A Writer's Closet

Welcome to the weird flotsam of a writer's mind . . .

Location: Southern California

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

So that was Christmas

Two days later, I'm finally talking about Christmas. Sorry, I was hungover and had to recuperate. No, not from wine, but from noise. That's okay, a noisy Christmas is a good one! Out of everything Kevin got this year he was the most excited about the books (YAY), the drum set Dad got him (it's in the garage for soundproofing) and a mechanical parrot that repeats everything you say to it. That was a last minute gift, is the most obnoxious thing in the universe and is endlessly entertaining for everyone. Of course the louder you talk the more clearly it imitates you, so much yelling ensued. Last night the men figured out how to make it sound like it was breaking wind. Fortunately it has an off switch.

One of his new toys turned out to take size "C" batteries. Who uses "C" batteries anymore??? Of course, the only one I didn't have. Walgreen's was open so I stocked up only to find the flipping toy doesn't work. Santa needs to tighten up on quality control.

I started monitoring the Boston Globe, waxing nostalgic about the town names but I had forgotten about the blue laws, which prohibits all stores -- except for convenience stores and gas stations -- to be open on Sundays or holidays. Super 88 is protesting the law, which I've always thought was stupid anyway, by staying open on Christmas. Sundays on Cape Cod were boring enough as a kid, not being able to go to the mall just added another boredom dimension.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Sunny Christmas

I just finished opening all the windows in the house since it's about 80 degrees outside at the moment. This is why I love Southern California. Sorry, I can't help but gloat, but I was seriously made fun when I decided to move out here 15 years ago. My sister lives in Chicago and I heard on the news last night that it was eight degrees there. Someone please tell me why anyone would want to endure that kind of weather?

In other news, a suspected mugger in South Africa thought he'd get away from police by climbing into the Bengal tiger enclosure at a zoo. Later his mauled body was found, along with an empty beer can. I think the tigers were just enforcing the no drinking rules in their home and it got ugly. The guy must have been drinking to think this was a good idea.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Beowulf meets Hollywood?

A film called "Beowulf and Grendel" debuted at the Toronto Film Festival in September and may show up in the U.S. in 2006 , but what would happen if Hollywood put out a rendition of the epic? Dan Neil, the 800 Words columnist for the Sunday L.A. Times muses on this question while being his usual screamingly funny self. I've been a big fan of his for some time but this week he's outdone himself with Monster's Ball. If you loved Beowolf, hated it, have no idea what it's about or simply tried to get out of reading it in high school (that would be me), you'll love this article. Neil manages to compare the epic to a video game, look seriously at how it influenced Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, and also question the hero's sexual orientation all in the same article. Tears were pouring down my face I was laughing so hard.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Can we please just ENJOY Christmas for once?

As if there weren't enough to worry about in the world, now we're being alerted to terrorists using prepaid gift cards to fund their operations. Law enforcement's main concern is open cards, which are linked with major credit card companies and can be used to withdraw money at an ATM, even if the card holder has no account there. It's admittedly interesting and frightening, and also convenient that the story comes out around Christmastime when gift card sales go through the roof.

One of my biggest pet peeves is the way American news agencies tailor their coverage for the maximum scare potential. Ever seen the 11 o'clock news? Did you sleep after it? Of course not. Compare it to the BBC news which lasts about 20 minutes, including weather coverage (as opposed to the U.S. hour), has no fluff pieces and simply tells the facts. And you get informative world news. Imagine that.

It's a wrap

Do yourself a favor--if you ever think about spending four hours straight wrapping Christmas presents, don't. Trust me on this.

Although it was worth it to be able to tease my 9 year old. He came home from a birthday party and magically knew there were a couple more presents under the tree with barely a glance. The rest I hid, and not all of them were his anyway.

"Hey, who are those for?" he asks, to which I love playing dumb.
"What are what? I don't see anything different."
"There, the new presents!"
"What new presents? I have no idea what you're talking about, sweetie."

