road trip

Okay, I'm on the road, headed south. Tonight Washington DC with Dolores (in her soon to not be apartment), tomorrow headed for Alabama, no banjo on my knee. If I'm less that in touch, please forgive me. I don't want to lose my public, but then again I don't know how available the web will be to this spider. Who lives may learn. The cherry blossoms are in bloom, but I won't be seeing them.


wishful thinking

Anybody who's trying to reach me via e-mail today will be having a problem. Verizon's servers seem to be on the fritz, at least in my location. I'm spending the time trying to compose a description of proposed construction for the Coastal Resources Management Commission. Any advice will be appreciated.

To construct a single-family dwelling with Individual Sewage Disposal System (ISDS) with municipal water service and buried utility lines.

The 32’x 28’ three-bedroom, three bath two-story structure will be in the traditional Block Island seaside Victorian style, using white cedar shingles and trim similar to the exterior of the neighboring house (plat 5 lot 3-6), utilizing post-and-beam constriction. It will have an 8’ front porch and back deck matching the detailing of the neighboring building. Like that structure, it will be 12 feet above mean high water (CK?) set on brick piers.

Grades and buffer zones will be scrupulously protected. As recommended by CRMC inspectors, the freshwater pond overflow pipe will be extended and covered at the time the ISDS system is installed, using appropriate equipment.
As much of the surrounding area as possible will be maintained as is, with grass and native shrubs (shad, viburnum) to be replanted as necessary. Should CRMC so desire, hay bales can be placed along the freshwater Crescent Pond side of the existing gravel drive or along the buffer zone on the saltwater Harbor Pond side.

Utility lines (town water, electricity, telephone) will be run and buried from the extant shutoffs at the top of the driveway approximately 75 feet away.

Work is anticipated to begin on or after 5/1/2005 and be completed by 7/1/2006, with a hiatus during the months of July and August 2005.


bragging about bishkek

I am feeling boastful about the fact that I have actually been in Bishkek. It is the capital of Kyrgyzstan, which I can't spell without looking at the newspaper. I was on a little junket with Al and Tipper Gore—and a lot of other people—on Air Force II.
The way we arrived in Bishkek was kind of scary. We were actually supposed to be going to Alm Aty in Khazakstan (sp?) and then going on to Bishkek. We had been flying for about a year, and you could tell who the smokers on the plane were because they were getting louder and more argumentative by the moment. I'm not naming any names here (except possibly for that of Strobe Talbot, who, if not a smoker, was surely acting like an asshole). And I had had the forethought to wear a nicotine patch, so I was OK.
We came in for a landing in Alm Aty. But we didn't land. The pilot couldn't see the runway for the snow, so we zoomed up again.
And tried again for a landing.
And zoomed up again.
I heard that either Al was trying to comfort Tipper or the other way around, but as I was sitting back in steerage with the other journalists I don't know what actually happened. My guess is they clutched hands, which is what I should have done with David Burnett, the prince of a photographer I was working with. But I didn't know him that well at the time.
And then the pilot decided to make it to Bishkek instead, which was some hundred miles away. We were running low on fuel.
We quickly switched our briefing manuals to the Kyrgyzstan section instead of the Khazakstan section. I was picturing Al trying to memorize all those new names, like that of Askar Akayev, who just got run out of Bishkek's White House by maddened Democracy-lovers. I assume Bishkek was hastily unrolling red carpets and making last-minute banquet and security arrangements. The U.S. had already airlifted one fleet of armoured cars there, and there were plenty of "our" people on the ground.
We made it to Bishkek.
I even went to their White House, though I made it not much further than the vestibule and thus didn't get to eat the sheep eyeballs and pony flesh. I remember mountains and yurts (or gers, never can remember which) and beautiful horses and funny hats, one of which Al had to put on. They gave him a horse, too, which created some problems.
So. Bet you've never been to Bishkek.


there really is an easter bunny

On the island, you will turn off your lights tonight and try to stay awake as long as possible so you can figure out who's doing it. Somehow, you never see headlights or hear any noise on the porch. But in the morning, hung from the doorknob or nestled in the shoe basket is a cache of candy. The island bunny has hopped from house to house, knowing which are empty of their summer residents and which are occupied by embattled survivors of winter who could use a sugar boost.
This has been happening every Easter ever since I first came to the island some 30 years ago. Population has been booming, and that bunny must be sweating its tail off these days.

