Monday, July 21, 2014

Sunday Brain-Fog Zucchini Slice

This evening I used the slicing plate on my food processor (a lovely instrument!) to grate some veggies, but I sort of forgot to take the food processing blade out of the bottom of the bowl.
            Carrot soup is a wonderful base for any sort of dish, right?

Mmmm..... zucchini slice muffins! 
            A zucchini slice is a wonderful dish, but in a fit of Sunday-afternoon brain-fog, I doubled the vegetables, halved the flour, 2/3'd the eggs, swopped the cheese in the recipe for something i found at the bottom of the fridge, spooned the mix into cupcake shells, forgot the spices until I dumped them on as a garnish when the muffins were half-way done.  In the oven I undercooked 'em, then compensated by sticking 'em back in the oven until they were scorched -
            And none of it should have mattered!  A zucchini slice is a recipe that takes whatever you throw at it and comes up roses and zucchini-scented violets.  Heck, I've done it once with exactly three ingredients - zucchini,  carrot and one egg -  and it was divine.
            But these  little muffins?
            They taste... BLUE.  There's no other way to describe it - they taste like a flavor would smell when it goes wrong, they taste like a bell would feel when it's struck in the wrong key. They taste... absolutely appalling.

Anyone got a good recipe?

Thursday, July 17, 2014


Right now I'm watching a movie called Trapeze! It was filmed in 1956, and stars Tony Curtis and Gina Lollobrigida and another fellow with a jaw like a ball-peen hammer. 
            Trapeeze is Technicolor and CinemaScope and dancing girls on elephants! It's about two trapeze artists trying to perfect the triple somersault, and the scheming woman who wants to be a star and comes between them. 
            The woman has a chest like the front of ship and a waist you could pour through a hose - even when she’s wearing leotards. When she walks, her hips sashay like she's a hula dancer going for the All-Hawaiian-Islands trophy and her eyes roll about like they're on gimbals pointed due man-flesh. 
            Nobody speaks. They declaim. Crouched like boxers in a ring, the men square their jaws and stretch clawed hands up to the heavens: 
            "I'm tryin' to give you somethin' pure! Pure, you unnerstand? A flying act like the woild's never seen! But for you it's all about the money! You've got no soul - no soul, I tell ya!" 
            At the top of the circus tent, the Woman wriggles her hips and rolls her eyes and purrs "come fly with me, love" and whispers to the love-sick trapeze artist at her feet that "you don't-a need 'dat man down 'dere. In here -" she presses her palms to her voluptuously corseted chest, "you 'ave all the talent you need!" 
            Far, far below, the cynic is scrunching his face and roaring "Dames! All of ya the same! Born to destroy every thing and every man ya touch! Born cold, born to break a man and destroy his woild!" 
            The cynic is on to something, all right. High above, his puppy-eyed partner rolls over on the platform and wags his tail and you, the viewer, are waiting, just waiting, for Her, a dreamy smile on her painted lips, to reach out one pointed toe and push him off. Off of the side without the net. 
            Any man over the age of twelve who lets himself fall for all that cantilevered engineering (anyone who'll wear a corset on a flying trapeze is clearly planning something not in the training manual) deserves everything he has coming.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Park

Last night I went wandering. Mr Tabubil is stuck at work in a late meeting and I am out wandering in the early summer twilight - down our street, through the green tunnel of the platano orientale, past the stand of lilac trees on the corner, past a cluster of tall and modern apartment buildings with the apartments all laid out in rows like shoeboxes - and into the edge of a park.  

            On the paths there are children on bicycles, on the lawns there are grown-ups reading books on blankets, and in the sunken rose garden there are dogs greeting other dogs and running in deliriously circles when they meet. At the other end of the park from the rose garden full of dogs is an enormous  playground, and that is always full of children-
            There are lots of parks and squares in Santiago, but as play-places go, they can be rather sterile.  Children play separately, on their own recognizance, while their grown-ups sit on the sidelines, nodding guardedly to other grown-ups but keeping their own private sightlines, and encouraging their charges not to play with les autres. In our park, matters are different. Around the edges of the playground, parents sit in companionable knots and chat while their children run and shout and inflict terrible lord-of-the-flies social justice upon each other, but always, the children are playing with other children.  When Mr Tabubil and I first began to come, the  grown-ups and the children would look us up and down and then they'd smile and nod - a decisive nods. Welcome to the neighborhood. Our neighborhood.

