLES UPON BODY.

If you walk your dog, you often walk along roadsides or in the woods. Not everyone lives in New York, where dogs are trained to poop on the sidewalks. Most American’s dogs demand woods, grassy knolls, open fields, or at least large areas of grass or weeds. And this is apparently, according to the headlines, where murderers leave bodies strewn around. Sometimes they bury them (see above feeble illustration), but often they just scatter leaves and twigs over the body. AND YOUR DOG CAN EASILY SNIFF THOSE OUT. It doesn’t take a cadaver dog to do this. Dogs just have that innate talent for scouting out rotten things and rolling in them or trying to eat them. So there is another hazard: having your dog find a human bone and gnawing on it. So yes, I am not really an outdoor person, with or without a dog.

Here’s another danger: Driving. I never study the side of the road too carefully when I am in a car going along, because people in cars have also spotted dead bodies along roadsides. They see what they think is a pile of clothing or a garbage bag, and it looks suspicious to them, so they stop to investigate. I have asked my husband many times to never, ever stop to investigate anything along the road, even if it looks like money. Because it might be money, but there could also be a dead person.

This is why I also wonder about that Antiques Roadshow production on television. I never looked very hard in the attic of my old house, hoping to discover a priceless work of art leaning against the eaves. Because you know what else people find in old attics?

Bats.

 

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READING LIST

Can you believe we have reached the one-year anniversary of the entire world shutting down? If someone had told you that you would spend a whole year inside, what would you have said or thought? Whew.

So most of us watched TV, and I did that. But I read a slew of books, too. Here is a list I thought you might be interested in.

  • Circe, by Madeline Miller. I held out a long time on this, because I have always been confused by mythology. This ended a lot of the confusion, and I learned a lot. One thing I learned is that if a book has thousands of reviews, you ought to read it.
  • An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones. Same as above; what took me so long?
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Again, see above. So many reviews. Such a lovely book.
  • I discovered Tana French. Wow. I am now going to read all of her books.
  • The Boy in the Field. Margot Livesay is a poet writing mystery  novels.
  • My Dark Vanessa. Dark. Fascinating.
  • Courtney Sullivan. Read all her books.
  • In Five Years. Diverting.
  • Dear Edward. Absolutely loved this one, and immediately bought it for my daughter.
  • All Adults Here. Emma Straub is a gem of an author.
  • So is Lily King.
  • The Lager Queen of Minnesota. You will learn a lot about beer.
  • The Dutch House. I may have recommended this before. Brilliant.
  • Girl, Woman, Other. Man Booker Prize winner.
  • Summer Water. I just started reading this, but I love it already.

Now that all of us are getting shots, we might stop reading  and start partying. I am good for maybe one party…

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