It's wrong to stand in a store and stare at cart filled with the relaxed bodies of two little girls, and it's even worse that, after staring for several long seconds, I actually took their picture.
Worse still: I had been watching their parents (just out of this frame) debating each other about the merits of different IKEA twin bed frames, in English, but in an accent I could not quite place: Indian? Malaysian? Pakistani? Indonesian? Did not matter exactly, because, in general, so much was packed into this moment it was hard to sort it all out.
In some strange way ... and in a way that has taken me a few days to get a handle on ... these little girls, sisters, from some other country but now here in New York, in the U.S., with their parents, securely together in this IKEA cart, embodied almost everything that I loved and yet, I finally realized, represented just how narrowly anyone or anything so fragile and innocent can survive a world so rife with abuse, corruption, chaos and, yes, evil.
Trying to pinpoint my underlying feeling at that moment and it now appears to have been wonder: How did these little girls come to be sitting in that cart in the Long Island IKEA store? Did these girls, with their parents, leave behind a country where health and well-being would be tenuous and hard won or worse? Maybe none of that was true, but given the roiling realities in some many fractious countries, I wondered.
I doubt that at their ages (maybe 5 and 3) they had any inkling of much beyond being part of this small familial pack. The parents were in the process of making a home more suitable to everyone's needs via their IKEA bed shopping. The parents were excitedly engaged in discussing all the details and dimensions the way parents are when they seek to make life better, in even the smallest ways. The kids, meanwhile, were just parked in the moment. Look at the older sister. She's staring at an iPhone screen, maybe a Disney movie or cartoon, a seductive escape. Look at the littler sister. She has her two middle fingers lodged in her mouth, her eyes cast off into the retail netherworld, seeming very close to falling asleep.
This finger sucking is the exact way my own daughter, now 19 but adopted at 22 months, would comfort herself through her brave and terrified transition from orphan in India to daughter to two eager mothers in Seattle. No matter how gently we'd try and coax those fingers from her mouth, hoping to take the pressure this habit applied to her Anjali's front teeth, she would for months immediately slip them right back in.
Thank goodness for orthodontics, and the Kenyan doctor near us in Seattle whose family was also Indian, who patiently worked through years of braces to bring Anjali's teeth to a straightened alignment suitable for her gorgeous smile. We've since moved to New York, but every year Dr. Zeeny Teja sends a birthday email to Anjali, reminding me of the India-Kenya-Seattle-Dental-Teeth-fixing-confluence that seemed to bring the world closer together. Maybe those times, in Seattle, during the years Barack Obama was president and a pluralistic America was in full stride, are particularly cherished now, and a reminder that maybe many of us were overzealously proud of how America kept moving forward, accepting new citizens and contributors to this great experiment call American democracy.
It's the spring of 2018 now, a time unlike any other in this country -- or so it seems given the divisive mood and fear of immigrants and suspicion towards "other" -- especially people with darker skin -- that has been whipped into a political movement by the person currently residing in the White House.
Soon after he was elected *president, and his nationalist administration via Steve Miller and Steve Bannon issued a travel ban that sent shockwaves through the entire world travel system -- and news about immigration agents stopping travelers on trains looking for documentation -- my little family took a plane trip to Miami.
As parents, as two white women with upper middle class means and never having sensed any real threat, Diane and I were suddenly mortified and fearful that someone, somewhere in the airport security lines would look at our daughter with her dark reddish black hair, deep brown eyes and brown skin and ask for her passport or documentation to prove she truly "belonged" here.
I must also say that, given the plight of girls in countries like India, where female infanticide is so rampant that there is a gross mismatch in the percentage of men to women there now -- fueling more sexual abuse and assault -- it has been difficult not to at least acknowledge friends, family and strangers who've told us that, in adopting Anjali, we probably saved her actual life, if not her likely destiny to be trapped in a caste system of untouchables destined for difficult lives. The idea that any U.S. president or immigration police or system in America would categorize and separate people according to color or gender or race ... it goes against every democratic principle and reality I thought we had in place here.
I'm recalling this Miami airport dread from February 2017, a month after the not-very-well attended D.C. inauguration, not to make some political statement but only to make the point that, as a mother, I was for the first time experiencing fear about the safety of my child, my family, in a way that shook my entire sense of myself as a citizen.
As a "free" American, whose privilege and education afforded me the ability to navigate the international adoption system and U.S. Department of State forms and Immigration and Naturalization issues and the lawyers to finalize Anjali's adoption, it never occurred to me, to us, that by the time our daughter was ready to graduate high school, which is this spring, and to vote in her first election, we'd be living in a country where so much division would be stoked by Americans fearful if not prejudiced and racist.
Perhaps my entire thought process and relationship to being the white mother of an adopted child from a country where most people's skin is darker was naive or dismissive of how her race would impact her. We've been able to use our geography and middle-class means to insulate ourselves in blue-state relative comfort, until, of course, the reality hit home that it's not really economic anxiety that caused Americans to vote for a man who flaunts every democratic norm -- and that's being kind in my assessment of Trump's character and authoritarian rule.
