Tuesday, April 28, 2009

quote of the day

"For one thing, although bone may seem like stone, it is tirelessly, ambitiously alive."
-Natalie Angier, Bone

(with sincere and utmost thanks to the one and only
Erik D. Pfeiffer for bringing this article to my attention)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

gingerbread with fire dog topping

This was one of my absolute favorite things as a child, something I'd bake every year around Christmas time. These last few years Mom's been suggesting, somewhat wistfully, that I make it whenever I've been home over the holidays, but somehow it never actually happened. Finally, despite it's not being quite the season, we made this a couple days ago and it was even better than I remembered. Recipe stolen from the Betty Crocker's Cook Book for Boys & Girls (page 96).

Gingerbread (annotated):
Heat oven to 325 degrees.
Grease & flour 9-inch square pan.

Mix thoroughly:
1/2 cup soft shortening (or softened butter)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg

Blend in:
1 cup dark molasses
1 cup boiling water

Stir in:
2 1/4 cups sifted Gold Medal flour
1 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ginger (heaping)
1 teaspoon cinnamon (heaping)
1-2 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized and/or fresh ginger

Beat until smooth.
Pour into prepared pan.
Bake 45-50 minutes (or until toothpick comes out clean).

Fire Dog Topping:
Spread over hot gingerbread a mixture of 3/4 cup of confectioner's sugar, 2 tablespoons milk.

Sprinkle brown sugar over top & serve warm, possibly with apple sauce.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

'i basked in you...'

I basked in you;
I loved you, helplessly, with a boundless tongue-tied love.
And death doesn't prevent me from loving you.
in my opinion you aren't dead.
(I know dead people, and you are not dead.)

-Franz Wright

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

journaling, or, exchanges transcribed

"Theirs is a love hate relationship."
"Yeah. She loves him. We hate him."
(Mohegan Lake, 1995)

"I just don't like the taste of alcohol. I guess I'll have to explore the world of--"
(Idaho, 1996)

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

journaling, or, sometimes people go but then sometimes they come back

I dragged C to the Jefferson Valley Mall, it was sort of scary to be there after all these years. I got sparkly gloves and a 2001 day planner and 4 lighters at the dollar store. We went back to C's and called E and the three of us met up at the Olympic Diner for dinner. It was really good to see E again after all this time. This sounds sort of silly, but he still gives those same real hugs that I always loved so much about him. He looks pretty much the same, maybe a little bit heavier, a little more clean-cut, a little less edgy somehow, but still good. Dinner was kind of awkward but also kind of funny and entertaining. Afterwards he drove me into Peekskill to the train station but the next train wasn't for an hour. He waited there with me for most of the time. We got out of the car to smoke a cigarette and I was getting sort of hyper and jumping around (to combat the cold, of course). We walked down to the river and back and he said, "You know, I thought you were gone forever." He said he feels too young to have a job like his, that he should be washing dishes or something. He said he wants to get the hell out of Detroit, back to the east coast, maybe NY. He kept looking at me funny, staring, and I might have been reading it wrong, but I think he was happy to see me. He asked for my phone number and email before he left -- I hope I hear from him some time.

Monday, April 06, 2009

G.Mac, or, losing the matriarch

Grandma, our Grandma Mac, our G. Mac, is dying. She is 91 years old so it should come as no surprise and yet, of course, it does.

She's had a long life, a life full to the brim with husband and children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren and spoiled plump cats and travels all over the United States and Egypt and Germany and probably other places I don't know about and a college degree and catfishing at dusk and hunting nightcrawlers in the dark and joy and afternoons at the ice cream shop in Harrison and long walks down to the Haines' and back and Cougar Gold and dinners out on the deck and sorrow and making the best spaghetti and meatballs in the world and frustrating attempts to get her youngest granddaughter to knit and a life-long commitment to the League of Women Voters and being informed and setting an example of tolerance and love and lugging buckets up the hill to water the flowers around the tree where the ashes of her husband and her son have been buried before her.

Nathan drove from Portland up to Olympia on Saturday to sit with her for a bit while she slipped in and out of sleep, in and out of consciousness, surfacing into different levels of lucidity. He's not sure if she ever really recognized him, and he's not sure whether she took comfort in his presence, but I imagine that she did, and I imagine too that he took comfort in hers.

He said that he's never seen anyone this close to death before. We share so much, Nathan and me, that I sometimes forget he wasn't there with me when Dad died. I imagine that Grandma's dying is different: quieter, less jagged -- a slipping away instead of a being taken.