Here's a seasonal recipe for those leftover peeps and other disgusting marshmallow candies:
Take peeps from package.
Put in microwave.
Watch as they blow up like little balloons.
Do not eat.

nuke this


photograph by Thomas Vander Wal


divorce, chinese-style

Ping is being sued for divorce by her husband who took up with a hooker while he was trying to start an internet portal in China. He spent all their money on it. Meanwhile, Ping was living in Massachussetts, putting their two boys through high school and then college. She learned to drive, got low-income housing and took a full-time job as a nanny and a part-time job working in a dry cleaners. She didn't hear from the guy for years. As she's scraping by, she hears that her husband is back in Florida with his parents. He wants a divorce, presumably so he can marry the hooker and bring her to the U.S. Chances are, all the woman wants is the green card and she will dump him as soon as she arrives, but that's not Ping's problem.
Ping wants a divorce, too, but she can't afford a lawyer. So when the case is to be heard, she flies down to Miami. She shows up in court to find that her husband's lawyer has just postponed the hearing. The judge feels sorry for Ping and tells her how to get the case dismissed and the venue changed to Massachussetts. And then the judge tells the husband's lawyer that he has to pay all Ping's expenses for the trip south.
Anybody know a lawyer in Massachussetts willing to work pro bono?

In other news: The bathroom is undamaged so far.

Google key words: misery, lawyer, legal aid, divorce, hooker, dry cleaners, nannies, desertion, poverty, green card, bathroom

sink hole

Originally uploaded by jibbajabba.

photograph supposedly by Michael Angeles
(not sure if I believe this name)



The pipes popped upstairs. My upstairs neighbor called me to say her half bath ceiling was trashed and the half bath on top of her was totally trashed. I went running in to look at mine (awakening The Artist from his drugged sleep) and could only see a tiny wet patch on the ceiling. It'll probably spread.
And that's a bummer, because the half bath of my apartment has just been redone by Desperado's husband, who toiled for hours in this confined space. "What do you think you're creating—the Sistine Chapel?" Desperado asked him at one point.
Pretty much. Lucite counter, mosaics around the windows, glass tile backsplash, rope around the steam pipe, new plasterboard, toned and waxed walls. It's the showplace of 15D. I take people in there (one at a time) to display its magnificence.
Hope chunks of the new ceiling don't start raining down.
Clearly, beauty is evanescent.

Google key words: plumbing, pipes, tile, sink, paint, plaster, faucets, fixtures, water, pre-war buildings, construction, disaster—not baby backpacks, you bozos!



This just in from SepticMaestro:
Claudia-You got approval from DEM. I'm amazed that there were no comments. Next we need to get the CRMC together with house footprint, location, and drain requirements. I'm out there next week to get the drain located.--SM

What this means:
I am going to be able to build a house! Maybe even start this spring! The Department of Environmental Management has long been a thorn in our sides at the commune--we live on a barrier beach and Island Bro has created a wetlands there (with lily pads, fish, ducks, marsh mallows, poison ivy and phragmites). Our Premises have been frequently under Investigation by DEM. We have gotten stop-work orders, orders to remove our houses, pond drainage complaints and etc.

And now this. Approval of the septic design. No changes neccessary. Approval. It has a beautiful sound.