Tonight there is a man and a woman with a slackline stretched between two trees.  They are winching.  Climbing up, taking a step – or two – balancing, checking tension, dropping down, and winching again.  A small girl stands with her skirts pressed against her fathers legs.  Her eyes are great big mirrors. The man with the slackline sees her and picks her up, and the man and the woman - one to each of her hands (one on each side) walk her slowly up and down the line - walk her slowly all the way up and down the line.

            There is a public recycling station in our park.  That is my ostensible reason for the wandering - a sack full of plastic bottles and tin cans.  Aimless late-summer happiness feels too foolish and ephemeral for virtue.  I need to feel useful.
            Tonight brings me back solidly to earth - go and feel ephemeral and jubilant, you ridiculous human creature - don't try and recycle on Thursday nights!  Either Thursday is the official neighborhood recycling night, or everyone else has felt the same summer-night urgings-
            The row of recycling bins overflows into sacks - and stacks - of plastic jugs and aluminium cans. Piles of  milk bottles. Pyramids of glass bottles. There's no city-wide recycling program in Santiago, so those who care to recycle must make these little pilgrimages to the neighborhood stations.  It's heartening that so many in Providencia want to, but there's just not the capacity - 

It is becoming dark. Lamps come on among the trees and shadows pool. The air sighs, softly - no, it's not the air.  There is a dandy sitting on a park bench, muttonchop whiskers on his young cheeks, and his electric-yellow unicycle resting nonchalantly against the bench beside him. He’s reading in the dark. A kindle on his lap, his brow furrows in concentration as he poses with a book of which he cannot read a word. I salute him, gravely - in the dark.  He cannot see me either.
            On the lawn in a pool of light, a little golden spaniel and a beagle dog are running around and around in huge and expanding circles, faster and faster and faster and stopping, every few passes, to stand nose to nose, touching gently, smiling.  A man is trying to take photographs in the dark - of speeding dogs and unicycles (the man with the book has stopped reading in the dark and is wobbling sideways and hither along the path) and Tsk-ing with frustration  and smacking the flash when the dogs are a blur and unicycle lurches out of frame.
            It is  too dark to see my hands now. The man and woman on the slackline are a pale white blur between the trees, winding it down. I turn at the top of the park and walk home, past the local catholic church. It is the hour of evening service. The church is full, and there is a crowd in the courtyard. Yellow light spills out the church doors, and the service, loud on loudspeakers and megaphones, comes out into the night.
            And I go home in the summer dark. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014


On Thursday last week, the curtain company that had done the curtains in our old flat sent a maestro (workman) to visit to our new flat. As per previous discussions with the company, he was there to measure our new windows, and to look at the measurements of our old curtains and decide the best way of using the old curtains and how much new material we'd need to buy.
            He was a lovely fellow - very professional, very understanding, and we had a nice long talk, the upshot of which was that he wanted to take both the old and the new measurements back to the shop with him so that his fellow curtain-people could help him how best to maximize the material that I had.
            He'd call me Friday - or Monday at the latest, because the best option might take a little thought.

            I heard nothing, so today I called the curtain company. And this is what the manager said:
            "What on earth are you talking about? The maestro came back and said you wanted all new curtains and that you were coming out to the shop to choose materials. We've been waiting for you."

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Today I saw

A young man with an expansive walrus mustache attempting to drink a tub of yogurt.  The dear soul was doing his best.

A small child lying on the tiled floor of the lobby of an apartment building.  She was flat on her face with her limbs spread wide and limp.  A slightly older boy came skipping out the door.  He launched himself off the front stoop and began running in circles on the sidewalk.  The small girl lifted her head - infinitesimally, and slumped back -  - she was absolutely, determinedly paralytic.  You couldn't have shifted her with a bulldozer.   A mother appeared.  Hands on hips, mouth pursed, she regarded the small child.  Two small slitted toddler eyes regarded her back.  Regretfully, I walked on.  Regretfully, because the pyrotechnics were going to be technicolor, surround-sound, sword-and-sandals, gods-in-the-desert epic.

