Saturday, April 11, 2020

Day Whatever

It rained for days here in southern California. Tomorrow it's Easter, the day that our POSPOTUS predicted would be a fine day for all of us to pack the churches. My aim is to not come right out and condemn/blame/call out but to note things, observe things, state the facts, ma'am. The facts include nights of very weird dreams, including one the other night with James Dickey characters, the threat of death in the back-seat of a truck, joints passed around and me smoking for the first time in thirty-five years to avoid whatever torture was coming my way and then the cab of a school-bus moving in slow-motion right into the truck with me. What the hell?

Reader, have you been cooking a lot? If so, what? Last night I made roasted chicken thighs and carrots. They were seasoned with Za'atar, lemon, salt, pepper and olive oil and when still hot dumped on a bed of greens. So, so good. I think the recipe was from the New York Times food section, something that I'm a tad obsessed with --

Reader, have you been reading? I just finished Lily King's new novel Lovers and Writers and am now reading Louise Erdrich's The Night Watchman. I also read Glennon Doyle's Untamed and will read Gabriel Garcia Marquez' Of Love and Other Demons that I think I read back in the last century, but I can't be sure. In other book news, I've started a project of cataloguing my books. My sons are horrified, but it feels to me as if it's the closest I'll ever come to being a librarian, and that's one of my main regrets (along with not learning to surf and vaccinating Sophie with five vaccines when she was two months old). The Bird Photographer made me an Excel sheet with categories: Classics, Fiction, Non-Fiction General, Poetry, Memoir, Biography, Art and Cooking. Also Location: Bedroom, Dining Room, Living Room, Hallway, Bathroom, Kitchen. I read an interview with Fran Leibovitz last night who was described as living in a NYC apartment with 11,000 books. This thrilled me.  I've also been slowly catching up on articles in "The New Yorker" and highly recommend the issue about the pandemic, especially a strangely comforting one written by a guy who was quarantined with his family in China during theirs. I'm finished with spring break this weekend and begin teaching online again next week. I am so grateful to have a job right now. So, so grateful.

It's a weird, weird time, and I find myself only able to watch two episodes of any given series on the TV in any given day. I did watch all of "Unorthodox" which, of course, reminded me of my days teaching at the religious school. I feel rising bile in my throat at all organized religion, though, and I have to calm myself down even when I see it/god invoked for people dying. Prayer works, they say, or I will pray for you, him, her, and here comes the acid. I am old enough to know I must observe this impulse toward hatred/disgust/contempt as being more about me. Why does any mention of religion right now bother me so much, make me feel so angry? I think I have enough Catholic in me -- however shredded -- to feel guilt and even shame that I just don't believe and then there's just plain, old-fashioned longing.

It's weird how when you're wearing a mask and smile at someone walking toward you, you don't know if they know you're smiling, but Oliver and I experimented and realized that our eyes smiled and that we could just tell.

Speaking of The Bird Photographer (earlier), I want to tell you a little story that he told me the other day. He was walking down in Santa Ana at a beautiful point that overlooks the Pacific, a place where falcons nest and fox kits frolic (I'm not kidding), and everyone at this point is wearing masks and social distancing and so on, but as he was walking, a woman walked by him yakking on her phone, and she said, Well, it's because The Blacks don't ever go to the doctor, and he said that he couldn't believe he'd just heard that but he knew he wouldn't/couldn't say anything because it wouldn't have been good. A black man can't berate a white woman. I said, If I'd been there, I would have picked up the closest rock and sharpened my tongue and then just lit into her. 

Also, read this.

Here's a poem:

Miracle Fish

I used to pretend to believe in God. Mainly, I liked so much to talk to someone in the dark. Think of how far a voice must have to travel to go beyond the universe. How powerful that voice must be to get there. Once in a small chapel in Chimayo, New Mexico, I knelt in the dirt because I thought that’s what you were supposed to do. That was before I learned to harness that upward motion inside me, before I nested my head in the blood of my body. There was a sign and it said, This earth is blessed. Do not play in it. But I swear I will play on this blessed earth until I die. I relied on a Miracle Fish, once, in New York City, to tell me my fortune. That was before I knew it was my body’s water that moved it, that the massive ocean inside me was what made the fish swim.

Ada Limón (2015)


  1. Cooking yes! NYT's recipes- YES! Glen went to Costco today and got a ham. Girl, I am so happy. I'm going to cut and freeze reasonable meal-sized portions. Ham for years! Ham with pinto beans!
    Reading. Trying. I read that article in the NY'er. It depressed me because the Chinese government is so obviously dealing with this far better than we are, actually keeping track and tracing contacts of the positive people. Of course this involves actual, uh, you know- TESTING!
    You know, sometimes I like to fantasize that California is a different world. That racism and prejudice and just plain old ugly ignorance doesn't exist there like it does here in the south. That's some bullshit, isn't it?
    Enjoy your book arranging. Sounds like time very well spent.
    Love you. And Sophie! Kiss, kiss!