Why am I talking about this when I started out talking about those two adorable little girls in the shopping cart? What was it about seeing them safely nestled in that cart as their parents assessed furniture options for the room the girls' share, and for whom it appeared time to get them new big-girl beds?
My daughter has very few recollections of her time in India, at the orphanage where she lived for the first 22 months of her life. My daughter has no knowledge that, back near the city of Jalna where her mother abandoned her two days after giving birth, that Anjali has a sister, or a half-sister, that according to the social worker reports written after they tracked down Anjali's mother to assure she wanted to relinquish rights to the baby. I have never been able to bring up this bit of Anjali's history, in part because, frankly, she has never expressed any interest. All our early attempts to join Indian-American family groups, or talk about her memories have drawn blank stares or expressed indifference.
Oddly, Anjali's only recollection of her earliest months are memories of the way she and the other babies and toddlers in the orphanage all stayed in cribs, which she calls "cages" because the cribs had a wire mesh top that prevented the children from climbing or falling out of the cribs. Cages, was her term, and true it's a trigger word that caused me concern Ani was repressing memories and feelings that might need vetting. However, she's well adjusted and into her life here as an American teen.
When I traveled to India in August of 2000, those first few days of me being at the orphanage and letting Anjali get to know me, and me her, Anjali's two fingers were jammed deeply into her mouth. She continued this habit, her only measure to cope with the unimaginable fear she must have felt being foisted into my arms and taken from the three-story orphanage with little play area on the open-air top floor into the bustling, huge world to her new life in America. Over the years, as her dynamic personality flourished, that habit of finger sucking ended.
Likewise, I had a difference of recall when it came to the cribs. According to my memory of being at the orphanage to pick up my hard-won child, the cribs looked not like a cage, but more like a shopping cart. It safely held in it the most promising of life.
I'm not a big tea drinker. I have a cup of coffee in the morning and water the rest of the day ... until maybe it's time for a cocktail.
That said, I am a fan of tea: Black, orange pekoe, darjeerling, matcha, yerba mate and Constant Comment, that slightly spicy blend from Bigelow that will forever remind me of my dear college dorm mate and friend, Meg, who introduced me to Constant Comment between her lip-synching sessions to The Rolling Stones and Tom Petty. (It was, after all, 1979 and 1980, so damn the torpedos and pass the Marlboro and whatever else Meg was smoking.)
Real tea drinkers and connoisseurs are pretty exacting in what they prefer and I understand that. I have been to India where tea service of bold, crisp, bright tea served in fine white porcelain china was a revelation. True, the brilliance of tea in India was heavily scented with British Colonialism, though that was counterbalanced by the street-issued little cups of steaming chai, rounding out the polar opposite tea traditions in stratified India.
But outside of my indifference to raspberry tea or ginger turmeric or anything that doesn't have caffeine, except chrysanthemum tea when at a Vietnamese pho shop, I have not been loyal to any brand of tea -- except suddenly, now, I have taken to one that has earned my deepest loyalty: Red Rose.
Now, for the team snobs out there, Red Rose is the sort of bagged tea that one finds at the bottom of baskets at continental breakfast buffets, the tea of last resort for late tea-drinking stragglers who missed out on the Twining or Tazo or other hoity-toity sachet teas.
But for my money -- and to satisfy my sense of allegiance -- I have gone all in on Red Rose. The initial reason was that I wanted a big box of tea that straightforwardly delivered a tasty and somewhat robust black tea beverage for afternoon or Sunday sipping. I'm not into the tea boxes that carry eight precious sachets of tea set forth in cone-shaped little packets made of fine linen or spun gold. I wanted A BOX OF TEA. And Red Rose was a utilitarian stalwart that I long appreciated for its price point and utility.
Then, something really nifty happened. In adopting Red Rose as the house tea bag, I started to look up where the tea was manufactured. I knew or presumed it was a Canadian or American company, and that turned out to be both correct. Red Rose was started by Theodore Harding Estabrooks in 1894 in Saint Johns.
There is still a Canadian outfit for Red Rose owned by Unilever. However, the American Red Rose company, which is owned by a German company, is located and manufactured in Utica, New York!
Suddenly, my commitment to Red Rose has taken on a whole other level of intoxication, fed mostly by my rabid desire to champion and support made in New York products, particularly upstate New York and especially I Heart NY beverages.
Much has been made -- and rightly so -- of the booming craft beer industry in upstate, as well as the craft distilleries from Hudson to Saratoga to Lake George and beyond. Heck, Saratoga Winery can even produce a decent Cabernet Franc, which makes it easier to support the local vintners. Likewise, even Death Wish Coffee -- a hyper caffeinated "World's Strongest Coffee" -- is roasted in a plant off Exit 10 of the Northway in Round Lake.
