Monday, September 19, 2011

The Portland Pattypan Gods speak?

So once in a great while I like to head out of Chicago and share my greatness among the little people far and wide. After all, the gifts such as those I possess shouldn’t be contained within such a small area, n’est-ce pas? (that’s French for “Tasha, are you on crack again?”)

Thus, over Labor Day weekend, I decided to head out to grace the city of Portland, Oregon with my presence – to visit beloved CancerChick friend Kim, who lives there, and meet up with equally beloved CC Melinda, who was flying in from Ohio. In a fortuitous turn of events, I managed to get the very last ticket to Portland on United using my miles. Hmm, interesting. I mean really – they try to scare you on the website with the “there is ONE ticket remaining, buy now or you’re screwed!” thing – but in this case, it was true.

So off I went, whee! Kim came to pick up me and Melinda at the airport, and we head out to the parking garage, where I got the first indication that Portland exists in some weird time-space warp that is so unlike Chicago as to be scary. Or rather, it just confirmed how absolutely fucked up Chicago is.

Because we get to the garage-ticket-paying thing, and I pull out my wallet, ready to be the polite guest and pay for the stuff that our wonderful host wouldn’t incur if we hadn’t foisted ourselves on her. I figured it would be what, $26, maybe $28? You know, like in Chicago. And Kim had surely been there almost an hour.

We patiently wait for the machine to tell us the total owed.

$2. Yes, $2.

I promptly put away my wallet. “Hell, you can pay that!” I cheerfully say to Kim. I am nothing if not the most considerate of guests.

We then proceed to have one of the most amazing weekend ever, truly. I never laugh so much as when I’m with my CancerChicks. Katie joined us on Friday, and then Debbie came down from Seattle on Saturday, all of which led to us having the most amazing and brilliant conversations, replete with astonishingly wonderful ideas, like this one.

Me: Hey, we could totally do a doggy food truck here! Think about it, people would love it, especially since this is already food truck central! And we could have special things based around Kona and Lucy and Daisy.

Kim: Yeah, like….

Me, interrupting: I have it! Kurmudgeonly Kona’s Kookies! Because everyone knows me as Miss Curmudgeonly, so it would all blend seamlessly, and….what?

I noticed that Melinda is looking at me with that long-suffering “Tasha you’re insane” look on her face.

Melinda: Umm… you realize that Kurmudgeonly Kona’s Kookies spells out……KKK?

Thank god I have my friends to save me from myself.

But the truly remarkable thing happened when we went out to dinner on Saturday night. The Portobello restaurant we wanted to go to was booked, so we went to another cute place, Café Haydn or something like that, which had an outdoor seating area under a beautiful gazebo. After we ordered our drinks, I noticed that they had a lawn area to the side, with gardens in raised beds, so I got up to wander over there and take a look.

I’m walking along, noticing the nicely trellised lemon cucumbers, the lack of tomato plants (sigh), the…….wait, what? Is….is that what I think it is????

“Oh my god, oh my god, give me my camera QUICK, before it disappears!” I’m practically hyperventilating as I bustle back to our table, waving my arms and demanding someone hand me my camera.

Melinda: What the heck did you find? A tomato?

Me, breathlessly: No!

Kim: A…….pattypan?

Me: YES!

I grab up the camera and run back, and lo and behold, the pattypan beauty is still there, perched on the railroad tie, like a beacon from heaven in all its glory. I swear I am not making any of this up. It’s bizarre. This lone lovely pattypan, right there at this random restaurant – when there’s not even a squash plant in sight, because I look closely.

Is it a sign? Is it one of many signs I’ve been getting, like my deciding to read the latest Outside magazine (which I never do), which names Portland as one of the top places to live? Actually, THE top one, right after Chattanooga (which, really, what the hell?)?

Would it be crazy to pack up and move to Portland in part based on a sign from a squash? Does the fact that the idea of moving from my sedate comfortable ordinary life scares me shitless mean I should just go ahead and do it? I have no idea.

We left the pattypan there, as I didn’t think it would be right to relegate it to an ordinary end, like being cut up and grilled. That seemed a bit….ignominious. Better to leave it in its exalted state, right where I found it.

Of course, no discussion about Portland would be complete without mention of Miss Lucy, Kim’s most adorable and wonderful pup. I’m happy to report that Kim runs a tight ship just as I do, ever the strict disciplinarian. Then there were the daily jaunts to Papaccino’s, the best coffee shop EVER, and the trip to Breadquarters, aka home of Prisoner Bread, and last but not least, the visit to the incredible rose garden, which wowed even me, aka someone who’s generally ambivalent about roses.

