The line at the deli counter moves slowly,
but it moves. Everyone is calmer than I expected.
A young woman, maybe she’s 30, or a little younger, appears beside me,
touches me softly on the arm. Behind her the rain
stops and the sun comes out.
She stage whispers, “I’m at the wrong supermarket!”
The man in front of me, same age as her, smiles, watching this unfold.
“Not only that, you have the wrong man,” I whisper back.
Only then does she see me, old guy unlike her man in every way.
The other man chuckles with warmth.
So do I.
We have all felt what she is feeling.
She hooks her arm into his.
They leave for the right supermarket.
I stand where I am,
waiting for my cold cuts,
still feeling that touch.
Yearly Archives: 2021
The line at the deli counter moves slowly,
Mostly, it is up to you. I claim no expertise. An online search for this information turns up far more ingenious solutions than I could devise.
But this is what I (with 3 cats – that is, I live with 3 cats, I decorated the tree with my daughter Gamma) did:
First, I got a nice tree. A few weeks ago, my wife Alpha and I went to the tree guy (local tree farmer) as early as possible. We weren’t the first people to go there this year, but we were the first ones to buy a tree.
In fact, they were still setting up when we arrived. Only one tree was standing. Viennese people (they had Vienna license plates) were looking at a pile of trees lying against the barn. Alpha and I looked at the first tree standing. “What about this one?” I said. “Ok,” she said.
She did insist the owner measure it before we bought it, and the tree was a little tall for our living room but I always cut a bit of the tip off to fit the red star on the top, and she raised her eyebrows but relented. It was, after all, a very nice, thick, symmetrical tree. And it is such a pleasure to buy the first item you inspect when you have been dreading an hour of comparison shopping.
We asked them to deliver it, as every year, and NOT to grind the end that fits into the holder because we have our own holder and it has a big hole.
They delivered it with the end ground down to fit into a wooden base that they had attached.
We like to use our own holder because you can put water into it and maybe the tree lasts a little longer, or at least the needles might not fall off as fast. I don’t know if there really is a difference because we have never tried the old-school wooden cross holders. So I considered using it this time because 1. it was already attached and 2. I might find out experimentally if the needles fell off faster without water.
My daughter came out on Sunday to decorate it with me while my wife Alpha did a writing retreat with our daughter Beta.
The most important thing Gamma and I did was, we didn’t get high before decorating the tree.
The weed kids smoke nowadays is stronger than it was 40 years ago etc etc.
I will spare you the comedic anecdotes.
So, sober, we stood up the tree.
That wasn’t so easy, it turned out because this was the biggest, heaviest tree I had ever purchased, I noticed when I tried to carry it into the house. But eventually it was inside, and standing.
Gamma determined that we had an appropriate tree for our family Christmas, because it was left-leaning.
So we took off the wooden base (with a hatchet) and stuck it into the holder thing and eventually, after some trial and error, got it to stand straight.
Then I put the red star on the top, which involved some clipping and trimming, then more clipping and more trimming and a little carving. (I was happy because I had a chance to use my Japanese carpenter’s saw.) The tree was so much too tall that not only the tip, but also the top tier of little branches had to go.
But we got the star on in the end, and didn’t damage the ceiling very much in the process.
We had received a little bit of friendly derision from family members when it was announced that we would be decorating the tree this year all by ourselves, for examples predictions of an “ADHD Christmas tree”, so we knew we had to have a plan.
This is the plan I came up with: because cats in the Pacific Northwest DO NOT climb Christmas trees due to there being cat-eating eagles at the tops of evergreen trees there (story my sister told me backs it up: a tree fell on her property one year in a storm, they found an eagle nest with a bunch of little dog and cat collars in it, minus the pets) we would put an eagle at the top of our tree. And because cats are afraid of snakes, according to the Internet, we would put a snake at the base. And because there is also a snake at the base of Yggdrasil (the tree of life of Nordic myth), that snake being the terrible serpent Níðhöggr, the eagle at the top of our tree could be the nameless eagle at the top of Yggdrasil, and so we would also need the squirrel Ratatoskr running back and forth between them, carrying messages.
Gamma and I were at an advent market at Schönbrunn a while ago and all we found was a felt squirrel, but no eagle or snake ornaments. I did however buy a deep-sea diver ornament along with the felt Ratatoskr.
So anyway we still need an eagle and a snake, maybe next year.
Alright. That was how the Yggdrasil plan played out this year – cute squirrel, in the upper third of the tree, with the deep sea diver.