Red Rose is now more than tea to me. It's more than the house tea we're now stocking with pride. It's a delicious reminder that upstate New York continues to produce and try against the odds to be a player and stave off even greater ruin from the end of manufacturing that has left plants along the Hudson and Mohawk rivers long vacant.
Utica! Red Rose! Who knew? Not me, but now that I do, I am drinking a lot more tea.
Living in the country seems exactly the right thing to do right now. A couple of acres on a half-grass, half-wooded lot on some high ground in a town called Greenfield Center, about six miles northwest of Saratoga Springs in upstate New York: We found the ideal house at an ideal price at an ideal time for me to get quiet.
These first few days have been a wonder, even as I get used to the reality that far less traffic on the road in front of the new house than where I lived on Long Island does not mean that the pickups and cars that come barreling by aren't going about 15 miles above the 45 mph speed limit. Country roads, open and inviting, are meant to be traveled at high rates of speed. There's a lot of ground to cover up here, and freedom means going fast. But as fast and loud as the roar of a truck strikes up, it's just as soon gone. And it's back to quiet.
Trees rustling. The high, green branches up in the blue sky: That was the first thing I noticed. You could hear the trees. Leafy chimes, like a constant flutter and dance. I found myself just looking up and wondering whether I had actually ever heard this before. Of course I HAVE heard trees rustling before, but that was the surprise here. It was as if it was new. A first time. And then the realization that this would be a constant part of the sound stream of living here. If nothing else ever happened, I could listen to the trees.
Fast trucks, tree branches in the wind, crows and jays and a few barred owls. The soundtrack started to fill up. ATVs in the woods from where the kids down the road were riding. Shotgun blasts in the early morning. Echoing through the trees. That distinct "pop" and the trail of sound. It's not hunting season, technically, but it's shooting season always.
That was outside, while inside, new sound effects to get used to from a door swelling in the afternoon sun and heat; the fridge humming; the sound of the water through the pipes under the floorboards as the outside hose is turned on. It was all like turning on the speaker of a new life and letting each piece of the orchestra take its warmup.
Then there are the new things to see: An apple tree near the garage with green fruit thick in the boughs, headed toward ripening in a month's time. Another apple tree in the rear of the yard, where the woods start. A stand of blueberry bushes that the birds have yet to lay waste to. Blueberries on the branches, many of them ripe or ripening from green to dark blue. More berries on the ground, fallen and uneaten.
The dog goes wild near the edge of the woods, where a few large ferns have been tamped down and seem to be showing the outline of deer. Their beds? The dog's frantic investigation seems to indicate the animals had been there. So, too, under the porch. She runs in and out of the plant beds, out of sight, hot on the trail of some fresh scent that must be radiating odor.
The hemlock in the tree stand is all but eaten away. Only a few tufts of evergreen leaves to show. A porcupine has eaten through the hemlock, rendering it naked and exposed to the sun and elements. The porcupine -- one day I bet I'll finally make its quill-fringed acquaintance -- but for now it owns the tree, which stripped almost naked doesn't look like it will ever come back to full life.
What other creatures are out here? Wild turkeys from our yard crossed the road before disappearing into the far woods. A few adults and a bunch of young birds, heading out together, who knows why. Frogs in the pool. Frogs in the pool filter basket. Little frogs that made a big mistake jumping into the pool and unable to leverage their way out. Nothing you can do. Every day the pool takes down a half dozen of these small amphibious creatures. They're kind of white-ish, but I can't tell if that's from the drowning or their natural hue.
The driveway and front yard offer up clues, too, about what's come by under cover or night, or when we're not looking. Now we're getting expert at examining scat. Scat! What a great word. You'd think it was fanciful but out here, it is necessary to use. There are many forms of this stuff to look at. Coyote? Fox? It's important to understand in order to protect the dog from becoming a juicy meal for one of these wild creatures.
A coyote got a woman last week on a bike path several miles away. The dog would be a piece of cake. So we're reading the scat. Preparing for whatever. Storing up tomato juice, for that inevitable meeting between dog and skunk at 11 p.m. when, hoping to get one last bit of business done before sleep, the dog will get hit and it's midnight in the sink. The white dog in a red bath. The acidity of the juice hopefully soaking up the acrid stink of that wild v. domestic meeting. This is the place where that all comes together as I step foot and plant feet in the country.
It is actually a strange relief to absolutely know what we are dealing with. There is no doubt about him. None. What he said in public that gave cover for the deplorable and dangerous racists among us is what he has been known to say in private, learned from his racist father who denied housing to blacks in New York City and from Roy Cohn, his amoral legal master. Now it is out. We are at bottom -- and before you say "there is no bottom with him" let me say I agree. He will go lower.