Portland – Chicago – Portland – Chicago. Hmm. I need more signs. Off to the store now to get alphabet soup – I will report back. Though I kinda feel like god or fate or whatever is out there is right now saying "Oh for chrissake, now you want words written in alphabet soup??? I gave you a fucking PATTYPAN, wasn't that enough?? You people!"

Oh, and if I do move to Portland, I need insta-friends, so please, blogosphere, send some cool people my way. M’kay, thanks.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

In honor and memory

I was going to add some commentary here, Let this speak for itself.

From The Onion:

God Angrily Clarifies 'Don't Kill' Rule

September 26, 2001

NEW YORK—Responding to recent events on Earth, God, the omniscient creator-deity worshipped by billions of followers of various faiths for more than 6,000 years, angrily clarified His longtime stance against humans killing each other Monday.

"Look, I don't know, maybe I haven't made myself completely clear, so for the record, here it is again," said the Lord, His divine face betraying visible emotion during a press conference near the site of the fallen Twin Towers. "Somehow, people keep coming up with the idea that I want them to kill their neighbor. Well, I don't. And to be honest, I'm really getting sick and tired of it. Get it straight. Not only do I not want anybody to kill anyone, but I specifically commanded you not to, in really simple terms that anybody ought to be able to understand."

Worshipped by Christians, Jews, and Muslims alike, God said His name has been invoked countless times over the centuries as a reason to kill in what He called "an unending cycle of violence."

"I don't care how holy somebody claims to be," God said. "If a person tells you it's My will that they kill someone, they're wrong. Got it? I don't care what religion you are, or who you think your enemy is, here it is one more time: No killing, in My name or anyone else's, ever again."

The press conference came as a surprise to humankind, as God rarely intervenes in earthly affairs. As a matter of longstanding policy, He has traditionally left the task of interpreting His message and divine will to clerics, rabbis, priests, imams, and Biblical scholars. Theologians and laymen alike have been given the task of pondering His ineffable mysteries, deciding for themselves what to do as a matter of faith. His decision to manifest on the material plane was motivated by the deep sense of shock, outrage, and sorrow He felt over the Sept. 11 violence carried out in His name, and over its dire potential ramifications around the globe.

"I tried to put it in the simplest possible terms for you people, so you'd get it straight, because I thought it was pretty important," said God, called Yahweh and Allah respectively in the Judaic and Muslim traditions. "I guess I figured I'd left no real room for confusion after putting it in a four-word sentence with one-syllable words, on the tablets I gave to Moses. How much more clear can I get?"

"But somehow, it all gets twisted around and, next thing you know, somebody's spouting off some nonsense about, 'God says I have to kill this guy, God wants me to kill that guy, it's God's will,'" God continued. "It's not God's will, all right? News flash: 'God's will' equals 'Don't murder people.'"

Worse yet, many of the worst violators claim that their actions are justified by passages in the Bible, Torah, and Qur'an.

"To be honest, there's some contradictory stuff in there, okay?" God said. "So I can see how it could be pretty misleading. I admit it—My bad. I did My best to inspire them, but a lot of imperfect human agents have misinterpreted My message over the millennia. Frankly, much of the material that got in there is dogmatic, doctrinal bullshit. I turn My head for a second and, suddenly, all this stuff about homosexuality gets into Leviticus, and everybody thinks it's God's will to kill gays. It absolutely drives Me up the wall."

God praised the overwhelming majority of His Muslim followers as "wonderful, pious people," calling the perpetrators of the Sept. 11 attacks rare exceptions.

"This whole medieval concept of the jihad, or holy war, had all but vanished from the Muslim world in, like, the 10th century, and with good reason," God said. "There's no such thing as a holy war, only unholy ones. The vast majority of Muslims in this world reject the murderous actions of these radical extremists, just like the vast majority of Christians in America are pissed off over those two bigots on The 700 Club."

Continued God, "Read the book: 'Allah is kind, Allah is beautiful, Allah is merciful.' It goes on and on that way, page after page. But, no, some assholes have to come along and revive this stupid holy-war crap just to further their own hateful agenda. So now, everybody thinks Muslims are all murderous barbarians. Thanks, Taliban: 1,000 years of pan-Islamic cultural progress down the drain."

God stressed that His remarks were not directed exclusively at Islamic extremists, but rather at anyone whose ideological zealotry overrides his or her ability to comprehend the core message of all world religions.

"I don't care what faith you are, everybody's been making this same mistake since the dawn of time," God said. "The Muslims massacre the Hindus, the Hindus massacre the Muslims. The Buddhists, everybody massacres the Buddhists. The Jews, don't even get me started on the hardline, right-wing, Meir Kahane-loving Israeli nationalists, man. And the Christians? You people believe in a Messiah who says, 'Turn the other cheek,' but you've been killing everybody you can get your hands on since the Crusades."