On to the next hoops: Coastal Resources Management Commission, Historic District (are you reading this, Ms. Architect?), town, Buildings Official, etc. There are probably more. Still. . . approval! Check it out, baby.
They're gonna let me, they're really gonna let me!

baby got back

Dangerman (even though, of course, he is very strong and very brave) was so scared about his doctor's checkup yesterday that he was babbling. It has been something like five months since he got mixed up with a tank in Iraq and had his back broken. He has been in a rigid brace since, and yesterday they were going to tell him whether it had healed properly or whether he would have to have spinal surgery.
The doc said it was ok, and that he could begin "weaning" himself from the brace and doing physical therapy. After all that time, he can no longer bend. But at least he won't break.
He and The Artist Known As Chang came over. TAKAC said that Dangerman had changed his life with one remark. After visiting a totaliatarian state that routinely searched his belongings and monitored his activities, TAKAC was shaken and paranoid. "They have no power over you that you have not given them," Dangerman, who has been in such situations a lot, told him. "You have ceded them the power." TAKAC thought about that. Dangerman was right. TAKAC took back the power and straightened his spine.
And ate all the grapes in the refrigerator.


coolness grants

There are people in the world who deserve to be given a stipend just for being alive. Here are a few that I know:
There's the hotelier who has a genius for creating outrageous environments that bring disparate people together (and we're talking really disparate).
There's the writer who's always in debt because he gave his time away to the old lady next door and his money away to the loser he met on the street.
There's the musician who will serenade you and fix your computers for free.
There's the photographer who wants to end violence against women and sexually liberate everyone in the world.
There's the humorist who spends her days devising elaborate and hilarious stunts to amuse her friends.
Most of them are bad with money.
Some kazillionaire needs to set up a coolness grant for people who live lives that are works of art. I'm sure you know people like this, people who have the gift of being happy and who make others happy.
We need them. Why can't we help them out?


which way to south beach?

OK, it's spring. Where is it? I am so sick of being sedentary, of the hiss of steam in the radiators, of wearing socks to bed to macerate my cracked heels, of snow and cold and gloom. When people talk about loving the change of seasons, it makes me want to hurl. I wish it was summer all the time.
However, you've noted, I'm sure, that the major work of civilization these days gets done in colder climates—just look at California, sliding into ye olde new age. Or take Miami, where "culture" is South Beach and salsa. In the north, we've got to hustle, otherwise there isn't going to be any wood in the woodpile or food in the larder, and we're all going to freeze our asses off. So I wouldn't want to live there, but it sure would be nice to visit the tropics right about now. The Farmer's Almanac says it's supposed to get nice in mid April.
For those of you who can't remember what the heck the vernal equinox is either, click here. I know I'll have forgotten again by next spring.



This entry has been totally edited.




photograph by Sam Scholes, Ogden, Utah

oil or electricity?

Can anybody help me out with this? I'm walking down the street today, and I see in the trash a beautiful, old, cast-iron radiator. I want it for the house I'm going to build. But do I really want hot-water or steam heat in this house?
Here are the factors. The house will not be used much in the winter. If I want to leave the water in the pipes, I will have to burn oil or propane. Expensive-especially right now (oil, $2.15/gallon or $54 per barrel; propane, last I heard, $2.65/gallon). If I want to shut the house down, those old radiators will, I suppose, have to be drained each time. Also expensive. If I put in those revolting electric baseboard radiators, I don't have to drain them, but electricity on the island is even more expensive than oil or propane (last I heard, 29 cents per kilowatt hour). Besides, that dry heat (don't even speak to me of forced hot air) makes my skin peel off. And solar is really not an option, given the historic district zoning and other design parameters.
What's a girl to do? Help. The radiator is still there.


luck o' the irish

It's true that they dye the river green for St. Patrick's Day in Chicago. If you don't believe me check it out. Some 23 years ago, we were living in a loft just south of the Loop in what is now the trendoid Printer's Row area. It seemed like there was some kind of parade every week. Chicago is way more into parades and probably even more rabidly Irish than New York.
Citichild was three months old, and I put her in a Snugli front pack to go check out the river. This was stupid, but I didn't know it. It was early in the day, and the parade spectators weren't hurling in the gutters quite yet, but there were a lot of them. I kept trying to get closer to the river to see if it was really green. It was a nice emerald.
Then, in one of those mass movements, the crowd began to sway back from the river. The density increased. I was being pressed towards some scaffolding, and I was afraid Citichild would get smushed. I put my hands on my shoulders with my elbows jutting forward and tried to keep a little space around the baby. It wasn't working, and I found myself with my back against the wall and the whole body of bodies bearing down on me.
All of a sudden, a man materialized between me and the crowd. He was not Irish, but African-American (or, as one comic said the other night, Kidnapped-American). He was young and big, and he began to shove at the crowd, shouting, "There's a baby back here! There's a baby back here!" He made a pathway for me and got me out out of there, all the way out of the crowd and into a blissful oasis of empty space. Then he vanished.
If you meet this saint today, please kiss him for me.