That is because of our damage mitigation plan – cheap, sturdy, unpopular ornaments at the bottom, within cat range. Medium ornaments in the middle, where cats might jump, precious ones in the upper third. Then, candles everywhere. We now use LED candles, powered with one AAA battery each, because burning candles on a Christmas tree indoors scare me too much. Alpha bought 3 boxes of 15 candles each at a local discount supermarket and they are cool – not only can you choose between 2 shades of white, they also have an RGB mode where they cycle through the colors slowly, which is really hypnotic and makes me want to get high and watch it although we don’t really need to get high, we just turn off the TV and sit there on the sofa staring at the tree in the dark. (We like them so much Alpha bought 45 more but we still have to install them.)
And after the candles are on the tree, the chocolate. We overpurchased the chocolate ornaments (Mozartkugeln, chocolate umbrellas (those you hang with the little hook handle things), various chocolate ornaments, and, for the kiddies, little chocolate bottles filled with booze.
Then Gamma and I let the cats in and they were well-behaved for the most part, only 66% tried to climb the tree. Then Alpha came home later and kicked them out of the living room.
So now the cats are nonplussed and a little insulted and a little insecure, and when you enter the living room you have to first go into the kitchen, and close the outer kitchen door after clearing it of cats, airlock style, and only then can you go into the living room because if you don’t, no matter how careful you are, a cat will sneak in with you otherwise.
Between the end of Christmas tree season and the day the garbage truck collects our tree, we plan to leave it standing, sans ornaments, and grant the cats access to it.
But they don’t know that yet, all they know is they have been banned and they are mystified why. Certainly not that little bit of furniture scratching, or that negligible amount of peeing.
What could it be? They must be crazy, the humans.
Happy holidays to all who observe.
If you are like me, you have had, since childhood, at the back of your mind, a question, among all your other questions: what happens if you don’t get off the subway at the last stop?
Say you are a combination of exhausted, tired, in a Friday mindset on a Thursday evening, and engrossed in your device.
For example. Or you could be reading a good book.
Or just curious.
Maybe you glance out the window and wonder, is that my stop? (doors close) was that my stop?
Metamorphosism.com researchers decided to find out.
Here is what happens:
The train drives a while through a dark tunnel, lights off.
There is graffitti. Are graffitti?
Really, almost dark. Most train lights off.
You look out window, gee that’s odd, stopping in a tunnel. Maybe there’s traffic. Then it dawns on you what happened.
You sit that way for five minutes, wondering if someone is watching you on a security camera. You feel watched.
The train driver walks past, probably going to the other end because if there is a driving end at both ends, you don’t have to turn around the train, right.
You hear something behind you. At first you don’t know if it is tinnitus, a hearing aid malfunction or a tiny man clearing his throat.
Feeling silly, you glance over your shoulder. A man about ten inches tall, dressed in a black business suit, with a neat haircut is sitting on the seat near the door normally reserved for the elderly, pregnant and so on.
Apparently he was just clearing his throat of tiny phlegm and not preparing to say something, because he pays you no regard.
You notice more tiny businessmen in the shadows.
Just then, the train begins to move again, back in the other direction. It stops at your station, the terminus.
You get off before other passengers can embark, wondering how many will wonder if there are additional secret stations after this one, and how many will assume you are a rube.
I was baking baguettes today — still am, actually — but I was doing stretch-and-folds on the old silicone baking mat when it finally came apart. 80% hydration baguette dough was too much for it. In its defense, it has been falling apart for some time now. It all started when I rolled out pasta dough on it and cut it into noodles with a pizza wheel; the wheel was sharper than I realized and left big gashes in the silicone baking mat.
At first it still worked, but eventually silicone fatigue got the better of it and a big piece came out; I had planned for a while to head to the mill to get baking supplies, especially a mat, but today, when I am working from home and the mat fell apart into five or more unusable pieces, I realized it was now or never.
So I went, and noticed right off that, since the last time I had been there, they had expanded the shop by about 100% so now instead of being tiny it is small. And the lovely mill lady was there along with her lovely daughters, which was bad news as I have no sales resistance against them when they are alone and sure enough they ganged up on me today.
Everything unraveled immediately, all of my fiscal resolve, when one of them asked me, Can I help you find anything? And I replied, yes, in fact, I am looking for a silicone baking mat thing, have you got anything like that?
To which she answered, In fact we do. And sure enough, they had silicone baking mats that were far nicer than my old one, with circles of various diameters and in the margins various units of measurement and their conversions, not to mention, haptically, a very sexy texture.
Oh excellent, I said, I ruined my last one cutting noodles on it.
Oh! She said. Then, immediately, by the way we have noodle machines.
Oh, I said. I have always wanted a noodle machine. But I’ll have to think about it.
But of course we all knew by then, I wasn’t leaving that shop without a noodle machine.