Growing increasingly wrathful, God continued: "Can't you people see? What are you, morons? There are a ton of different religious traditions out there, and different cultures worship Me in different ways. But the basic message is always the same: Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Shintoism... every religious belief system under the sun, they all say you're supposed to love your neighbors, folks! It's not that hard a concept to grasp."

"Why would you think I'd want anything else? Humans don't need religion or God as an excuse to kill each other—you've been doing that without any help from Me since you were freaking apes!" God said. "The whole point of believing in God is to have a higher standard of behavior. How obvious can you get?"

"I'm talking to all of you, here!" continued God, His voice rising to a shout. "Do you hear Me? I don't want you to kill anybody. I'm against it, across the board. How many times do I have to say it? Don't kill each other anymore—ever! I'm fucking serious!"

Upon completing His outburst, God fell silent, standing quietly at the podium for several moments. Then, witnesses reported, God's shoulders began to shake, and He wept.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Asshole like me

Those who don’t know me well might think I’m seriously curmudgeonly and mean in real life. That I snarl at kids, elbow aside the geriatric contingent as we’re all filing into Denny’s for the blue plate special, look for flies so that I can pull off their wings.

Be all of that as it may, I do try to live my life as a good person – and at this point, I can only say: what the fuck was I thinking? What was the point? I’ve recited my litany of woe and bad luck enough here such that I don’t feel like repeating it, because quite frankly, it’s pretty damn depressing. Suffice it to say that my friends call me Schleprock, and have honestly suggested that I find a shaman or someone else who can help try to remove the curse that’s been hovering over me for years.

But through it all, my sunny nature has managed to soldier on and assert itself. It’s not in my nature to be mean and bitchy, though god knows I’ve tried. I’ve left notes for myself: “Be bitchy!” Yet somehow it never takes, kind of like my attempt to take up smoking so that I’d have at least one vice that would make sense with the cancer history. Nope, no luck with that either, sad to say.

But now? I'm done. Now with my rage and depression having no bounds, I’m finding that being bitchy is coming a bit more naturally. To those who don’t understand why I’m taking the garden thing so hard – though I think most people do – part of it is because it’s been one crappy tomato growing season after another these last years. Let’s start with 2008, though the years before that were supremely crappy too, mostly due to a horrible garden plot out by my mom’s in Huntley, a plot that was replenished every year with “mulch” from Stan’s House of Toxic Garden Stuff thanks to the Sun City gardening committee.

But 2008 – that might have been okay if not for that pesky cancer thing and, more importantly, the brain injury that had me not quite knowing what a garden was exactly. So the tomatoes fell by the wayside. 2009 was the Year Without a Summer. 2010, I went on the GAA (Great Alpian Adventure) in August, and missed the prime harvest weeks. This year though – ah, this year. I refused to go out of town for all of August, and there were tons of tomatoes, and there were still tons to be had because it was a late growing season.

Not to mention all the work that went into my garden. Those who think it’s fine for people to steal things from community gardens apparently think that gardening is an easy endeavor, just throw some seeds down and things grow like magic. Never mind the backbreaking work for months on end – especially this year when there was such crappy weather in spring that things needed to be replanted 2 or 3 times.

Plus I don’t get the “it’s okay if they were stolen by someone who was hungry and really needed them” mentality. I’ll remind those folks of that if they’re ever robbed, that the thieves must have simply needed their stuff more than they did. That’s okay, right?

So! Point being, I am now embracing my new life as Bitchy Person.

This means that all the things that once came naturally will be no more, from the basic to the more complicated. Holding doors open for people? Bam! Let their lazyass selves learn to fend for themselves. It’s a cruel world out there, folks. Open your own fucking doors.

No more letting people with just a few items get in front of me in the checkout line. What am I, the lowly paean to your kingly self? I don’t think so.

I will embrace asshole driving. Now I drive….assertively, shall we say. But I’m not one of those clowns who cuts people off or on the highway goes over to the on ramp in order to scoot ahead a few cars. Yep, now that’ll be me as well.

No volunteering at food pantries, or donating food to them in general. No volunteering for anything – what am I, Mother Fricking Teresa? Sheesh. I’ve got things to do here, people.

No more chit-chatting with random people, like the good folks of Iowa. Well, okay, I might still chat – but I’ll be glaring at them as I do it, a fulminating glare no less.

No spare change to the Streetwise guys, ever. I’ll become a lousy tipper – 15% and not a penny above. If there are free samples somewhere, I’ll be one of the cretins who load up completely, not leaving anything for anyone else. Hell, maybe I’ll take up extreme couponing, and start clearing shelves with aplomb? A girl can dream.