It drives him crazy until he grabs one and waves it in my face and I have to admit I put it there. Hey, I need some kind of consolation for my aching back after leaning over a table for half the day.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Ah, the road

Yesterday my friend and I did a baby road trip out to the Salton Sea. Crazy place. A huge saltwater lake, 35 miles long, smack in the middle of the desert. The salt deposits made drippy crystals on the rock and it flaked off when I climbed on the stones. The shore is made up of barnacle shells and fish bones. When the water slooshes against the shore and swishes them around it sounds like a rattlesnake's tail. The salt content makes it very marshy so birds love it. I tried to get an up close picture of a heron but he wasn't having it. Of course we were in the vicinity of the Cabazon Oulet Stores so we just had to stop there, natch. I had a fantasy this morning of pulling a semi up to the Crate and Barrel outlet.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Christmas Traditions

I've been cursing the live Christmas tree three years in a row. Every year I'd swear I could still feel pine sap under my fingernails until Valentine's Day. But when I mentioned getting a fake one this year my son's face fell. "No, Mom, we need a real one." His position reversal came when I explained that an artificial tree can be up for as long as we want and it won't die. Of course this prompted begging before Thanksgiving, could we put it up NOW? Could we, could we, it won't die, you know! Forget it, kid, too early.

It all reminded me of when I was a kid and would do the same thing. My mother had a fake tree and every year we'd chip away at her time bubble and the tree would go up a little earlier. She had this ancient stereo turntable the size of a cedar chest and she'd put on Christmas albums (yes, dearies, the old vinyl records) while we decorated the tree. My Dad would come home and roll his eyes, Oh, God, it's too early for the tree, but withing a few minutes he'd be smiling indulgently. It was the same with pets, too. Whenever someone brought home a kitten he'd growl about it but by the end of the day the animal was in his lap, purring.

It's hard living so far away from family so I try to continue with these things, for myself as much as my son. Cookie baking is another tradition that I just have to continue. In a world that is so rushed and processed the simple things like spending time together and baking are the most satisfying to me.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Happy Birthday Nana

Even though my grandmother doesn't have a computer I thought the rest of my family might like to see this. This was taken last Thanksgiving, my grandmother and my son. I couldn't be back east this year but I was thinking about her.

Back to the future

What has 6 legs, measures 5 feet long and is found in a rock in Scotland? A water scorpion of course, goes by the name of Hibbertopterus.

What is massive, round and orbits a cigar? A new moon with the very boring name of 2003 EL61.

With all the minute details of life to get caught up in I sometimes like to ponder bigger things--what life was like on Earth billions of years ago, or what may be awaiting us out in space in the future. Fantastic imaginings remind me I am more than a collection of cells.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

My dirty little secret. . .

My name is Tracy and I love fruitcake. Yes, you heard me, I love, love, love it and I don't care who knows! I don't feel the Christmas spirit until I get a whiff of that bowl full of golden raisins, currants and dried fruit macerating in brandy. I was in heaven when I lived in Ireland and my mother-in-law would trot out Halloween brac and Christmas pudding and cakes, and mince pies, all derivatives of the fruitcake base. Call me sick, I surrender to it. I thought I was the only one who felt this way, then my granmother admitted her affinity, and my best friend's boyfriend. Imagine my joy! I could share the love. For anyone else who wishes to partake, here is the recipe on Food Network.

The cake itself is very fragile until it has cooled, so here are some additions I made to the recipe--line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper before baking, and you may need to tent with foil to prevent overbrowning. Let the cakes cool completely in the pans, run a knife around the edges and whack the bottom to get the loaves out, and peel off the parchment paper. It's a lot of work but worth it for the fruitcake lover.

Every day is animal day

I'm a big animal lover. I'm also more of a dog person than a cat person but plucky Emily the cat has earned my respect. In Wisconson she apparently wandered away from home and climbed into bales of paper in a company's distribution center and ended up being shipped to Belgium. She was severly dehydrated after the long trip but still alive, and rescuers used her I.D. tags to locate her owners back home.

In another story a farmer has doused all his animals, dogs included, with red paint to protect them from being accidently shot by deer hunters. They aren't pretty, but they're safe. My kind of farmer.