Here are two of my favorite Irish bars in New York: Ye Olde and Playwrights. Give my favorite waitresses a kiss, too. But if you don't like crowds, avoid these spots today and any day that Riverdance is performing.


prada and pearls

It seems like most of the comics I know personally are women of a certain age who riff on their own privileged status. Oddly, two of them have worked at Life magazine. One is Jenny Allen, who took her comedy act to Stand Up NY last night. She starts out tweaking Martha Stewart: "This shirt was made by prisoners," she says earnestly. "These pants were made by prisoners." She pokes fun at hairdressers, Brooks Brothers, husbands (her own happens to be Jules Feiffer)—and, not least, herself. The funniest shtik is when she imitates Ellen Barkin being able to stomach sex with Ronald Perleman only by concentrating on a Prada fur coat, some gumball-sized pearls and the cabochon emerald she craves.
Of course, this bit is less funny if you believe the domestic-violence rumors murmured by ex-wives and witnesses of Barkin's battered appearance at school functions.
But funny/sad can be pretty close. As exhibit B there's the Pepsi-drinking investment banker who has a blog called blissful ignorance. As much as I may disagree with his politics, I cannot but admire his dogged attempts to learn to ski and to overcome his distaste for people in his "social anxiety group." Laugh/cry? Both. He seems to make entries mostly on weekends, so I'm waiting to hear if he's graduated from the rope tow yet.


hey dorks

WRITE IN! Hit the word comment, or the time stamp. Not the envelope, please. I'm sick of telling all of y'all each other's news. I know a hundred of you check into this site daily. How about some freaking feedback?


Dangerman is bringing his mother home from some kind of rehab hospital today. I can't remember the different names of these kinds of places, probably because I don't want to think about them. She has a pacemaker now.
Rubella is bringing her father home from the same kind of place tomorrow. He has lost a lot of weight there, but his head is healing where he was almost scalped by the shower.
Rubella's girlfriend's nephew has been bailed out of jail after planting a bomb in his high school.
Desperado called the cops on her brother for cooking meth after she and her other brother tried an intervention. No drugs were found.
Chinese Sister went all the way to Miami to get a divorce from her errant husband only to have his lawyer cancel. The judge felt sorry for her and will help her move the case to Boston.
This stuff is all true and a lot more bad things are happening that I don't want to write about.

Some good things are happening too.
Dolores is proceeding with purchase of a mighty nice crib in the Bronx.
Witchdoctor finally sold his book.
Kitty O'Hara's daughter is away for the weekend.
I will be getting a tax refund.
The Architect and her family are on vacation in Steamboat Springs.
Sis is redoing the kids' rooms.
Bro I is planning a trip to Europe for the first time in his life.
Architype's boyfriend has moved to town.
The Mountain Climber has had a girlfriend move in for the first time in his life.
BI Bro and Island Rose are back from New Zealand.
Fourth-floor Webguy and Headhunter had their son home for the weekend.
La Rubia is looking at apartments.
The Artist Known As Chang is in town.
Trom and his girlfriend have moved into a big duplex in Hoboken.
Bouncetest is in love.
The Singer is in love.
The Ashaway Dashaway is in love.
The weather has lightened up.
Citichild is officially engaged.