I picked out a few flours (all-purpose wheat flour, baguette flour mix, rye and rye whole grain, and what the online dictionary translates as rye scrap, or, in other words, crudely ground rye.
Then the mother explained the differences between three noodle machines they had (price and finish – the stainless-steel was the cheapest, the copper the most expensive, in between they had a red one. Otherwise they are identical, she said. Just pick whatever matches your kitchen best. You don’t put it away, you leave it on the counter.
If you don’t have a cat that pisses on everything you might leave it on the counter, I didn’t reply.
I asked her to explain the stainless steel model to me.
By the way we have a set with additional rollers that make spaghetti and ravioli, she said.
Oh, I absolutely need that, I said.
I looked at spice mixes in between but most of them contained anise, and some of my bread customers hate anise. Then I found the mill’s own spice mix, which costs twice as much but does not contain anise, and added a can of that to my pile.
How do you wash the noodle machine? I asked.
You let it dry out and clean it with a stiff-bristled brush, by no means are you to put it into water, was the answer.
It sounded almost like an admonition in a fairy tale, shortly before the peasant’s son embarks on a heroic journey on account of he put the noodle machine into a sink full of water after slicing the heirloom silicone baking mat into horizontal strips.
Any special brush, I asked.
I use one I found in my husband’s shop, she said.
Ok I have a brush at home.
I sighed, but gee. Hm. Phony reluctance so as not to look too eager.
It’s the Christmas season. It’s a nice present.
Yeah, for myself. I am the noodle maker in my house.
Sure, why not? She said. And your wife will be eating the noodles. It’s a present for both of you.
And we *were* in Piedmont in October and loved it, I said, tipping the scales for her and putting myself out of my misery.
See there you go, she said.
When I got home I carried the flour into the house.
Oh by the way I got *us* a pasta machine, I said.
Hm, said Alpha.
Yeah I’ve really been wanting one since we were in Piedmont, that was such a nice trip.
Hm, she said.
One has to clean them with a stiff-bristled brush; by no means is one to submerge them, or even get them wet.
Hm, my wife said.
So, after hating on technology for a good part of my life, we got photovoltaic panels on the roof and I really like everything about them so far. Even though it is winter they still generate a little power, even on a foggy day. Not much power (on a foggy winter day) but you could power a few lightbulbs or something like that. The system comes with an app, you log in to the website and apparently the system is telling the website how much power it is making etc because there is a neat little graphic that tells you how much you are producing, using, how much is going into the battery (and its level of charge) and how much is going into or coming out of the power grid. It’s very calming to watch.
The battery is nice because, if there is ever a black out we’ll have power for a few hours while society collapses around us.
Another impressive thing about the panels are roof avalanches (Dachlawinen in German). When it snows, like yesterday (doesn’t produce much power when covered in snow) the snow just sits there (if it’s wet snow, like yesterday) until the weather warms up to a little over freezing and then whammo it all slides off onto the sidewalk all at once.
We never had roof avalanches before today, because we have a tile roof that has a rough texture and that holds the snow more, that higher coefficient of friction. Wet glass, on the other hand… I went outside and saw the pile of snow on our sidewalk and was very relieved not to see little kid or old lady feet sticking out of it. We put up warning signs, and took them back down after all the snow had slid off the roof or melted.
Winter is going to be a bigger problem with our PV system than we thought.
(But it’s really cool.)
Ever since my COVID-19 booster shot I have been getting these epiphanies when I go near a transformer or an electric car drives past.
Like, listen, just now, recently, we woke up at, say, for example, eight but according to our phones it was only seven.
Our phones determine what time it is.
And our computers. And anything else, any other timepiece, that resets itself automatically. Or, more accurately, is controlled by someone else.
Time used to be a natural thing, man.
Then clock time was introduced, and natural time faded into obscurity except when various scientists would lock themselves into a dark cave and do whatever.
With clock time, clock time was a social construct, but it was something everyone had to agree upon and gave clockmakers a lot of power.
Now clocks, especially in cars and ovens, are at most butts of jokes. They’re always wrong, or they’re wrong half the time and then self-correct six months later.
Nobody cares about clockmakers. And I suppose remote-control clocks are a thing now, right? Never wrong.
All these remote control clocks – time is no longer a social construct, it is in the hands of Big Time. Big Time I will define here as “whoever resets the clocks”-
Daylight Savings, or this regular switching between winter and summer time, is absolutely pointless. When something looks pointless, ask yourself who benefits from it?
Daylight Savings exists to acclimate us to the idea that time is malleable, and not to freak out when it suddenly makes no sense. Indeed, to pay less attention to rubberized time and just… live with it.
Every six months, a big deal is made of this quality of time.
