Thursday, September 24, 2009


It's everywhere.

Sh*t, that is.

It's been a banner week as it became frighteningly apparent sometime around Tuesday that the septic tank out back has not been emptied in quite some time. As a result, the pipes have been -- literally -- full of sh*t. Yes, sh*t backed up into the bathtub, sh*t backed up into the sinks, sh*t pretty much backed up everywhere. And it ain't pretty, my friends. Nope, not at all. It's been like an episode of Dirty Jobs around here, except without the gallows humor of that hottie, Mike Rowe to make me laugh about it. Or, at least a hefty paycheck to ease my misery.

But this morning, Joe, the septic man came to the rescue. I have to confess that I've not had any experience with men who deal with sh*t for a living, but this sh*t man was a very kind and sympathetic sh*t man, who laughed when I said "You sure have a sh*t job" even though I am sure Joe had heard that one about a thousand times before. Within minutes of arriving, Joe dragged his big, industrial septic sucker (I believe it was the ACME SH*TSUCKER 1000 Model) over to the incredibly stinky hole in the earth--the hole that I could not get within ten feet of without gagging, but that he somehow stuck his entire head into--and proceeded to suck every last drop of muck and sh*t out within minutes, like his truck was sucking up a thick and frosty Starbucks Frappuccino on a hot August day.

When there was nothing left to suck, Joe asked me to run inside and flush the toilet, and once I did, I quickly raced back out to see if the problem was solved. The two of us stood perched over the side of the filthy hole in the ground (me covering my nose and mouth, lest I hurl over Joe's boots), eagerly waiting for water to flow in, but....


I looked at Joe and Joe looked at me, and even though I knew the answer to the question, I asked it anyway...

"Is that bad?"

"Ummmmm....Yes", my sh*t guy answered.

He left to go get his friend.
His friend with the snake.
The electric snake.

Twenty minutes later, he was back with Pete, the Snake Guy. Joe introduced us, and I gave Pete a nod, rather than reaching for his hand, because--quite simply--Pete was filthy. I said hello to Pete, secretly disappointed that he had such an ordinary name, that he didn't have a nickname like Stinky Pete, or Brownie, or Muddy.

Pete and Joe got down on their knees and they both stuck their heads in the tank.
Pete shook his head, signaling things in the tank looked bleak. Then he said he was going in.
Going. In. The. Tank.

I asked him if he was out of his mind, and he told me he was so used to it, that he could eat in there. That he had eaten in there.

I asked Pete if he was married, and he said no. I just nodded.

He jumped in, rooted around, then climbed back out and decided to snake it.

That didn't work.

Then they went into the basement & tried snaking it from there.

No go.

Finally, after plenty of hammering, grunting, and swearing, they removed a cap--THE CAP--and a floodgate of sh*t emptied into the basement. If on a scale from 1-10 the stench from the septic tank was a 9, then this was most certainly a 45.

But that wasn't the worst part. The worst part was that when THE CAP came off, and a floodgate of sh*t came spewing out, as if from the mouth of a possessed demon, it not only completely covered Dirty Pete in sewage, but it went in his mouth as well.
His. Mouth.

I swear I can't make this stuff up.

Clog cleared, basement filled with sh*t water, Joe and Pete were finally on their merry way. As they pulled out of the driveway, and I was waving goodbye to my new friends, I caught sight of Pete in the passengers seat. Still covered in filth, there he was hungrily digging into a big, sloppy chicken parmigiana wedge. I couldn't believe my eyes; would you believe that crazy old coot dribbled some sauce on his tee shirt and actually bothered to use a napkin to dab it off?!?

No Sh*t.

Monday, September 21, 2009


A Big, Loving Family + Opo Squash

I saw my family yesterday. My cousin and his wife christened their son, Logan, and so the entire family turned out to share in the celebration. I come from a rather colorful lot, as you can probably imagine by now; our family tree is made up a hodgepodge of eccentrics, eclectics, and at times, even the slightly insane, and as a result our family gatherings tend to be loud and colorful, with a "I wonder what will happen next?" type of spirit. Yesterday, for instance, within the course of just a few hours, my cousin, Kevin, saved a woman's life (Heimlich), I got to smell my grandmother once again, and I came home with a squash the size of a baseball bat.

I never thought I would smell my grandmother again--after all, she died over a year ago--but after Kevin dislodged a wedge of bread from a young woman's esophagus, lunch was served, and the festivities were over, we stopped by my childhood home. This is the home where my grandmother lived, where we all lived at one point or another, but which now belongs to my cousin Mark, and his wife, Mati. I had not been there in a few years, so it was bittersweet to be in the place that was so much my grandmother. Every Easter dinner was celebrated in that home; I cannot step foot into the yard without thinking of our annual egg hunts, or into her dining room without remembering the ham, kielbasi, pierogi, the horseradish and hot mustard, the paska bread. But it was not just seeing the house, and touching the familiar banisters and doorknobs, but it was smelling it that really got to me. Mati asked me as I walked up the stairs to the attic "Do you smell her?" and oh my God, I did; she was everywhere.

My heart ached.

Later we went out into the garden--the garden where my grandmother had her tomato plants and peppers and cucumbers each and every year--and I saw that the tradition had been passed down. For everywhere my eye fell, there were melons, and pumpkins, and squash, and eggplant, and tomatoes. My niece Maureen plucked a warm cherry tomato off the vine and popped it into her mouth as we rummaged through the tangle of vines for the last of summer's bounty. My heart lightened, because I knew my grandmother was still with us. She was there in her house and her yard, and her garden. And she was there with us as we stood barefoot in the warm sun on a beautiful September afternoon, playing baseball with a preposterously large Opo Squash, laughing like children at both the lunacy, and joy of the moment.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Good Day.