    1. Oh! Forgot to remark about the religion thing. But I'm pretty sure you know exactly how I feel about that. Happy Zombie Jesus Day!

  2. Book arranging sounds like a very useful way to spend your time.

    As for what Carl overheard, WTF!

    I've been baking a lot, not so much the cooking. I'm still working four days a work and I'm so tired after work. Sending hugs.

  3. Funny, I just read a HONY story about a black woman dying after child birth. It might not have been in the US. It's a heartbreaking story of brotherly love, he's adopting her baby.
    I know why post partum morbidity is so HIGH in the US, and why it's so much worse in the black community.
    I hope that woman learns what she is before she dies.

    I'm baking banana bread right now, from my mother's recipe. Read her handwriting is a comfort and a hurt. I made crepes the other day, with leek and cheese and mushroom, and ham. Gonna go cook some more, now.
    Yesterday, cream cheese black bean burritos that need some tweaking for next time.

    And, um, I've been a non reader for a whole more, to my great shame. I'm going to slip back in with City of Girls.

  4. I am on a quest to cook everything suggested daily in the NYT. Or, at least think about the recipes and bookmark them for better shopping days. The Night Watchman is next up on my reading pile. Sorry the Bird Photographer heard that comment. I lament the fact that we seem to be backsliding in so many ways. Now, I'm going to google Google to see if it's not too late to order "Happy Crucifixion" cards.


  5. Elizabeth, I feel such solidarity with you and the Bird Photographer. It makes me feel a kind relief that you, a white person, know that we aren't making up these outrageous bigoted things, like black men in protective masks, following medical guidelines for god's sake, being followed in stores and then asked to leave by security guards because they are deemed "suspicious" and wont be recognizable when they commit a crime. Honest to God this is happening. Love to you and that lovely man who exhibits such necessary self possession.

  6. Day Whatever indeed... so hard to know what Day or Time it is while in this Lock Down sort of Limbo. I'm not baking or reading, but I am getting things in Order here at the New Home we bought and moved in to this February. Carl showed amazing restraint not confronting that ignorant Bigot... at least when they speak their ignorance out loud it reveals who they are and all doubt is erased. As my Old Nanna used to say, better the devils we know than the devils we don't. Be Well, Stay Safe... Love the Masks, I've got to Order some Online.

  7. Reading "Watergate Girl" by Jill Wine-Banks. It's like a Law and Order show only true! I am baking like crazy for friends in lockdown, for my sister who has to work 6 days a week because her company makes medical components. I am joyous every day because this is my last year of teaching. After 20 years of Montessori preschool, I was done in August and it was going to be a long, long haul until that last day (we are in a year round program). Now I get a's exhilarating. I do a circle time for the kids each day, put it up on YouTube and done. Probably won't be back in school until June. I am aging backwards. I have not not-worked since I was a kid. We farm kids always start working young and then never stop. I think of all the people suffering right now and I hold that in my heart; it keeps me humble. I support local small businesses doing deliveries. But damn. I am truly thankful for this time. I am one of the lucky ones.

  8. Cooking and eating are my religion. Reading too. Rituals: 2 movies a week--Saturday and Sunday--from the New Yorker best of the last decade list. The mask thing really got to me Friday. C's been delivering groceries. It's been so wonderful to see her from 6 feet away. (She's sure she's a carrier so she won't, working in a hospital. This past Friday, she was wearing a mask so I couldn't even see her whole face. A face that I love. I hate everything so much right now. I love everything so much right now. Stay well. Love to you and your family.

  9. Correction for above, Meant to say C won't get close to me.

  10. It was Rhubarb Crumble Day here yesterday. Today is Rain Day with left overs. Tomorrow is Roasted Cauliflower Day - I think. Could be wrong. Maybe it'll be Anxiety Day, lost track.

  11. This reader just finished The Age of Surveillance Capitalism after eight months stuck in. And just started Grand Union stories. That chicken sounds just the ticket. :-)

    Greetings from London.

  12. That IS a very James Dickey dream -- very Georgia. Your southern roots are showing! I'm having weird dreams too.

    I'm reading "City on Fire," which as I recall you read soon after it came out. I'm about 200 pages in and liking it, but DEAR GOD it's long.

    We finished "Unorthodox" and I liked it a lot, though it seemed unresolved. Maybe there's more to come?

    "The blacks" -- I can't even.

  13. Dear Elizabeth-what a beautiful post. I'm reading We Were Eight Years in Power-almost unbearable. And The Beginner's Guide to Walking the Buddha's Eightfold Path.

    Day whatever indeed.

    Much love



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