hot child in the city

The Three's Company housewarming party, thrown by Citichild and her roomies—two straight women, one gay man—up in NoMan, aka Harlem, started off slowly at 9:30 pm. The place was polished, the guacamole plentiful (especially after a friend arrived with a whole other box of avacados) and the girls scarce. Frantic calls were going out to round up more females as male after male, including many a former boyfriend, arrived to be taunted by two hot but unavailable hostesses in miniskirts and low-cut tops. (There were those, of course, who were uninterested in the females except as fashion statements.) La Rubia and a friend showed up to gather in a corner with me, and we might even have had a chance had we not been 20 or 30 years older than most of the boys. As we left at pumpkin time, the downtown crowd of rockers and deviates was just arriving. I'm told the party rocked until 7:00 am at which point Cinderella Citichild grabbed an hour of sleep before mopping the floors.


video star

So last night, Desperado scooped me off the street and hauled me to a real Lower East Side artists' salon, a new moon party. All the 30-something artists were there—spoken word, video, (very) graphic. Desperado showed a hot sex video she'd been working on with the hostess, whose bedroom contained a highly decorated shopping cart that had run the alternative Iditerod over the Brooklyn Bridge. I spent most of the evening chatting with Hal, who was wearing a very, very short kilt and high heels to display his newly-shaven (and rather good) legs. Every woman present said to him, "I don't know how you can walk in those things." He said he needed to come up with a response, and I suggested, "Honey, it takes years of practice." He was a huge fan of Desperado and so spent most of the evening trying to pump me about her. The rest of the evening was devoted to a photography buff who began collecting Dianne Arbus and Roberty Mappelthorpe in his early 2os. Clearly a man of means. He plans to tour a show of female photgraphers (including Desperado) under the aegis of the Eastman House as soon as they (the Eastman folks) get off their butts. The hostess with the mostest different colors of hair was Missy Galore.
Check her scene out at Missy and Buck's site.


hot cars

The owners of two Lexuses (Lexi?) had their eyeballs gouged out last week in front of my building. I mean, the cars had their headlights stolen so that all was left of the curved-glass modules were some wires extruded like—sorry, too graphic.
I had been marveling at the fact that in recent years all manner of Range Rovers, Porsches and BMWs seemed to live on the street unharmed. Back in the bad old days on the Upper West Side, a VW bug and a Buick wagon near and dear to me were stolen right out front while their unfortunate owners were indoors. There were also plenty of incidents of bashed glass despite the omnipresent "No Radio" signs. Then it was the Club. And then the alarm systems that had a habit of going off in symphony during thunderstorms. And Guiliani. But lately the same people who brought this neighborhood Coach, Barney's and Godiva haven't had to worry. We became a Lexus nexis.
It seems that a single Lexus headlight can fetch $800 on the street (close to $2000 retail, check your dealer) and are a lot easier to unplug than a radio.
I think I'll keep the Ford in the lot at least until Trump builds his next apartment complex on it. The lot, I mean, not the truck, hopefully.


no woman is an island

My horoscope yesterday said not to fight with anyone. And aside from a little set-to with Dolores about her apartment purchase, with the Artist Known as Chang about obsession and with Citichild about precipitate marital plans, I pretty much followed instructions. I did, however, spend much of the day fighting with my computer.
It started with the airport. Well, I knew it was iffy and finally it iffed off. So I went to Comp USA and bought a new one. Which, by the way, is so small and fabulous. It looks just like the little white thing you plug your Mac in with and will also allow you to access your printer wirelessly. I haven't done that part yet, because the DSL modem immediately went on the fritz. So after rebooting and rebooting, I regretfully called India (be thankful, Trom) and talked to George for a long time on the phone, and he reconfigured me (my computer/myself).
Thank God. Because for a few hours there, I was Cut Off. OK, my cellphone, fax and land lines were working, but it was a weird feeling not to be able to hop on the Web. It reminded me of what it felt like to be abroad without a cellphone.