Mom said tonight that in those moments when she is awake, she is sometimes afraid.

I wish that I could be there too, even unrecognized, if only to hold her hand, to absorb some of her fear, to say goodbye. But we have said goodbye before, she and I. She has been preparing, has perhaps been ready, to die for awhile now, and the last few times we've seen each other she's cried a little as we hugged, and explained once that every time she went through these partings with her loved ones, scattered as some of us are, she worried that this would be the last.

I swam sometimes in college, for a PE class or on my own, back and forth in that pool beneath the gym in Barnard Hall. Grandma swam laps too, for as long as I can remember-- in the lake in Idaho (little red bouy faithfully anchored the proper distance from the dock first thing every summer) or the pool at the WSU gym. She told me once, just a couple years after my father, her son, had died, that she liked, that she needed, this time in the water every day. She said that no one could tell if she was crying then.

My grandmother, my Grandma Mac, our tough old bird, is 91 years old and dying and I'm afraid I won't ever see her again and this makes me sad, even as I know that hers has been a good life, a full life, and that this is a good death, a quiet death, surrounded by some of the people she loves, some of the people who love her.

This, joking, mostly, from a journal kept during the summer of 1996, while a few of us were gathered at the lake cabin in Idaho:

The McNeil Matriarchal Clan
Grandma: The Supreme Matriarch
Vicki & Ellen & Sue: Minor Matriarchs
Emily: Matriarch-in-training
Nathan: The Token Boy
Grandpa: Father Figure

"and i've come here to ignore your cries and heartaches
i've come to closely listen to you sing
i've come here to insist
that i leave here with a kiss
i've come t
o say exactly what i mean"

Saturday, April 04, 2009

as goes iowa, so goes the nation

I've been watching the same-sex marriage fight in Iowa for awhile now but was still moved to tears yesterday morning to learn that not only had the state's supreme court found in favor of same-sex marriage, but found in favor of same-sex marriage in a unanimous decision. And then I read a joint press release from the Senate Majority Leader and the House Speaker and was pretty much blown away by how progressive Iowa has actually been over the years. (Don't you, too, just love the idea of the Iowa Supreme Court declaring in 1839, decades before the Emancipation Proclamation, let alone before the end of the Civil War, that any slave, just by setting foot on Iowa soil, became free?)

This got me to thinking about the sea change that seems to be occurring these last few months in this particular struggle for civil rights. While it is true that New York State does not yet allow gay marriage, we now have not one but two Senators in Washington, D.C. giving it their full-throated (if not entirely genuine) support; Iowa, as of the end of this month, will not only be allowing Iowan gay couples to marry, but will be allowing out-of-state couples to marry as well; New England is in the midst of several close battles over gay marriage.

I was talking to Nate earlier this evening and he pointed out that, despite such heartbreaks as Proposition 8 and the Arkansas Unmarried Couple Adoption Ban, the truth of the matter is that these anti-gay folks are beginning to sound like... dinosaurs. It's hard to take too seriously a political party whose leaders must publicly and humiliatingly apologize to a man who says things like this (or this or this or this). And other than the infamous (and horrifying) Westboro Baptist Church, do that many people really believe that God is hellbent on destroying America because of the gays? Even Rick Santorum, of man-on-dog fame, more recently seems to believe that gay couples can legitimately love each other (though of course he still manages to sound like a complete and utter fool, and possibly a pervert).

It may be that Iowa's Varnum v. Brien eventually gets overturned (though this seems somewhat unlikely, given the support it has in the legislature and the more arduous process needed in Iowa to do amend the constitution, as opposed to California), but I think, I hope, that this is a bellweather moment.

The decision itself is worth reading, or at least skimming through all the legalese: it is simply yet thoroughly well-reasoned, eviscerating point by point each and every one of the anti-gay marriage arguments.

"In the final analysis, we give respect to the views of all Iowans on the issue of same-sex marriage—religious or otherwise—by giving respect to our constitutional principles. These principles require that the state recognize both opposite-sex and same-sex civil marriage."

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

quote of the day

"Indeed, goats have long held a lowly reputation. Scavengers, they are falsely accused of eating tin cans. Their unappetizing visage is simultaneously dopey and satanic, like a Disney character with a terrible secret. Their chin hair is sometimes prodigious enough to carpet Montana. Chaucer said they 'stinken.'
(Henry Alford, How I Learned To Love Goat Meat)