What IS different is that we don't need any more proof of his depravity -- even though I thought we had reached this nadir many times before. I think this is the definition of evil; the stuff you hear about in church and think it's a scare tactic. Nothing could be this dark or sinister. Nothing so ugly could snake its way into society, even though we have witnessed his gas-lighting and lies for decades, accelerated into the surreal spectacle of his sickening presidential campaign. How is he here? Maybe it is not to be the wrecking ball his voters drooled over, but to be the mirror we hold up, in order to see for ourselves, here in America, the despotic, evil force that can root itself and take hold. The question is: How far? How long?
My goal -- after the Nazi shock of Charlottesville -- is to beg off this violent suicide watch. Save the fresh round of outrage for anything but Trump. He is a failed human. The energy must now be to figure out what action to take. How to turn the collective will of those who now stand against him in totality into action -- and doing so not in fury but with the peace of mind that comes with KNOWING we were right and he is evil. I am open to suggestions -- from friends and leaders -- about the best way forward for peace-loving people who do not trade in hate.
My complete lack of understanding about how anyone could support this person, despite the complete & obvious evidence that he is exactly the racist thug that he has now shown, remains. We are not conditioned to believe evil really does exist. I know I haven't been. That has been MY privilege. But this cancer must be quarantined.
I think everyone who is resisting -- especially now, especially without any more equivocation -- will be part of the firewall against Trump. The Birther in Chief ran in order to open this dangerous door of racism and division. He ran to let the dogs among us bring us all into the gutter. Refusing him and refusing any legitimacy he claims is to walk out of the gutter, up the curb and up the steps. The higher we go, the clearer the view.
We don't need to argue with anyone anymore about him. It's over. Now, what do we do? I am looking for a clear and straight path up the stairs to the highest ground. I know THIS is the country we the people can reach. America IS the promise. He is the negation of promise. He is black hearted. He is evil. He is done.
Golf. Never before has a little, four-letter word betrayed such an enormous, black-hole-like time sucking endeavor as is golf.
I admit I once set aside my deep belief that elitist golf was a symbol of everything wrong with capitalism, free time, patriarchy and sportswear when, during a sportswriting trip to The Masters, I secretly but with some anguish admired the course at Augusta National, where every flower petal on the azaleas and every blade of grass on the putting greens look as if they were hand-placed there, like sesame seeds on the bun in a McDonald's commercial.
I admit I may have once rooted for Phil to win a major, or Tiger to make a comeback. But to play golf? Over and over and over again? I understand the first, heady tug of the allure, but then what?
In 1996, as part of the Seattle sportswriting contingent covering the Seattle Sonics in the NBA playoffs, I got an invite from some of the guys to go play golf. It was an off day between NBA games and the fellas had snagged a tee time at some big, fancy course in Houston. Having played golf maybe once before in my life -- a duffer's delight party prior to my brother's wedding in Peoria, Illinois -- I was truly the odd man out, mostly because I was the only woman and a truly novice golfer among a gaggle of guys who, while all possessing great humor and sense of adventure, really liked to play and were pretty good at it. But they asked me to come along, so I went.
I borrowed shoes an clubs from the pro shop, and laid it bare for the three guys in the foursome that I was more than prepared to pick up my ball and just ride along, once my truly horrific skills were on record. They nodded and proceeded to send me out to tee off first, since they were letting me use the forward tee box (ladies) while they waited in back. I took a practice swing or 8, and finally got my ball to stop teetering on the little head of the wood tee. I stood straight up, set my hips, let loose a good, high backswing and let 'er rip.
And what happened at that moment is the stuff of how delusions of golfing grandeur strike. It was instantaneous -- an almost otherworldly and out-of-body experience in which, for that instance, you get the feeling you have just achieved greatness and it's the kind of greatness that never, ever leaves you. My followthrough with the driver was a huge, loping arc; the kind of swing you'd see on the LPGA. It felt perfect, and from behind me, I could hear the guys let loose a few words of commendation. My ball was still lifting, lifting into the blue, Texas sky. It was the flight of a Golf Channel fairway drive. Time stood still. The white ball remained in orbit for what seemed like hours, days. In my mind, it's still flying right now, only that is not the reality of things, because, as my three sportswriting companions as my witnesses, my drive landed about 220 feet away. Like, right in the middle of the fairway. With a soft little bounce and roll before it stopped, shining there as if it was the moon. The biggest shot of my life. Bigger and longer than anything the fellas hit off that first tee, a feat for which they congratulated me and called me a sandbagger and generally made good sport of it ....
Until I tried to take the 5-iron to the approach shot on this par 4 hole. At which point the head of the club drilled itself into the grass, producing a leaden spray of dirt, topped with a tuft of private golf course fairway grass. The ball, I recall, may have gone backwards, or sliced severely about 7 feet, toward a sand trap.