Let me share with you the details of my morning...

I slept ten glorious, much-needed hours last night. Autumn has arrived a bit early here in the Northeast, and so the down comforter is back on the bed (what is it about sleeping beneath the weight of a thick comforter, with the window slightly cracked, that makes us sleep like just-changed, Pablumed-up babies?) The sun sets so early now that I can barely keep my eyes open past eight. Last night I crawled into bed at nine, and when I finally rolled over and willed my eyes open out of a dreamy sleep, it was not at the ungodly 5am wake up time I've been suffering through lately, but a much more civilized 7am; a time when the sun actually lights up the sky! Upon becoming vertical, I threw on a comfy sweater and my beloved flip flops, and proceeded to drink not one, but two!! Illy Cappuccino's. F#@k you Starbucks for snatching my precious Iced Coffee's from the shelves of every supermarket in America; there's a new iced coffee drink in town and it's JUST AS GOOD as yours. God bless you, Illy, and your delicious, 100 calorie caffeinated drink. And once again--for good measure--F#@k you Starbucks. I will never buy another one of your products ever again. Ever. I mean it. Really I do.

Next, I went to yoga class with the best yoga instructor on the planet, Pat. Please don't ask me Pat's last name, or where Pat teaches, because I am selfish and want her all to myself. Just trust me when I tell you that Pat is wonderful and if Pat was your Yogi, you would want her all to yourself, too. Going to Pat's yoga class is like going to church, except it's better (I can say that because I'm Catholic and spent a gigantic slice of my life in church and Catholic school) Today it was so spiritual that I actually started to cry--that's how moving and beautiful it is. Pat is a rock star.

When I got home from an hour and a half with Rock Star-slash-Yogi, Pat, I decided to take the kayak out for a little cruise. It's 65 degrees, and abundantly sunny in New York today--perfect early fall weather--and so I spent and hour paddling around the lake with a lone swan, and some hovering dragonflies as my only company. I could not ask for a better way to spend an hour.

Today at the beginning of our yoga class, Pat asked each of us to send a request up before we got started. She does this each time she teaches, and my requests vary. Sometimes I send out a prayer for my family (God knows they need it) while other times I pray for happiness, or strength. Today I sent a request up into the heavens for creative energy. I've not been feeling particularly focused from a creative standpoint lately and quite simply, I need to finish writing the book that is in my head. I feel so close, but there have many distractions.

But today I feel like I've been handed a gift. I feel focused.

I need more days like today.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Look Who's Back.

Regular readers (are any of you left out there, or did you abandon me long ago for greener blog pastures?) are probably wondering where I disappeared to this past year. As I wrote in my last posting, after a supremely unpleasant 2008, I set out on a mission to make the most of my 2009. If you live in the Northeast, then you are fully aware that Mother Nature--the cruel, spiteful bitch that she is--snatched summer away from our eager, outstretched hands. I'm not quite certain who she was pissed at, but whoever it is and whatever you did, please do not do it again, otherwise I'm afraid you'll be forced to deal with me, and I make Mother Nature look like the Dalai Lama on laughing gas when I'm in a pissy mood. But despite the sanity-smashing, garden-ending, vacation-ruining rains and unseasonably cold temperatures we had to contend with here in Frown Town, I did manage--by sheer will--to enjoy the season, and spread my wings quite often.

I've learned to finally love yoga simply by finding the right Yogi to guide me (who knew an instructor was supposed to look at their students, rather than adoringly at themselves in the mirror?!). As a result, I am now not only limber, but am coordinated for the first time in 45 years; I actually have a sense of balance, which I've never had. I find that remarkable. I'm more peaceful, as well, and mindful of what I put up into the Universe. And the best part is, my arms are ripped. Not freakish Zombie-arms like Madonna's, but good ripped.

I also splurged on a kayak this year. When I spontaneously decided to purchase one, I didn't buy the most expensive kayak on the market because that seemed foolish, nor did I spend weeks and weeks doing exhaustive, head-achy research. Instead, I went to the L.L.Bean website, read the positive reviews of the Manatee, and two weeks later I was paddling away (more great shoulder work). Seriously, it was the best indulgent investment I ever made, for when I am on the water, there is nothing but me and my thoughts. And peace. And the way I look at it, more peace in my life can't possibly be a bad thing.

I traveled this year, too. I made it down to Key West for my 45th birthday and from what I remember, had a great time. In early July, I went to Niagara for the first time in my life, and watched the fireworks above the falls on our nations birthday. And, I even found myself in a place this summer that I never imagined I would love: South Dakota. Beautiful beyond words.

True to my promise, I've grilled endlessly; my favorites from this summer are grilled scallops served over over warm homemade ratatouille, and grilled goat-cheese stuffed figs, wrapped in prosciutto. Delicious. I can't rule out grilled pineapple topped with homemade vanilla ice cream either. Perfect on a summer night.

This autumn, I am back to writing. The rest has done me good, but I feel the need to stretch not only my physical muscles, but my creative muscles once again.

I've healed, and I'm both healthy and happy. Now it's time to focus again on nourishing my creative soul.

It's nice to be back.


scenes from my summer