No more being so gosh darn nice about things, like today when I was stuck waiting for a prescription that should have been ready. Oh sure, I might have said “no problem” when the pharmacist apologized, but I said it with a steely edge that I’m sure will impact her for weeks.

Okay, so I’m sure I’ll still stop on my bike rides to help turtles across the road, even if they’re massive ungrateful snapping turtles that try to bite my wrist off. That’s just their nature, unlike people, who have a choice as to whether they’re going to steal someone’s months of hard work and labor from their garden.

I am also already formulating my Garden Protection Plan for next year, if I even do bother having a garden. Yes, this is the first year, after the last 9 years of crazy tomato growing and crappy seasons, that I’m seriously considering packing it in. But if I do garden again, you can be sure that somehow, some way……the Clanging Monkey Toy of Doom will be involved. Beware.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Garden, interrupted

My first post back after my long hiatus was going to be about my finding a group of cyclists I can hang with – that would be the Sun City Cycle Club, i.e. the octogenarian set. Then I was going to write about my most amazing awesome time in Portland, OR with my beloved Cancerchicks, Kim and Melinda, and we were also joined by Katie and Debbie for part of the time as well. I couldn’t love these girls more than if they were actual sisters.

Then there might have been something about the magnificence of The Kone, then more training tips for the little people, and so on.

But all of that came to a screeching halt today, when I went out to my garden in Skokie for the first time since getting back from Oregon. The last time I was out there was last Tuesday, and at the time there were so many tomatoes, billions of them, that I pleaded with my Tomatoettes to go there and pick some so that they wouldn’t rot on the vine. Even though I was going out there every 2-3 days to pick them, there were still billions. So many that I gave baskets to friends, my doctors, charity auctions, neighbors, my mom and all her friends, the folks at Starbucks, and so on.

We’re talking a lot of tomatoes.

The pattypans, I have to say, were an underperforming lot, but there were a couple of those, and a few zucchini too. But the tomatoes, the glorious tomatoes! Ah, they were beautiful. Literally hundreds of pounds of them, waiting to be picked.

And so they were. But not by me.

Because I went out there today, and as I was walking closer I thought hmm, how odd that I don’t see millions of tomatoes as I usually do. Then I got to the plot, and saw….nothing. Not a single fucking tomato. No ripe ones….no green ones even. The plants were completely stripped bare, and it looked like the lazy POS scum-sucking douchebags just clipped the vines, as I guess that was easier than picking them individually.

I wandered up and down every row, in shock. Noticed that the zucchini and pattypan plants were trampled, and of course, no squash. But the tomatoes! I should have been picking tomatoes for the next 2 months if the weather had cooperated, but now? Nothing. There’s nothing. It’s all gone.

While I usually don’t see anyone when I go there, today there were a couple of women from the neighboring plots – one of them was sweet and offered me some of her tomatoes, and the other almost got her head cleaved open by a shovel wielded by yours truly. Because quite frankly, when you’re totally devastated like that, the following platitudes aren’t helpful:

  • “That’s the risk of a community garden”
  • “Gosh, I’ve already picked so many this year, I don’t know what to do with them any more!”
  • “I just love gardening, it’s a fun hobby for me” – after I mentioned how much hard work and time and money I had put into the garden

Because yes, the risk of a community garden is that some lazy-asses come and take stuff, but we’re talking taking a few things, not an entire garden plot of stuff. And yes, I’ve picked a lot already, but I should have been able to pick a hell of a lot more. And yes, I too love gardening, but I also like enjoying the fruits of my labor, dammit. You know, after spending months growing plants, hundreds of hours planting and weeding, thousands of dollars on supplies.

I should have been able to enjoy my own fucking tomatoes. Even if I just gave them away.

And now I can’t. And for that, I hate people. I hope you tomato thieves burn in a fiery hell, slowly and painfully. I hope you’re cursed by the money you made selling my tomatoes. I hope your lives become like one long Stephen King novel, where the clanging monkey toy portends all kinds of doom.

As for me, I’m going to go cry now; my sadness at the garden destruction is overwhelming. I put my heart and soul into my garden - it's one of the few bits of happiness in my life. To me happy is The Kone, riding my bike, friends and family, the garden. Because I sure as shit don't have a hell of a lot else going for me. And now the gone. And did I also mention that now the IRS is saying that they made a “mistake” in the papers they gave me before, and now I supposedly owe them over twice as much? Yep, happy happy joy joy.

If I ever have anything resembling the slightest bit of luck some day, the shock of it might truly kill me.