What's the point of this story? The point is: I realized that the soaring sense of self-worth that came with the grand drive off the first tee was a false flag. It was a ruse. It was an aberration. I really sucked at golf. And I hated myself and the game for it. I knew I could find myriad other ways to kill four hours without having to put myself or anyone else through such a dispiriting and spirit-breaking task ever again. It made me fast realize:
Golf is a pursuit in which the pursuant -- in order to keep pursuing golf -- must have the following characteristics: 1) Too much time 2) Too much money 3) Too much self-esteem 4) A desire to escape reality for eternally long stretches of time 5) A willingness to stand around aimlessly for hours while other people try and impress them or not embarrass themselves 6) Have mastered the art of getting away with murder because how else do they account for being at the golf course for hours and hours during THE DAY and ...
I could go on, but I'll stop. Which is exactly what I wish Donald Trump would do.
I want him to stop being president, but since that won't happen until Bobby Mueller finishes the Big Dig of Russia et al, I just wish Trump would stop playing golf.
Likewise, I wish Obama had not played so much golf, even if Trump has played more golf in 7 months as *president than Obama did in the eight (short) years he was president. I wish that even this very week, we did not have to see pictures of Obama playing golf on Martha's Vineyard.
A president playing golf has come to represent not just a president playing golf, but a pissing match about who plays more golf? Who does more work? Who takes more vacations? Who is a bigger jerk? More divisive? More stupid or idiotic or weak or sad?
If we are lucky enough to get another presidential election, let alone another American president, I think part of my decision on who gets my vote will be based on whether or not the candidate does not play golf.
Golf is a private matter. It is an affliction as much as it is a pastime. Those who have the time or patience or cash to pursue it with the vigor that these past presidents have done so ... they are a little suspect in my book. In fact, why can't Trump just read a book? I know where he can find a good four hours. Then again, in his case, golf does keep him from starting WWIII. Or at least delay it.
Because we never learn, and because we seem to like buying houses, me and my spouse are currently in need of yet another bed. And this time, given the fact that the master bedroom in this cute house we bought near Saratoga Springs, N.Y. is actually a real master bedroom -- with an ensuite bathroom, Juliet balcony, skylight and room dimensions fitting real adults who are old and have worked (relatively) hard and deserve (maybe) a nice bedroom -- we can get a king bed.
We've never had a king-size bed before. Why? Because of the 8 or 9 houses we have owned (not all at once) three of them were in Seattle, where the housing stock consists of bungalows or small ranches on a plethora of in-city building lots of 5,000 square feet. This meant that, in at least two instances, our bedrooms required hugging the walls to get around the queen-size bed, which in one house meant when were laying in bed, we could look out over our lovely cement retaining wall. Tight quarters, but worth it!
Now, however, because we will be keeping two houses until one of us figures out how to RETIRE, we need to find bedroom furniture to outfit this lovely new room in the country where we will either love the quiet or come running down the hillside to the city and cry out on Broadway: What were we thinking? Until that happens, we need a bed. A nice, big but reasonably priced king-size bed.
So, I have taken up the cause and gone shopping online to see if I can find anything that 1) fits our aesthetic ideal and 2) fits our very modest budget. What this means is that we cannot, in good conscience, outfit this house with the same exact king-size bed that the current owners have so tantalizingly owned.
The Vermont Furniture Design cherry collection that they collected over their 30 years of inhabiting the home is, just, too much money given all the other expenses. Still, that sleigh bed just cries out to us, with its paneled headboard and footboard and wonderfully lovely mashup of Shaker/craftsman/mid-century design ... but I must resist! This sleigh bed, king size, runs upwards of $2,600.
This cold, hard reality has forced me to take up a relentless hunt through pages and pages of online shopping and home decor sites. I keep hoping I will strike gold; that somewhere in some forgotten collection on Houzz or Overstock.com, a lone leftover king-size cherry sleigh bed at a fraction of the cost will be lurking, waiting for some intrepid shopper such as myself to find it and proclaim: "OMG! I just found the cherry sleigh bed and it is a close-out on sale for $450!"
It's been weeks now. And ... so far ... nothing.
Well, scratch that. Not "nothing."
In what seems to be some kind of cruel and relentlessly unending joke, the Interwebs keep serving up NOTHING remotely like that lovely cherry sleigh bed for $450 but, instead, what I have been "treated" to is a rolling, brutal, tyrannical stream of bed frames and platforms that seem to be from the imagination of the Freddy Kruger film producers, or the warped sensibility of mass-market furniture manufacturers who went so far down the design rabbit hole that they've created beds for Martians or King Henry the 8ths wannabes.
Fresh horror after fresh horror, I realize that I have, by now, given up the Hunt For The Perfect & Aesthetically Stupendous Hand-Crafted, All-Natural Cherry Sleigh Bed and, instead, become completely fixated on just how so many god-forsaken beds are out there waiting to be bought!
For instance, this navy-blue tufted contraption, in which nowhere in the product description did it mention that it was straight out of a funeral home catalogue and well-suited for anyone seeking to get a sense of what it's like to sleep in a casket.