How soon we forget. It was practically only yesterday that we had no voice mail, no cells, no e-mail. You had to sit in a hotel room waiting for someone to call you back. You had to leave detailed itineraries when you left home. You had to read maps and go to libraries and keep change for phone booths and do all kinds of other things that have become lost skills. I foresee that very soon there will be special spas where cells and computers are removed from patrons who don't think they can go cold turkey otherwise. People will rediscover the beauties of being disconnected in a sensory deprivation tank for the soul. Even your friends won't be able to reach you! Off the grid without a GPS!
So, I don't know, maybe I won't put DSL into the island house after all. But then, how would I communicate with DEM ("check your permit status at www. . ."), order from Home Depot, close the story I'm working on, buy parts for my nail gun?
VOTE NOW by hitting the word "comment" below or, if you prefer, the time stamp.
Not the envelope icon, you pre-computer-literate neanderthals.


left my heart in New York City

By the time we got to the Mt. Airy Lodge auction, La Rubia and I got numbers 1107 and 1108. Hardly the early birds. One reason was that she had left work at a major national newsweekly something after 2 ayem, thanks to the BTK killer, and gone to sleep at 4. I too had been up until 4 or so, but in my case it was a book rather than The Magazine. When we finally got on the road, bearing the directions I had cleverly ordered up from the website of Teel Auctioneers via MapQuest, it was a beautiful midday. It stayed beautiful til we found ourselves at Teel's warehouse rather than the Lodge, which proved to be a half hour or so away. After screaming at La Rubia, who was on the phone to Dangerman, who was guiding us from his computer, we found our way to the site in Mt. Pococno.
They had auctioned off the golf carts, the Engelburt Humperdink room fittings (tacky, tacky and not worth nearly $2000), the pink paddleboats. The auctioneer's platform was hovering near the 60 heart-shaped bathtubs that eventually would go for $300 with a tiny red sink thrown in free.
Those bathtubs (fiberglass, I think) looked kind of scuzzy, especially the dirty-white adhesive-tape nonskid strips. The fact that one couple had been boasting about how their son was conceived in one of the tubs a couple decades back likely added to our distaste. The hot dogs outside were pretty good, but the truck bed was empty when we left.
We soon fixed that with a series of stops at antiques malls, fako Indian stores, discount cigarette marts and shopping strips. I scored cheap Diet Pepsi, beer and cigarettes—"the cornerstones of your existance!" La Rubia pointed out—and we hit the road back to the Big City just in time to find the skyline molten gold from the setting sun. It felt like we were reenetering a magic land, more magical than the Podunkanos even in their heyday can ever have been. And the people here are much thinner.



The weather report predicts snow/rain on Saturday. That might not be important to some, but for those planning to bid on heart-shaped tubs at the Mt. Airy honeymoon Lodge close-out auction, it could be a deal breaker. Many hearts have beat faster at the thought of this auction, mine, for one, as well as those of bosom buddies Fluffy O'Hara and La Rubia. Fluffy was contemplating a trip north on Tranny Air just for the occasion and La Rubia was thinking she'd maybe stay up all night so as to leave early Saturday morning, like at about six. Dangerman had offered his conveniently-located country place on the Delaware River as a pied a terre, and I had an eye on a golf cart or paddle boat for my Island bro as well as the tub for myself. I hadn't exactly thought through how this all might fit in the back of the pickup, but it does have a trailer hitch (for those of you who know how well I operate the truck in reverse, just try to imagine me with a trailer). All these plans and now this.
But then I read an article about the sale (see link below) and was reinvigorated. What if the weather cooperates and I can go up later on Saturday and be there for Sunday? Me and Englebert Humperdink are gonna stay flexible.
hearts and showers


spring dreams

The last few nights, the dreams have been so thick that waking up is like surfacing through seaweed—the tangles are everywhere, snaking through square footage and furring strips, snowdrops and spy movies. Part of it is about whether Dolores gets her apartment or not and whether I'll be around to help her put wood down over the concrete floor. Glue v. cement nails, quarter-round molding, telephone cables—these are the waking dreams. Part of it is, of course, impatience to get a move on building my own place. But spring comes late on the island, and the Department of Environmental Management hurries for no man. Even in New York, though the snowdrops are up in Central Park and the forsythia is greening, the snow is still deep on the cars and sidewalk edges. So for now I'll dream about other people's properties instead.