Time is precise, yet random.
You have to be at work by 8 o’clock sharp, and yet sometimes the day goes fast, sometimes it drags on and on and you are exhausted and feel like you have been at your desk or terminal or table or conveyor belt or whatever forever, for ten hours or 12 hours or whatever but you look at your watch and still have hours to go how can that be?
Well this is how it can be: Big Time is messing with your time to make you work longer without collecting overtime.
Eight hour day? Sure you can have an eight hour day. But we define what an hour is, and what eight means.
We used to have internal clocks.
Used to be, if I set an alarm clock I woke up a minute before it went off. That is a precise internal clock. (Maybe my alarm clock made a faint click a minute before it went off, and it was the click that was waking me, I never tested that… but for the sake of argument…)
Same thing – pets. Cats, and perhaps dogs and other species, some days they wake you up an hour, hours early, starvin'; other days you feed them at the agreed-upon time and they just look at it as if they were still full and ignore it until hours later and then refuse it because it isn’t fresh anymore.
At least cats.
This is because their internal clock is still accurate, and they are still in touch with it, and Big Time hasn’t gotten to them yet the way it has gotten to us.
There is only one way to deal with this and that is to take time back from Big Time. Take time back into our own hands. How do we do that?
You can’t trust anyone. Any central source of time – TV time, Internet – is under control of Big Time, you can assume. Even the dates printed on newspapers and magazines. All the same thing. You have to literally take time back into your own hands.
Physically. Democratic time is only possible when everyone makes their own clocks. This means, immediately, sun dials. Big Time does not control the sun. Astronomy and observing the migration of birds work for seasonal events, but nothing beats a sun dial for telling time. Except a clock you have made yourself. That is the ultimate goal – everyone learns to make their own clocks.
Before the advent of Big Time, one could argue for simply using analogue clocks, but with its tentacles in every pie, you can’t trust any source of time anymore – Big Time has certainly got to clockmakers now.
The only way around that is to make your own clocks. Go to Switzerland, hire on as an apprentice, how hard can it be? And until then, make a sun dial. It is relatively simple. Stick a stick into something, write numbers around it that the shadow of the stick hits, and depending on what number the shadow falls on, that’s what time it is – time is now back in your own hands. Easy peasy. Big Time is defeated, right when they thought they had us.
Move to sofa.
Put big cushion on lap for cat to sit on when one of them inevitably comes to help you meditate.
Place laptop nearby so you can check the time so you don’t meditate too long as your phone is still in the kitchen charging.
Don’t think of anything.
The woodstove makes this… rushing sound. I guess that is the hot air rising up to the chimney? And crackles a little.
Most of the house is dark.
A cat purrs on the cushion on your lap already.
Another cat sleeps on the sofa.
Dong, the woodstove makes this bell-like sound as it heats up, calling you back to the moment like some kind of meditation bell.
Therapist last night asked, what do you like about yourself?
Couldn’t think of anything.
Cat purrs like a little meditation helper calling you back to the moment.
Dong, goes the woodstove.
I, hmm, uh.
You are interested in a *lot* of different things, said the therapist, trying to be helpful.
Yes, but without any expertise.
Does that matter? asked the therapist.
Well, I was thinking recently, after reading something along those lines somewhere, what would your 15-year old self say if they met you now? and I thought, they would think I was cool, I have achieved all of their dreams, mostly, I have not only been to Europe, I have moved here permanently; I have a beautiful wife, I have 2 awesome kids, I live in a nice house, I have kissed a girl. Car of my own.
But would I want to hang out with myself? Isn’t that why I am in therapy, to get better at hanging out with myself?
Why is the stove donging so much? Is it malfunctioning?
The cat purrs, calling me back to the present moment.
Is the stove leaking carbon monoxide?
That’s what it always says in the newspaper article, malfunctioning woodstove.
Dong. Like a meditation bell. Or a really short alarm bell announcing a carbon monoxide leak.
The cat purrs.
At least the cat is on my lap, with its nose lower than mine, so if it goes limp I’ll still have time to hurry to safety before the CO rises to my nose.
And can, like, try to revive the cat.
How do you resuscitate a cat?
Mouth to snout resuscitation?
Imaginary boss asks, wow, what happened to your face? You try to resuscitate a cat?
I have a tortoise, you would say.
A tortoise did that?
No, it was going to get too cold to leave the tortoise outside at night so I had to bring it in and when I bent over to pick it up, in the twilight, suddenly a rosebush.
Rosebush, imaginary boss says. Wow, be careful. Did you disinfect that? It looks like you tried to resuscitate a cat.
No, you say, ha ha.
The fire crackles.
The hot air rushes up the chimney.