Or this boxy behemoth decked out in gold. This must be for couples who emulate the French monarchy. It's called Lavish Gold by Meridian, whose product description says this bed "is an impeccable example of truly memorable, opulent traditional design.'' Features are:
This mahogany masterpiece is a real show stopper. Or, maybe it's a door stopper. Or maybe it's alternative use is to sail across the Atlantic, back to Spain in the time of Columbus and the Moors. You can almost hear it creak with every stormy swell. Ahoy!
Or this magnificent red leather platform number. It looks like taffy and all I can think of are my knees screaming at me every time I try to elevate from this low-slung sleep aid. All I can see is Ronaldo or some other high-value European soccer star coming home to his high-priced Madrid condo to find his home decorator has decided this leather bunk is the best way to express the image of a sporty, sleek, millionaire playboy.
Now this thing, above, is called Vegas deco. Its wrought iron and appears to have two stags parading at the foot of the bed. Their heads are cocked to the side, averting each other's eyes. It is actually so mysterious a design that I think I would spend more time trying to figure out what those stags are doing, and why, than I would sleeping in that bed.
Then there's this one, above. A poster bed with decorative elements straight out of a spelunker's handbook. I call this "The Stalagmite" for the way the poster design appear to be a grotesque outcrop from the floor of a cave.
I could go on. And maybe I will add more beauties to this blog post. I have saved numerous other bad beds because after failing to find my natural cherry sleigh bed needle in a haystack, I became fascinated by the plethora of rustic charmers out there on the discount sites.
In one instance when I did a search for "natural wood king beds,'' this thing popped up. I think it's from The Beverly Hillbilly Collection, but I could be wrong.
Dear Sherman Alexie,
I did not read the last chapter or two of your memoir "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me" not because I am lazy or uncommitted to this book but, because in the chant-like way in which the essays and poems that make up this book reverberate and deliver the story of your mother, and you, I was really rather overtaken by the time, near the end of this book, that you forgave your mother, or, at least, forgave yourself for, rightfully, having to walk away from the reservation and her.
I really would hate to ruin this memoir for anyone who has yet to read it, because there is a "secret" told here. Actually, there are two. One involves your mother. The other, your oldest sister. I guess that is what strikes me the most, and made it OK to walk away before fully ingesting the final chapter or two, which I did skim and which you -- by obligation -- try and wrap this thing up. I think you had already done that, and done so in such an aching and heartbreaking and adoring fashion that you should be commended.
I know that since the book has come out, you have now stopped touring to promote it. I think it's a good call. You were suffering from the travel and having to visit with the ghost of your vexing mother. That''s what you cited as the need to halt the book tour. In reality though, there is no need to promote this book, or to bleed for it, or to enter into public space and make chitchat and take photos or listen to your adoring audience. Not that you don't deserve that adoration. You do.. You are a gift.
But the book, as you have delivered it, has been a difficult birth. Yet it breathes and cries and would stand for nothing except full care and attention. As I said, I won't spoil what it is you give to the world in this book. You gave yourself. You gave your mother. And you gave your oldest sister. You have an uncanny gift in this book as you have in all your others to know exactly how to use words in a way to create the compression of time and thought and memory and feeling.
Maybe your friend is right. You have Salish hiding behind your gifted English. I certainly can't fathom this gift. All I know is that you already did your part here. The book stands. Let it be. You did all the hard work in such a way that, reading it, I have no doubt. You did absolutely what you had to do. You are freer for it. And so are they.
In Washington D.C., Anthony Scaramucci on Wednesday night attempted to put a bold, new spin on America. The hedge fund financier -- whose immigrant father used his hands to shovel sand in the pits near the Long Island Sound in Port Washington -- said America is more Uber and start-up "by a bunch of rich guys who broke away" from England than a nation of patriots and revolutionaries and poor immigrants who wanted political and religious freedom.
Another day, another rebranding of America in the age of billionaires steering the ship.
Meanwhile, his family back in Port Washington was just sorting through the swift ascension of Scaramucci to White House director of communications in the Age of Trump -- and that was before Newt Gingrich delivered a message to Scaramucci that may or may not been authorized by Trump about Scaramucci's "divisive" actions and "full-of-himself" bravado. Then the biggest bombshell in Scaramucci's one-week tenure: A profanity-laced tirade in The New Yorker which he took lethal aim at Reince Preibus, Steve Bannon and all the alleged White House leakers. One week!
Sal Defeo is a sort of legend here in Port Washington, N.Y. For decades, he and his brother, Sonny, ran Ghost Motorcycles, a small but mighty motorcycle shop on Main Street that once sold some of the most rare and powerful bikes to a large and loyal clientele. These days, the 90-year-old World War II veteran can be found sitting outside the old house on Main Street selling the only thing left of the old business: T-shirts and hoodies.
That's where I found Sal on Wednesday afternoon, only this time the familiar face had some other wares spread out on a table in front of him: Newspapers. Not the "fake news" that Donald Trump likes to mock whenever there are headlines about investigations into Russian election hacking and possible collusion, but the local Port Washington and Manhasset newspapers, and the New York Daily News.