Passing a coffee shop, I saw a gentleman in a Savile Row suit.  He was bandbox span-and-spic, with silver cufflinks and a mirror shine.  His beard was trimmed and pressed, his trousers broke perfectly across his instep, and his jacket sleeves hung to  a precise 0.8 inches above his cuffs.  He had an iced coffee in his hand - one of those enormous iced creations in the tall plastic cup, with cream and syrup under a domed lid, with ice-cream on top of that, and more cream -
Stealthily, he looked right.  And left.  And right again, he lowered his head and positively inhaled that mountain of cream.  He slurped, he snuffled, he dug in with his straw and used it as a shovel and on his face was unadulterated happiness and glee.

I think I loved him a little bit, right then.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Final Contractor Visit

Our team of illustrious construction maestros is  back in the apartment for Last Fixings and Sweeping Up - a door that won't close, an electrical socket that isn't live, a closet that needs painting, a wall whose paint is bubbling suspiciously - all that sort of thing.

And the following advisory is now in effect:
The next young man who attempts to use a clean ironed pillowcase as a drop-cloth for plastering is in immediate and specific danger of a thick ear.

Just saying.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Chocolates for the Dentist

Yesterday I had to go to the Dentist. I peeked.  He held in his hand an enormous metal syringe.  He pushed the plunger, just a little, and a drop of novocain beaded on the tip.
            "Don't worry." He said. "I'm very gentle."
            "I know." I said.  "But I'm going to cry anyway."
He took my shoulder in a warm, reassuring grip. "I know." He said. And picking up the needle, he slid it in as smooth and light and delicate as silk.  I didn't feel a thing.

            And that, unfortunately, was the last mutually positive moment of the whole experience.  I had my happy music cranked, and all was peaches and cream and roses, or it would have been peaches and cream and roses, but the drill was buzzing and there were things flying against my tongue, and holy hell, those things were bits of my teeth-
And there was a little moment where we had to put the drill away because of tears and a middle-size panic attack.
            My happy music is the original Broadway recording of  Cats.  Skimbleshanks the Railway Cat is divine for diverting attention, but the track only lasts four minutes and fifty-five seconds, and if you accidentally turn off the repeat button during a panic attack, you get something different right when you probably shouldn't.
            "Here we go!" The dentist cried, changing  his drill bit for something smaller and pointier - "Turn that music up!"
            So I did.  And it would have worked a treat, if we'd been bouncing along with the Gumbie Cat in the chorus where the cockroaches and mice do all the tapdancing, but the drill roared and I cranked and got -
            "Gus!  Is the Cat!  At the Theatre Door." 
            Limpid -
            Plangent -
            Exquisitely slow -
And the music stayed exactly where it was for sixteen consecutive bars of what sounded like water dripping on stones.
            There was another little moment.
            After that, we switched to Australian shearing songs and sea shanties, and went rollicking around Cape Horn - "Heave Away! Haul Away!" and the Dentist breathed steady for three whole minutes - 

            Which was the point at which he got through the enamel of the tooth right into what felt like the nerve direct. I'm pretty sure I owe him a box of chocolates. The expensive sort. If he'd only been a leetle more aggressive with the novocaine at the very beginning-     
            He tried to make it right. He pulled out the needle again. And again, until I was bleeding like a stuck pig from all the needles, and it still felt like he was drilling right on the exposed nerve of my molar.  I was a wreck and he was almost crying. The poor dear soul.
            I begged for the gas. He told me that in Chile, gas was restricted to use on small children under extremely specialized circumstances and he wouldn't even know how to do it.  I asked if he'd ever had a patient panic and try and knee him in the chin and run.  He said "No", but winced, and took a my shoulder in a firmer grip.

When it was all over, he leaned back in his chair and looked at me. 
            "You know what I'd do now, Tabubilgirl?" He said. " I'd go find a nice bar and have a stiff drink. A pisco sour, maybe. Not just one. Line them up on the bar - a whole LINE of pisco sours. And drink every single one of them. One after the other. Doesn't that sound wonderful? "
            I definitely owe him a box of chocolates.  And if we ever have to do that again, I'm getting drunk first. Not pixilated, not tight, not pie-eyed, norcock-eyed, nor bent, but firmly, solidly pissed. They're going to have to pour me into the chair.  Prop me open with those little rubber wedgies. I intend to snore beatifically and aromatically through the entire thing. 

            The dentist would probably prefer that too.