With the appointment of Anthony Scaramucci to the White House, where he is now in command of Trump's scorched-earth "communications" team, Sal Defeo was basking in the hoopla surrounding the ascension of his nephew. It is a well-known fact that, growing up in Port Washington, where Anthony Scaramucci was a respected athlete and student before heading off to Tufts and Harvard and, later, earning over a billion at Goldman Sachs and with his own Skybridge hedge fund company, "Mooch" used to go help his uncle sell helmets and mopeds.
A working-class kid whose Italian immigrant father worked in the nearby sand mines, and whose mother was a well-coiffed homemaker who raised her kids Roman Catholic, Anthony Scaramucci's roots are Port Washington and his family. He has close friends from his days at Main Street elementary and Schreiber High School. He lives two miles away in Manhasset. And during Scaramucci's business cable TV news appearances, he extols the virtues of his working class background. Which is what Sal Defeo wanted to show me.
"Look,'' Sal says, reaching for his cellular phone and pulling up a picture. It's one that Anthony Scaramucci sent Sal on his 90th birthday. It's a Tweet that shows Scaramucci 30 years ago at Ghost, with a caption that says he will never forget what he learned working alongside his uncle.
"I'm going to the White House,'' Sal Defeo says, explaining that because Anthony has made such a big deal about the influence his uncles had on him, Anthony wants them to come dine with Trump. It's payback, in a way, for what Defeo and all of Scaramucci's immigrant family taught him over the years -- an American Dream story that Scaramucci often references in his mega-media appearances and finance books.
Trump is slated for an appearance in Suffolk County on Friday, where youth gangs have committed some heinously violent crimes. Trump will be met with protests, but Sal shrugs. He did not exactly sing Trump's praises. "What were people going to do? They were both bad,'' he says about Trump and Hillary Clinton. However, when you are within one loyal and loving nephew away from the presidency, it's something to crow about. Sal pointed to his motorcycle, the one with the sidecar, and said Trump wants to ride in it. You never know, Anthony comes by his parents' home around the corner often. Maybe Trump and Scaramucci will take a detour and drag race up Main Street.
Sal Defeo holds up the newspapers then. He has collected them because his sister is coming by any minute and she wants to see the fuss being made over her son. It's then that Marie Scaramucci comes driving up the side street in her gray sedan. Sal hops up and walks over to her open window. They pat each other's hands and smile and chat. Then Mrs. Scaramucci asks if I know Anthony and I tell her I do but he was in my younger sister's class in school. She nods. She asks my name and nods again. She's kind of beaming, as if none of the controversy and crazytown surrounding Trump and now Scaramucci is happening.
"I've met Trump. He's a very nice man,'' she says, and fends off any notion that Trump may be slightly, you know, divisive or mentally unhinged or unable to govern. "He just says what's on his mind. He's not a politician,'' she says as her car idles at the stop sign.
She is not done being the proud mother, though. This is not about Trump, really. It's about her son. "My son is very , very talented, he's very regal and he's everything that a mother could want and he's going to run for president one day and I might not be around because I'm a little bit old and hopefully he gets it and I'll see him from spirit.''
For the record, I did reach out the Anthony Scaramucci to let him know that his mother and uncle were making a fuss about him, and to let him know his mother was making some newsworthy statements about his future plans. No word back, which is understandable, given the White House firestorm into which Scaramucci has walked, and which he may be accelerating.
Scaramucci was due in D.C. month before his eventual arrival last week. He sold his Skybridge hedge fund, then was told there was no room at the inn. Now, with Trump on the warpath, Tweeting his way to his immovable base, Scaramucci -- who dogged Trump's candidacy during the GOP primary -- was brought in to be Trump's younger, more handsome, more glib megaphone. It's been quite a show already.
Sean Spicer quit as press secretary within hours of Scaramucci's arrival. Trump has inspired a new round of outrage with Tweets about banning transgender soldiers from the U.S. military. He has drawn rebukes from Republican Senators over Trump's humiliation via Twitter of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The teardown of the Obama legacy is foundering, at least in the GOP's desire to repeal and replace health care. And Scaramucci faces fresh criticism almost hourly over his handling of White House staff, his ire over "leaks" of his financial disclosure statement, which is actually a matter of public record. Then there are the video montages that compare how exactly Scaramucci is mimicking Trump -- at least in terms of press conference hand gestures.
What side of history Anthony Scaramucci from Port Washington is on -- time is going to tell. In the meantime, his people at home are sharing not-so-fake news from local newspaper about his arrival at the Trump White House.
It's been a strange year, mostly for electoral reasons we won't get too far into right now because I am so sick of thinking about HIM. But one of the most telling aspects of the strange and outrageous year has been the toll it has taken on my waistline, and arms and ... yeah ... like everywhere.
Since November, there's been an inordinate amount of time spent on the computer, in front of the TV, on the phone looking at Facebook and Twitter -- all in an effort to try and be there for the exact moment when the news breaks that everything that's happened and happening is going to stop, so we can return to a normal country, or at least not a country run by a nutcase authoritarian with a real knack for lying and gas-lighting millions of people.
Anyway, about the eating -- otherwise known as binge snacking from 7 p.m. until 9:22 p.m --which has accompanied the post-election nightmare: The biggest problem has been potato chips. It appears that watching cable news during this strange year has accelerated and exaggerated the body's need for Cape Cod low-fat potato chips, or Utz's Dark Russet Chips, with an occasional bag (or 99 bags) of Lay's low-fat Ruffles.
When those items have found themselves eaten out of house and home, we have been known to resort to Cheeto's (!!!!) "All Natural" Cheese Puffs, or Pirate Booty, or Cheez Its or a big bin of homemade popcorn smothered in salt and nutritional yeast. (Have you tried it? Until you do, do not scoff.)
Sometimes, when those preferential snack items are out of stock in the kitchen cabinets, we've had to resort to Special Dark Pretzels, or Everything Snack Factory Pretzels or that giant bag of Pita Chips.
And then, when the chips were really down, we could always rely on saltine crackers or Virginia peanuts, since they are staples in the house. And as if all of that wasn't bad enough, and since we've abandoned diet soda because it is going to kill us, all of that salt and garbage was generally washed down with a few million gin & tonics, or a nice Woodford Reserve, or, in really desperate times, straight rubbing alcohol.
Which brings me to the picture above: The Dry-Mixed Sweets that mysteriously appeared in my refrigerator. Just as I have launched a new crusade to go snack free -- or at least limit access and intake to salty or sweet or overly caloric items in an attempt to regain any resemblance of self control, I find that somehow my mother must have bought us a pack of Indian pastries when she took out kid out for lunch when I was out of town. Now they are sitting on the counter. They are a very colorful and alluring set of sweets, all the more enticing because these goodies remind me of being in India, and the exotic flavors and spices of that cuisine. Eating this kind of treat can be justified as not about calories, but as a gastro-transportational method of being somewhere else. Not Proustian. But maybe a little more justifiable than ... potato chips.
I took two small bites. India. Other countries. A big world. So much bigger than one can comprehend. Bigger than ... HIM. I gave the dog a little crumble, then put the treats back in the fridge. It was a nice interlude.
But I don't really want to sell real estate. I mean, I love houses. But I like to buy them, not sell them to other people, because other people are much more annoying than I am, and that's saying a lot.
I bring this up today because, since I don't want to sell houses, I thought maybe it would be fun to do something like sell commercial real estate. So, on a whim, I took an interview with a small firm in Queens. They are nice people, or, at least, nice enough to let me come in for an interview. It was in this interview, in a moment of complete delusion and/or boredom, that I said: Sure, I would really love to come in and join your team!
I guess this is a problem, since, it's been a few weeks and now it's show time. They wrote to me asking: Hey, are you done with your vacation and can we talk? After spending a few months online with my trusty but virtual real estate teachers, whose little 1:30 minute video tutorials about capitalization rates and gross monthly income prepared me to take the New York State Department of State licensing test -- which I somehow passed -- it seems a shame that, after all that, I am on the verge of wasting all that time and effort.
So now I have to decide how to tell them that, really, I like the IDEA of selling commercial real estate, especially in scrappy neighborhoods in in Brooklyn and Queens where neighborhoods are turning over and changing, as more and more of NYC's record 8.5 million residents move out to the fringes of the boroughs. It seems exciting to try and strike up deals with old mom & pop shops that may decide it's time to sell; or to find space for retailers and franchisees looking for a spot in Bayside or Bushwick. Deals are fun! People have interesting stories, and it's exciting to get them to trust you and make them want to let you help them. And make a little coin, too.
But the reality is: I like the stories. I like talking to people and getting all the information. But can I really get down and dirty and slog through the listing and selling or leasing process? More to the point, do I really want to commit myself to an office in Queens, right on Northern Boulevard passed the Cross Island Expressway exits and in between the Korean barbecue restaurants and tire repair shops, and invest all kinds of blood, sweat and time developing a "book" for myself?
The answer: No.
I want to go to the country and write. Maybe I have to work. But I can work at Stewart's. I can stock shelves at Price Chopper, or make egg salad and slaw in the deli department. I like to cook. I like grocery stores.
Mostly, though, I like words. And while selling commercial real estate in Queens seems like a grand new adventure, and a way to invigorate life and maybe pave the way for a few commissions, I think my heart isn't in it. I'm not sure. But I think probably not. I have to decide. Like in the next 7 or 12 hours.
I used to write politics, news and sports for newspapers in cities like Albany NY, Seattle, Baltimore and Harrisburg PA. Now I take a lot of Instagram photos, check Facebook, swim, read about T$$$p and cook dinner for people I really like. New York native, living in Port Washington and Greenfield Center (that's near Saratoga Springs FYI).